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directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet
France/Belgium 2006

 

Academic John Locke (James Wilby, GOSFORD PARK) is in Morocco studying the North African sketchbooks of Eugene Delacroix (who went to Morocco in 1832). One night, he mysteriously receives a set of slides depicting sketches of a beautiful young woman in scandalously erotic poses. The next day while searching for a dentist on the Medina, Locke catches sight of the woman (Arielle Dombasile of Robbe-Grillet's BLUE VILLA) but loses her in the crowd. A blind beggar offers to show him where he can purchase real Delacroix sketches. On the ride to the palace of a secretive collector, the beggar tells Locke that the woman he has seen may be the ghost of Leila, a girl beheaded in the 19th century for loving a passing foreigner (Delacroix?). The collector Dr. Anatoli (Farid Chopel), who turns out to be a slave trader who uses his palace as a "finishing school" for female sex slaves, seems to know a lot about Locke and his studies. There, Locke is permitted entrance into the Club of the Golden Triangle where he encounters Leila (or Gradiva) in the flesh. Is the woman really the ghost of the dead girl or just the fictional double of a writer (also Dombasile) who is writing her future memoirs or could Locke himself be the writer's double? Or is Leila/Gradiva actually Hermoine, the actress who performs in peoples dreams and also acts in sado-erotic tableaux vivants at the Golden Triangle?

Although generally known as GRADIVA, the title of the film is GRADIVA (C'EST GRADIVA QUI VOUS APPELLE) as it is based on Robbe-Grillet's book of the same name and not Wilhelm Jensen's novel GRADIVA which -- along with Freud's essay interpreting the novel -- inspired Robbe-Grillet's novel and film. Although cinematographer Dominique Colin's slick compositions recall S&M visuals and motifs from TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS, PROGRESSIVE SLIPPAGES OF PLEASURE, and EDEN AND AFTER (even incorporating footage from the latter two in beautiful condition which makes one hope for an HD master of the former since EDEN has already received that treatment), GRADIVA is - along with BLUE VILLA - probably one of Robbe-Grillet's most accessible films due to its relatively wordy and straightforward plotting (here, the metafictional aspect of the memoirs seems more like a concession to arthouse ambiguity as was the mirroring of legend, fiction, and true crime in BLUE VILLA) and the familiarity of the backstory (which recalls Jensen's novel just as much as Jensen's novel recalls Theophile Gautier's ARRIA MARCELLA). After the first third, the film veers into what might look - to viewers not so familiar with Robbe-Grillet - like the territory of David Lynch with a dash of William Burroughs but the disorienting reversals and inversions of dream, reality, sadistic murder, and S&M performance (several actors/characters play multiple roles including Dany Verissimo as Locke's almost insolently subservient housekeeper/sex slave and Isabelle Adjani-lookalike Marie Espinosa as model/actress Claudine) are all there in Robbe-Grillet's oeuvre (the film features a monologue about government regulation of the collective unconscious and dreaming that is simultaneously stimulating and utterly hilarious). The film fits in both the arthouse mold as well as the eclectic oeuvre of its US DVD distributor Mondo Macabro.

Eric Cotenas

Posters

Theatrical Release: May 9th, 2007 (France)

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DVD Review: Mondo Macabro - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Mondo Macabro

Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 1:58:28
Video

1.82:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.51 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio French (Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo)
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Mondo Macabro

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.82:1

Edition Details:
• Interview with Alain Robbe-Grillet (16:9; 30:52)
• Theatrical Trailer (16:9; 0:49)
• Robbe-Grillet on Gradiva (text screen liner notes)
• Filmographies for James Wilby, Arielle Dombasile, Dany Verissmo, and director Alain-Robbe Grillet (t
• More from Mondo Macabro (promo reel - 16:9; 7:43)

DVD Release Date: August 25, 2009
Amaray

Chapters 10

 

Comments

GRADIVA is an attractive, anamorphic and progressive transfer that runs at film speed (the Italian PAL DVD runs 1:54:04). Those accustomed to both the degraded quality of gray market representations of Robbe-Grillet's older works (as well as the wonderfully grainy new HD masters of TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS and EDEN AND AFTER) may find the slickness of Dominique Colin's cinematography as rendered here off-putting but will soon find themselves suitably absorbed into the colors and formal compositions of Robbe-Grillet's mise-en-scene. Stereo sound is restrained (it's a dialogue-heavy film) but there are some effective separations in the music and sound effects (including whip cracks and the sideways movement of Locke's slide carousel). The film's DVD supplements do not disappoint. Besides the informative interview with Robbe-Grillet, viewers will find the text-based contextual extra "Robbe-Grillet on Gradiva" very stimulating reading as it also covers Wilhelm Jensen's novel of the same name and Freud's literary analysis (both of which were published together in the recent US paperback edition). Besides the film's frustratingly evasive theatrical trailer (frustrating to those of us who saw it quite some time before the film's unofficial English-friendly availability), and the usual filmographies, the disc finishes up with Mondo Macabro's usual promo reel (which seems to be getting quite cluttered as more clips from their growing library are added to the same musical loop).

*The Movie Review Query Engine entry for the reviews is actually for GRADIVA (1970) based on the novel that inspired Robbe-Grillet. There is no MRQE entry for Robbe-Grillet's film.

 - Eric Cotenas

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

Distribution

Mondo Macabro

Region 0 - NTSC

 

 




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