Friday, 30 December 2016

Successive Slidings of Pleasure (1974)

A woman is murdered in her apartment.  The woman's female partner insists that a man broke in and performed the deed, but the police suspect her of being a lesbian femme fatale.  She is placed in custody at a prison run by nuns while the investigation continues.  Once there, she shows a significant propensity for taking her clothes off at apparently random moments, and makes claims to her lawyer that the nuns indulge in sado-masochistic sexual relations with their prisoners.  Whether these claims are legitimate or merely the fantasies of the suspected murderer will not ever be made clear.  Like pretty much all of Alain Robbe-Grillet's films, all narrators here are unreliable.

The prisoner's lawyer, by the by, looks exactly like the murdered woman: in fact she may actually be the murder victim.  Chronological cause-and-effect is not something Robbe-Grillet cared much about (though unlike in N. Took the Dice, he does not have an authorial stand-in flat out tell the audience that, this time).

So we have again got a film where the events depicted are not shown in their actual order, and in fact may or may not have happened at all.  Which from a structural perspective rather requires each scene of the film to be interesting and engaging purely in and of itself, since it cannot rely on the interlocking support of other scenes to give it consequence and weight.  Not an easy goal.

Alas, most of Successive Slidings of Pleasure falls short on this ambitious objective.  Or it does unless "attractive naked ladies" will suffice to keep you entertained.  Because it certainly has plenty of those.

Though to be wholly fair, the frequent nudity, while certainly very prominent, isn't the only selling point of the film: I rather liked the opening ten minutes or so, for instance, and Robbe-Grillet continues to show strong visual flair.  But what merits it does have aren't in my opinion enough to make up for the (deliberately) muddled story.

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