"L'Immortelle" is one of several recent releases of films written and directed by French writer and film-maker Alain Robb-Grillet. In North America it appears that the Redemption DVD authoring group have secured the rights to distribute his works - while in England the British Film Institute (BFI) has the honor. Redemption has issued 5 films/disks 'individually' while the BFI has presented them in a nice 6 film retrospective box-set ( a format that is ultimately less expensive per film). The BFI set is , however, in the Euro Region 2 PAL format and requires a 'region-free' DVD player to view. Regardless of 'region code/format' these are films well worth checking out!
The majority of Robb-Grillete's works have been generally un-available for 'home viewing' for decades. - this current collection presents some of his earliest works from the 1960-70's period when he was first trying his hand as a Director, after achieving his initial recognition for scripting the French art-house classic: "Last Year At Marienbad". "L'Immortelle" was, in fact, his first solo directorial outing and it continues to feature many of the surreal and enigmatic elements that were explored in '...Marienbad".
After viewing a body of Robb-Grillete's works, and reading some analysis of his films by cinema scholars, a pattern begins to emerge that helps the viewer to appreciate where he was coming from and what he was trying to achieve. Such background info is really helpful because, without it, his films may initially seem very disjointed and abstract - even by art-house standards. Robb-Grillete enjoyed 'playing with' the peculiarities inherent in the format of cinema and using , and 'abusing' them, to his own ends to create a film experience that challenges the viewer's normal expectations for how a film should evolve. He pretty much ignores the concept of a linear plot progression in most of his scenarios and his plots and characters constantly fold back in upon themselves providing multiple viewpoints and time frames that ultimately provide a very surreal experience. One should not expect everything to wrap up tidily at the end of the show but one may expect the film to 'stick with them' for a while after viewing due to the enigmatic nature of the images and concepts presented - almost like a 'waking-dream'.
Alain Robb-Grillete, & his 'partner' Catherine (who makes regular appearances in his films) were both noted for their "outre' " sexual preferences that leaned in the BDSM direction, and many of his films featured elements that portrayed this personal penchant for S/M symbolism and lifestyle. Not surprisingly - this flirtation with 'forbidden' sexual practices often drew the ire of film censors and some of his film's were 'banned' in certain countries for many years - contributing to his obscurity and the (previous) difficulty in accessing his works. Ironically (and despite all the '50 Shades of Gray' allusions on the box cover) "L'Immortelle" actually contains virtually no images or references to these themes of sexual dominance & submission!... nor any 'nudity' within its' contents - whereas later films ( such as 'Trans Europe Express' and "Gradiva' for example) provide a hefty dose of the aforementioned.
That info notwithstanding - "L'Immortelle" is one of the 'spaciest' most intriguing movies I have seen in a long while and qualifies as a genuine surreal experience. It is practically useless to try to describe its' 'plot' because it doesn't really have one, yet the film mesmerizes the viewer with a hypnotic quality that is quite unique. Beautifully filmed in B&W in exotic locales in Instanbul, Turkey - the 'place' becomes an integral part of Robbe-Grillete's 'vision' and alludes to fantasies of mysterious Eastern harems & slave girls as personified by the belly-dancer on the box cover who is featured in a brief dance segment - the characters, and audience, are caught up in Robb-Grillete's dream-like spell. "L'Immortelle" is a great intro to this creative film-maker's work and a pretty psychedelic viewing experience. Highly recommended! French language w/ English subs.