You'd get something like `La Belle Captive'. Because this movie, written and directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet, is wildly at odds with what most people expect in a film, I am breaking my review into three parts. First, I'll take a stab at listing some films or genres which bear some affinities (however distant) to the sort of animal we're considering here, which hopefully might indicate that a purchaser will enjoy the flick. Then I'll discuss the movie itself with perhaps a bit of technical appreciation, and then finally take a look at the director's theory of storytelling.
If you've seen the famous Resnais/Robbe-Grillet collaboration Last Year at Marienbad, this is more and better (I enjoyed the cinematography more in "La Belle Captive" and found the world, the characters and their story potentials much richer). Now the promised list: noir is a good place to start, films like "Chinatown" or "Somewhere in the Night" with their evolving polymorphic characters, stylized scenes and constantly thwarted plot expectations have a lot in common with "La Belle Captive". Also, the nonlinear fragmented collage of `La Belle Captive' may be attractive to fans of `Eraserhead' or `Memento' or `Dark City' or `Pulp Fiction' or `Satyricon'. Speaking of the editing, Robbe-Grillet plays games with time and space similar to what Maya Deren does in `Meshes of the Afternoon'.
We first meet the protagonist Walter in a nightclub, where he confesses that he doesn't really know or remember what he's doing there, watching stroboscopically lit couples dancing robotically. With moves that would do Lulu proud, a slinky blonde flirts with him. Though he poses at the bar like Bond or Mike Hammer, and Walter and the girl bump and grind on the dance-floor, he can't get the girls name, phone number or address, though she promises that she'll find him, if she needs to. In the voiceover we learn he's a secret agent. His boss/handler calls for Walter at the bar to arrange for a rendezvous that night, and after the call, the girl has disappeared. The meeting is in a backlit, foggy graveyard. The boss, Sara Zeitgeist is a sultry Emma Peale type (her leather bodysuit is open to reveal a fluffly and frilly blouse front) and she is revealed to be the woman driving the black motorcycle who's mysteriously been popping up between scenes throughout the credits and beginning of the movie. Curiously, the normal filmic interpretation suggests that she was on her black and chrome bike when she made the call, since we see her hurling down the road before and after the call. Sara gives her subordinate a letter that must be delivered to Count Henri de Corinthe, preferably that night. When he heads off on his mission, Walter sees the mystery girl lying injured in the road, with her hands cuffed behind her back. Mission forgotten, he takes the girl to a nearby mansion where they interrupt a formal party of strange and ominous men, but finally manages to get a doctor to escort them to a bedroom. The doctor locks them in the room and leaves them there. After a night of vampiric bloodthirsty passion (Walter seems to be sick or only semiconscious) he awakens alone in a ruined mansion. Then the movie starts to get really weird, he drives around and doesn't recognize the streets or buildings, ends up investigating the disappearance (and possible death perhaps the night before, perhaps 7 years before) of his lover, the bite wound on his neck comes and goes, he starts meeting the same actors playing different roles seemingly without recognizing them, manages to become the prime suspect in the kidnapping of the fiancee of the man he was supposed to meet, encounters a mad scientist, and beomes increasingly involved in visions or dreams of his lover on a beach in Uruguay. Walter is buffeted through all these scenarios by necessities he hardly questions and is driven by his passion for his lover and the orders of his boss. I said that I'd mention a couple technical points--this movie is constructed like some of the old silent films, which in a lot ways echo the current theory and practice of comic books, in which the images are central and the dialogue subordinate (though very important for moving the story along). The camera work is very static, and unlike some cinematographers who use fixed framing for a feeling of candidness, Robbe-Grillet makes us conscious that the image is imposed on us and artificial. The sets and scenes and costuming are all very stylized, almost fetishistic (Walter is a detective when he's in his trenchcoat).
If you've never seen any of Robbe-Grillet's work before, you'll be hard pressed to figure out what's going on. On the other hand, if you've gone beyond a casual acquaintance with Robbe-Grillet, then you've likely developed a masochistic craving for the stylish presentation of insoluble puzzles. Robbe-Grillet builds his plots around the natural human tendency to fit pieces together into familiar patterns, he's playing with his audience's expectations. As with the standard and very formulaic cinematic fare, the viewer strives to forge links that will tie all the elements into tidy coherent whole, one which will resolve all the apparent anomalies. It's odd, in the real world we don't have any certainty that we can construct such a narratve, but we are confident we can do so in art. However, rather than a complete story emerging from the mass of disparities, multiple counterfeit stories are struck simultaneously and are both affirmed and invalidated at every turn. Accepting a particular narrative involves surpressing the alternatives, like those pictures which either look like a vase or two faces and as new scenes unfold, one view may be favored or a new one start to coalesce. The whole approach is very much like the old noir movies, except no final revelation ties everything together (though in a few of the old classics, such as Suspicion or Rebecca, the audience may find themselves dissatisfied with an `explanation' that the characters in the movie accept).