One of the reasons I loved Alain Robbe-Grillet's Successive Slidings of Pleasure was that beneath the weird random imagery it had a sly sense of humor. That delight in the absurd shines through a lot clearer in Trans-Europ-Express – which is essentially a parody of Hitchcockian thrillers. There are several sketches and exchanges which are really quite funny – often almost childishly so.

The film could have done with a bit more of that, and a bit less of the protagonist wandering around the city or the train or pacing his room. But you can't blame Robbe-Grillet for wanting to film great images of Antwerp's Grand Central Station or the city's docks. Nor can you stop him from inserting three scenes exploring the protagonist's deviant sexuality. While noir usually keeps heroes chaste and reserves perversity for villains – here the hero is entrapped and destroyed by lust. Detective stories are usually rather formulaic affairs, but here the plot gets chewed up and mangled by the presence of desire.

While it's enjoyable to watch Robbe-Grillet improvise a film off the cuff and be constantly undercut by the script girl (played by his wife), the film within a film conceit feels less fresh than it perhaps would have done in the 1960s. The overt reminders that you are watching something made up doesn't feel that radical any more. Successive Slidings of Pleasure basically uses the same effect without calling attention to it, and that subtlety makes it a more surprising and provoking film.

No comments:

Post a Comment