France 1967 87 minutes Color 1.33:1 French Spine #346 A bombastic, womanizing art dealer and his painter friend go to a seventeenth-century villa on the Riviera for a relaxing summer getaway. But their idyll is disturbed by the presence of the bohemian Haydée, accused of being a “collector” of men. Rohmer’s first color film, La collectionneuse pushes the Moral Tales into new, darker realms. Yet it is also a grand showcase for the clever and delectably ironic battle-of-the-sexes repartee (in a witty script written by Rohmer and the three main actors) and luscious, effortless Néstor Almendros photography that would define the remainder of the series.
The Criterion Collection presents Eric Rohmer’s La collectionneuse on DVD in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. The standard-definition presentation comes from a high-definition restoration sourced from the 35mm original camera negative. The film is available exclusively in Criterion’s Six Moral Tales box set.
As the first colour film in the set I always recalled it looking rather remarkable, though I must confess, after viewing the recent Blu-ray edition and then revisiting this disc afterwards, I was shocked the image didn’t hold up as well as I thought it did. Restoration wise it looks good and damage is minimal, but I have a suspicion this comes down to Criterion possibly softening the image up to hide minor marks. There is a slight haze to everything and textures are weak, so a lot of the image comes off flat. Colours look good, though, with some nice blues and the like (especially during some nighttime shots), but an intensely red robe does bleed a bit.
In the end, the image is fine, but it hasn’t held up all that well, with some of the other films in the set looking sharper than what we get here.
The Dolby Digital 1.0 mono soundtrack is flat and weak, but dialogue is easy to hear and sound effects sound fine. No severe damage of note.
Criterion’s box set spreads features over each disc of the set. Things start off on this disc with Rohmer’s short documentary A Modern Coed. The 13-minute film looks at the 1963-1964 French school year and how the number of women attending university has increased. It should go without saying it is a product of its time (it almost seems as though the documentary is trying to be reassuring in that the women attending university still want to have a family) but an interesting observational film.
This is then followed by a 50-minute interview with Rohmer from 1977 for the TVOntario program Parlons cinema. Though the topic of the Six Moral Tales comes up, the discussion is far broader, covering the New Wave, other filmmakers and their work (particularly Godard and Chabrol), shooting on 16mm, and American films, which Rohmer is a bit iffy about, at least in the respect of the current-at-the-time trend of political films: he’s not fond of the idea of making a fiction film around current events. Amusingly the interviewers ask him about a line from Night Moves, where Gene Hackman’s character says a Rohmer film is akin to “watching paint dry.” Rohmer hasn’t seen that film, but doesn’t disagree with the quote. I guess I was expecting there to be more about his work, but since that topic is covered ad-nauseum in the interview on the first disc I rather enjoyed this general discussion about cinema.
The disc then close with the film’s theatrical trailer.
Again, material specific to each film in the set would have been welcome, but I rather enjoyed Rohmer’s thoughts on the work of his peers and cinema in general.
I was always fairly happy with this presentation but upon revisiting it after viewing Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition, it does look quite soft, even for the format!