Six Moral Tales
VI. La collectionneuse
The multifaceted, deeply personal work of Eric Rohmer has had an effect on cinema unlike any other. One of the founding critics of the history-making Cahiers du cinéma, Rohmer began translating his written manifestos to film in the 1960s, standing apart from his New Wave contemporaries with his patented brand of gently existential, hyperarticulate character studies set against vivid seasonal landscapes. This near genre unto itself was established with the audacious and wildly influential series Six Moral Tales. A succession of encounters between fragile men and the women who tempt them, Six Moral Tales unleashed on the film world a new voice, one that was at once sexy, philosophical, modern, daring, nonjudgmental, and liberating.
La collectionneuse, the fourth film found in Criterion’s Blu-ray set for Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales, is presented on a dual-layer disc in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation has been sourced from a new 2K restoration, scanned from the 35mm original camera negative. The film shares the same disc with the third film, My Night at Maud’s.
The previous DVD edition was also sourced from a restoration that made use of the film’s original negative, so while I was expecting an upgrade just from the increased resolution provided by the Blu-ray format, I wasn’t expecting that significant an upgrade. Yet, at least in terms of detail and general clarity, the improvements over the DVD are enormous. I always thought the DVD’s presentation looked pretty good, even upscaled, but revisiting it after viewing this disc it does look incredibly soft now.
Just comparing a few moments in the film between the DVD and the Blu-ray were shocking. A scene early on when Patrick Bauchau’s Adrien is first visiting the beach is one of the bigger stunners. The long shot of him by the water is so crisp and clean, but the close-ups of the vegetation in the water are particularly arresting, the details just jumping off of the screen. Another scene, where one character is wearing a red robe, offers another striking difference between the two formats: the DVD’s presentation presents a flatter, less textured looking robe (with a red that bleeds a bit) while the Blu-ray displays the finer textures and fibers of the robe far more clearly, while the red is more controlled and contained (part of that could be due to the reds not being as intense, but I will cover that in a bit). Grain is also more prominent here, and it is rendered well most of the time (a handful of shots look a little noisy), and while the source materials look to be clean, there is the occasional fine line flowing through the image. What is a bit surprising is that these same blemishes don’t show up in the DVD’s presentation, despite using the same source, but I suspect it’s because the DVD’s image was softened a bit and the lines were just fine enough that the softness mixed with the lower resolution was just enough needed to hide them. Still, even here, they barely register.
Where the presentation is questionable is in its colours. In comparison to the DVD the colours take a far warmer, more yellow tone. The DVD was warm as well, but the colours didn’t skew as yellow as they do here: the skies can take on more of a cyan (or even yellow) in several shots, for example. That red robe mentioned previously has also been scaled back in intensity as well because of it. The yellow is noticeable during the opening portion of the film, but once the action moves to the villa the yellow seems to be more intense. Considering the summer feel to the film it could be of course all intentional, but the DVD still conveyed this well. Also, dark scenes are impacted as a couple of nighttime sequences, which are laced with blue, are a bit darker here and some of the details found in these shots on the DVD are harder to see here.
Again, this could be the intended look, and I have not seen the film screened: my only experience with the film previously is the Criterion DVD. But it looks to be amped up too much. It’s the one questionable aspect of an otherwise sharp looking upgrade over the DVD.
I found this Blu-ray’s PCM 1.0 monaural soundtrack to be a bit sharper than the DVD’s, but it’s still flat and one-note. Damage is not an issue, though, and dialogue and sound effects are clear.
Criterion spreads the six films over three discs, two on each. They then include supplements with each film, porting them over from the DVD. La collectionneuse comes with the exact same features found on the DVD, starting 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 features for the film 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.
A far more filmic presentation in comparison to the previous DVD is only hampered by a lean towards yellow that throws a couple of other aspects of the image off. I still wish the features were more plentiful but the Rohmer interview is a strong addition.