Monday, October 23, 2017

Memory Mystery

L'Immortelle (1963) - Robbe-Grillet
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More so than Robbe-Grillet scribed Last Year at Marienbad, L'Immortelle plays with the images and its hidden meanings. In Robbe-Grillet's world, every ordinary gesture, pose, object resonates to its nameless protagonist, and in time, to us. A pair of woman's sandals, a caress of a neck, a view from a window - every shot becomes iconic and powerful.

It tells a story of a French teacher in Istanbul, just arrived and don't know the language or custom of the locals. He meets a mysterious, beautiful woman (Françoise Brion), who wouldn't divulge anything about her - address, profession, not even a name. "It's the mosque of your dreams," she says as they pass by the famous New Mosque by the water on a boat, suggesting that what he sees and perceived as reality might be all but an illusion. She interacts with the locals in their native tongue in front of our frenchman. But when asked, she plays innocent, pretending she didn't understand a thing they said, keeping him in the dark. But we as an audience understand the exchanges via subtitle. After some intimate days, she disappears. Left only with the memories of her, he takes a detective role to find her or rather, to find about her. But since he doesn't know the language, the investigation turns futile. Even though she turns up later, he loses her again before he finds out about anything.

L'Immortelle is an intricate visual puzzle piece that's beautifully put together: repetition of images, still and panning shots and the accumulation of these give meanings in edits. Just like the palace in Marienbad (Schloss Schleissheim), Istanbul and its waterways serve as a magnificent backdrop. Brion, as the mystery personified. is magnetic. The elliptical narrative and the images give the feeling that time doesn't exist in the film. Your own memories are immortal for long as you live, the film tells us.