• Successive Slidings Of Pleasure



    Released by: Kino-Lorber/Redemption Films
    Released on: February 11th, 2014.
    Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet
    Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Michael Lonsdale, Anicee Alvina, Olga Georges-Picot
    Year: 1974
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    The Movie:

    Written and directed by French filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1974’s Successive Slidings Of Pleasure once again sees the director working with leading man Jean-Louis Trintignant but although he is top billed, his role in the film is more of a supporting effort. Most of the movie focuses on two female roommates, the gorgeous Anicée Alvina (whose character is never named) and her equally gorgeous companion (Olga Georges-Picot). When the movie begins, Alvina is up to something. She takes off Olga’s clothes and wraps her in a leather coat before then tying her nude to a bed and painting her naked body. Olga's character seems almost dead, laying there as if in a trance, and sure enough, we soon find out she’s been murdered, a pair of scissors sticking out of her torso while her body remains bound to the bed.

    Obviously Alvina is the suspect here and though the murder is never shown, her claims that some random man ran into the apartment and murdered her roommate are dubious at best. A detective (Trintignant) arrives and investigates but he seems more interested in Alvina’s lifestyle choices and dietary habits than in actually finding any clues. From here, Alvina is shipped off to a convent where a judge (Michael Lonsdale) interrogates her. She doesn’t relent or cave in at all, she sticks to her story but her attempts to use her feminine wiles to distract him don’t seem to have much effect – at least not initially, we soon learn he’s a peeping Tom with a foot fetish. Things become even more bizarre when Alvina’s lawyer (also played by Olga Georges-Picot) shows up and starts to question the women that her client insists are being stripped and tortured in the basement. Of course, what the lawyer learns is different than what Alvina insists is actually going on and before it’s all done, the movie has literally pointed its finger at us – who really killed the roommate and why?

    Alain Robbe-Grillet proved he could do playful in Trans-Europ-Express and he continues that trend here, telling his story in a most bizarre way with little regard to linear storytelling and occasional segues into surrealist territory. He definitely ups the ante here over that earlier film in regards to how much female skin is on display and additionally in how graphic he’s willing to get in his depictions of fetishized female torture and degradation. At the same time, there’s a twisted sense of black humor obviously at work, though it would stand to reason that not everyone in the audience is going to be in on the joke.

    It’s hard to tell if the character Alvina plays actually has some sort of psycho-sexual power over those around her or not. As the title not so subtly implies, we do see the people that she comes into contact with steadily give way to the carnal side of their psyche, letting their id takeover where maybe a more reasoned approach to the situations would have been more prudent. There are times where the movie infers she is a witch, that her abilities are supernatural, but ultimately the movie leaves a lot of that up to us to interpret on our own – that is, if we’re not too distracted by the bound and the beautiful flaunted about the screen in increasingly tantalizing ways.

    The writer/director toys with us from the start. Alvina’s relationship with her roommate isn’t a ‘normal’ relationship and her interactions with Trintignant’s investigator continue that, as does her interactions with the judge and then her lawyer. As the movie explores these relationships the titular slidings become more obvious. At the center of all of this is the lovely Alvina, a beautiful dark haired seductress who uses body language as effectively as utterances of dialogue to parlay her character’s emotions and state of mind. We see this most prominently in a scene where she pants herself red and uses her body to smear the white walls with what is obviously the color of blood. The movie is heady, it’s trippy and it’s intentionally bizarre but none of this takes away from its fascinating mix of arthouse surrealism and bawdy sexploitation.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Successive Slidings Of Pleasure looks great on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer presented in 1.78.1 widescreen (the packaging mistakenly states 1.66.1 but the screen caps show otherwise). While 1.66.1 was probably the original aspect ratio for the movie the framing looks fine here, nothing is cropped nor does anything seem to be compromised. Detail is excellent in close up shots and remains strong in medium and long distance shots as well. Skin tones look perfect, they’re nice and natural and never too hot and there’s no evidence of noise reduction anywhere to be seen. Grain is obvious throughout the movie but never to the point where it distracts and while a few minor specks pop up here and there, there isn’t much at all in the way of print damage to note. Texture is strong, black levels are nice and deep and all in all the movie looks great on Blu-ray.

    The only audio option for the feature is a French language LPCM 2.0 Mono track with optional subtitles provided in English only. This is quite a good mix. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the dialogue is generally very clean and clear. The levels are properly balanced throughout and the score sounds quite good, it has a lot more depth than you might expect and suits the eclectic tone of the feature quite nicely. The English subtitles are easy to read and free of any typographical errors.

    The main extra on the disc is an interview with Alain Robbe-Grillet that runs just over thirty-four minutes and which is conducted by Frédéric Taddeï. Robbe-Grillet is quite talkative here, occasionally going off topic into strange areas but generally coming back quickly enough and offering up some interesting stories about this particular film. He offers up some fascinating bits and pieces about the locations used in the picture, and he shares his thoughts on the cast and crew that he worked with on this picture. He also talks about writing the movie and some of what he was going for with his storytelling techniques. Definitely worth watching.

    Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, trailers for two other Robbe-Grillet film’s coming soon from Redemption, a ‘2014 Promo Reel,’ static menus and chapter selection options.

    The Final Word:

    Successive Slidings Of Pleasure isn’t ever going to be a film to find mainstream appeal as it is frequently challenging and more than a little on the kinky side but for the more adventurous and open minded viewer, its’ quite rewarding. Not only is it a film full of gorgeous visuals and beautiful women but it’s also fairly thought provoking and quite creative in how it plays out and what it infers has actually happened. The Blu-ray from Kino/Redemption sounds good and looks fantastic and the interview with the director is a very welcome supplement.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!