Rohmer (1920-2010) was older than his fellow directors in the French New Wave, and it's remarkable that he was already 47 when he made the film that enfolds so much of the indolence and narcissism of youth. The moral tales studied tricky questions of romance, and there was little or no sex in them but much discussion about it. He found actors of undeniable physical appeal, and his camera caressed them as they spoke, and spoke, about the possibility of caressing each other.
"La Collectionneuse," which refers to a female collector (of men, in this case) centers on a young woman named Haydée who finds herself living at the villa with Adrien and Daniel, two friends about ten years older than she is. They watch her being picked up by a series of young guys who drive up to the villa and then speed off to the fashionable beachfront city, bringing her back after dawn. Both men claim they have no desire to sleep with her, and talk themselves into an undeclared contest to see which will be the first to succumb.
For someone aiming to do absolute zero during his summer, Adrien sure does occupy himself with a lot of conversation. When he's not around people, Adrien is giving interior dialogue. His voice and his point of view dominate the film and if you're looking for a warm, likable lead then Rohmer is here to test you. I find Adrien true to someone of his age and ambition, and the truth is when you try to do nothing, the brain will always come up with some kind of intrigue. Here, that intrigue is Haydée.
Haydée sleeps around for reasons we never fully understand because A) Haydée herself doesn't have a concrete answer, nor does she feel obliged to give one B) Adrien really doesn't care. He just likes to refer to Haydée as loose and easy and along with Daniel talk about how they have no interest in a woman like that, although it's obvious from the moment the camera gives her the Megan Fox treatment while she walks along the beach in a bikini, that both men are completely in lust.
I really liked the game theory of the situation. How do you sleep with someone while at the same time acting like you don't want to sleep with them? Haydée truly doesn't care and can find guys everywhere. She's exploring her freedom and the camera loves to objectify her. (While there's no nudity, a couple of shots are so lingering on the water adjusting her bikini it has the effect of full frontal.) Daniel has excellent self-loathing no-game game, along with a real shallow mean streak when more distance is required.
Adrian the talker, comes off as the idiot of the bunch. He convinces himself that she wants him and how he'll lower himself to be with her, yet he keeps making aggressive moves that she rejects. The narcissism is off the charts, but I also see sadness in it. I wish he grew up a little during the film, but I don't feel like he ever escapes his mental injections of false confidence. So this is an interesting film, an uncompromisingly shallow film, that's still good to talk about but would've been far more successful if the characters felt like they went through something by the end. All I got was how love games are played when you have the profile of an eagle, and feathers in your head.RATING: * * 1/2