de-Constructing Meaning of L’immortelle

It’s a French film. Directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet in 1963. The 100-minutes-long Black & White L’immortelle is pure visuals. The film stars Jacques Doniol-Valcroze as a French college professor (we don’t know what his expertise is) who moves to Istanbul in Turkey and Fracnoise Brion as the young woman, his lure.
The film breaks the regular linear narrative and it breaks the many other human constructions. When we go visiting historic places and places of importance, we read tour guides or listen to our guides and acclaim, ‘Wahhhh!’ Where does this meaning and significance come from? Isn’t it our or someone else’ construction? The beautiful, old city of Istanbul is not old, built just the other day. All lovely things/ locales exist and don’t. She knows and doesn’t. She is there and she is not. The constructed binaries.
You could look at the film from another angle, as Margo puts it, – lure of the exotic. That which goes beyond, never attainable. You go chasing it. And it may posit two things: the real and the not real. The fascination chases us or has us in a bind.  What are we chasing?Limmortelle
[picture courtsey: filmmonthly.com]
I liked a few of those pure shots  – haptic visuals! The woman is a haunting beauty not just to the professor, but to the viewer as well. And when the two are together, the eyeline hardly matches. Probably, she is not real. They are not in the same plane. Once the professor encounters her for the first time in real time and place, she is no more in the real; she becomes his imagination. And then she can jump in and out of the frame, in out of the real and the unreal, and live in his imagination. The extreme close-ups and zooms-outs are a feast to the eye. But the finest is when the tourist rows his boat under the bridge from one water to the another, and then enters the mosque whose pillars are rooted in waters, and he rows through the landscape of a myriad of them…. that’s perfect! Beautiful!
In the quest for deconstructing the meaning-making, his construction and her deconstruction, Istanbul could be anywhere; it could be replaced by Banares in India or Beluru-Halebeedu in Karnataka. The film works as well.
Alain Robbe-Grillet wrote the script for Alain Resnais’ famous film Last Year at Marienbad. And this  his film got clouded in the shadow of the master Resnais’ brilliance. You can see the influence in L’immortelle -call it indebtedness- to the better known French master – the long tracking shots of the “historic” mosque
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