Unlike the erotic surrealism mastery of his peer-filmmakers such as Buñuel, Robbe-Grillet and even Raúl Ruiz, Pierre Zucca in his Roberte (adapted from Pierre Klossowski’s novel) tends mostly toward a “non-professionalism” and aesthetical economy. Where the enchanting force of his work is driven by an atmospheric sense of strangeness and oddity, an ambient surreality: a complex simplicity, when precisely less is more!
Roberte takes place amid the illusionary world of mirrors, theatrical backdrops and mysterious urban labyrinths (Rivettean) which all perfectly reflect and encompass the vanity and anxious bewilderment of her eponymous character’s psychological/mental space and the masculine social bourgeoisie she’s entangled within – which can also provoke apparent resemblance with Flaubert’s Madame Bovary.
Roberte’s sexual nervous breakdown is split between various men, like her body which is chopped off of its wholeness as Zucca applies many fragmented/detached shots of the hands and legs to depict and convey this sense of corpo-mental shattered-ness. That’s why the voyeuristic aspect of the film is never delivered as a complete uninterrupted totally, and that’s where Zucca transcends the mere voyeurism to a higher level of imaginative imperfection – a liberated eroticism rather a manipulative pornography. Remember how the film by each step and twist is led to even lose its sound and color at the end, closing with a graphical design of a keyhole in the credits.
Pascal Bonitzer remarkably mentions this aspect of Zucca’s work, when he accurately writes: In Roberte, like all her postures and adventures, what’s evoked is a “crime without violence” and a pornography without obscenity (Cahiers du Cinéma; No. 299, April 1979). So also I would like to add, a voyeurism without gaze.
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