Writer and Director. Nationality: French. Born: Brest, 18 August 1922. Education: Attended Lycée de Brest; lycées Buffon and St. Louis, Paris: National Institute of Agronomy, Paris, diploma 1944. Family: Married Catherine Rstakian, 1957. Career: Sent to work in German tank factory during World War II; 1945–49—engineer, National Statistical Institute, Paris; 1949–51—engineer, Institute of
L'Année dernière à Marienbad ( Last Year at Marienbad ) (Resnais)
Taxandria (Servais) (co)
L'Homme qui ment ( The Man Who Lies )
L'Eden et après (and TV version N'a pris les dés )
Les Glissements progressifs du plaisir ; Le Jeu avec le feu
La Belle Captive ( The Beautiful Prisoner )
Un Bruit qui rend fou ( The Blue Villa ) (co-d with De Clercq)
Les Gommes , Paris, 1953, as The Erasers , New York, 1964.
Le Voyeur , Paris, 1955, as The Voyeur , New York, 1958.
La Jalousie , Paris, 1957, as Jealousy , New York, 1959.
Dans le labyrinthe , Paris, 1959, as In the Labyrinth , New York, 1960.
L'Année dernière à Marienbad , Paris, 1961, as Last Year at Marienbad , New York, 1962.
Instantanés , Paris, 1962, as Snapshots , with Towards a New Novel , London, 1965.
L'Immortelle , Paris, 1963, as The Immortal One , London, 1971.
La Maison de rendez-vous , Paris, 1965, as La Maison de Rendezvous , New York, 1966, as The House of Assignation , London, 1970.
Projet pour une révolution à New York , Paris, 1970, as Project for a Revolution in New York , New York, 1972.
Glissements progressifs du plaisir , Paris, 1974.
Topologie d'une cité fantôme , Paris, 1976, as Topology of a Phantom City , New York, 1977.
Un Régicide , Paris, 1978.
Souvenirs du triangle d'or , 1978, as Memories of the Golden Triangle , London, 1984.
Djinn , Paris, 1981, as Djinn , New York, 1982.
A Kukkolo , 1992.
Les Derniers Jours de Corinthe , 1994.
Taxandria (screenplay), 1996.
La Belle Captive: A Novel , Berkeley, 1996.
Pour un nouveau roman , Paris, 1963, as Towards a New Novel , with Snapshots , London, 1965, as For a New Novel , New York, 1966.
Rêves de jeunes filles (photographs by David Hamilton), Paris, 1971, as Dreams of a Young Girl , New York, 1971, as Dreams of Young Girls , London, 1971.
Les Demoiselles d'Hamilton (photographs by David Hamilton), Paris, 1972, as Sisters , New York, 1973.
With René Magritte, La Belle Captive , Paris, 1976.
With Irina Ionesco, Temple aux miroirs , Paris, 1977.
The Erotic Dream Machine: Interviews with Alain Robbe-Grillet on His Films , with Anthony G. Fragola, Carbondale, 1995.
Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1961.
Cinéma (Paris), February 1963.
Art et Essai (Paris), no. 6, 1965.
In Film Makers on Filmmaking , edited by Harry M. Geduld, Bloomington, Indiana, 1967.
Cinémonde (Paris), 15 May 1970.
Cinématographe (Paris), April/May 1974.
Filmmakers Newsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), July 1976.
Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1980.
Cinématographe (Paris), February 1985.
Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), April 1989.
Stoltzfus, Ben Frank, Robbe-Grillet and the New French Novel , Carbondale, Illinois, 1964.
Parnell, Martin, editor, Alain Robbe-Grillet , Nottingham, 1968.
Gardies, André, Alain Robbe-Grillet , Paris, 1972.
Fraizer, Dale W., editor, Robbe-Grillet: An Annotated Bibliography of Critical Studies 1953–1972 , Metuchen, New Jersey, 1973.
Morrissette, Bruce, The Novels of Robbe-Grillet , Ithaca, New York, 1975.
Van Wert, William F., The Film Career of Alain Robbe-Grillet , London, 1977.
Nepoti, Roberto, Alain Robbe-Grillet , Florence, 1978.
Chateau, Dominique, Nouveau cinema, nouvelle sémiologie , Paris, 1979.
Gardies, André, Approche du recit filmique: sur L'Homme qui ment d' Alain Robbe-Grillet , Paris, 1980.
Armes, Roy, The Films of Robbe-Grillet , Amsterdam, 1981.
Fletcher, John, Robbe-Grillet , London, 1983.
Gardies, André, Le Cinéma de Robbe-Grillet , Paris, 1983.
Leki, Ilona, Alain Robbe-Grillet , Boston, Massachusetts, 1983.
Morrissette, Bruce, Novel and Film , Chicago, 1985.
Stoltzfus, Ben Frank, Alain Robbe-Grillet: The Body of the Text , London, 1985.
Roland, Lillian D., Women in Robbe-Grillet: A Study in Thematics and Diegetics , New York, 1993.
Harger-Grinling, Virginia, and Chadwick, Tony, editors, Robbe-Grillet and the Fantastic: A Collection of Essays , Westport, Connecticut, 1994.
Hellerstein, Marjorie H., Inventing the Real World: The Art of Alain Robbe-Grillet , Susquehanna, 1998.
Huston, Penelope, in Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1961.
Brunius, Jacques, in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1962.
Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), December 1962.
Doniol-Valcroze, Jacques, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1963.
Ashmore, Jerome, in University Review (Kansas City, Missouri), Spring 1964.
Art et Essai (Paris), February 1967.
Filmcritica (Rome), November/December 1967.
Ward, John, in Sight and Sound (London), Spring 1968.
Avant-Scène (Paris), June 1968.
"Robbe-Grillet Issue" of Kinema (London), June 1968.
Chaplin (Stockholm), no. 12, 1970.
Cinéma (Paris), September/October 1970.
Film Comment (New York), May/June 1973.
National Film Theatre Booklet (London), September/November 1973.
Films and Filming (London), January 1974.
Avant-Scène (Paris), June 1974.
Cahiers de la Cinémathèque (Paris), Christmas 1977.
Doniol-Valcroze, Jacques, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1982.
Doniol-Valcroze, Jacques, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1985.
Journal of Film and Video (Boston, Massachusetts), Fall 1990.
Creative Screenwriting (Washington), vol. 3, no. 1, Summer 1996.
Filmihullu (Helsinki), vol. 3, 1997.
* * *
Alain Robbe-Grillet had already published four novels before he came to the cinema as screenwriter of one of the most controversial and innovative films of the early 1960s, Alain Resnais's L'Année dernière à Marienbad . Subsequently his work as a novelist has continued alongside his filmmaking activity, often pursuing its own distinctive paths though undoubtedly influenced by the preparation for publication, as ciné-romans , of three of his scripts. L'Année dernière à Marienbad is a complex work in which the diverging contributions of its two very different authors can now be seen more clearly than in 1961, when discussion of the film tended to be based on the self-proclaimed myth of their perfect collaboration.
Robbe-Grillet's own work as a writer-director has followed paths very different from Resnais's and falls into two periods of very unequal value, with La Belle Captive coming as something of a coda in 1983. Between 1963 and 1968 Robbe-Grillet made the three black-and-white feature films on which his reputation as a filmmaker largely rests. L'Immortelle , set in Turkey and dealing with a trio of characters designated in the published screenplay as simply L, M, and N, is strikingly original in his handling of narrative. In effect it constitutes a set of variations and distortions on the themes and stylistic devices set out in its 22-shot prologue. Trans-Europ-Express , Robbe-Grillet's most approachable film, combines its play with reality and imagination with a humor hitherto absent from his work. Full of mirror images, disguises, distortions of reality, impossible happenings, and duplications, the film makes no pretense of having a conventional narrative. Rather the plot invents itself as it proceeds, creating and ignoring problems, inconsistencies, and downright impossibilities. Robbe-Grillet's major work as a director, L'Homme qui ment , carries these formal experiments through to their logical conclusion. Shot on location in Czechoslovakia and set in an old chateau amid the forests, it is the story of a man who invents his own character, past, and emotions as he goes along. But the words which create his reality are eventually turned against him and he is driven back to limbo in the forest. Though lacking a coherent plot in the conventional sense, L'Homme qui ment offers many of the same satisfactions as a normal narrative through its complex patterning in terms of symmetry, reversal, and inversion. By fastening on two basic aspects of the film image—its unique present tense quality and its potentiality for an inextricable mixture of reality and falsehood—Robbe-Grillet has fashioned a film which is both approachable and highly innovative.
Robbe-Grillet's color films of the early 1970s— L'Eden et après , Les Glissements progressifs du plaisir , and Le Jeu avec le feu —are equally novel but far less successful. On a thematic level they are undermined by a blatant and self-indulgent eroticism that never achieves the distance which would allow the obsessive subject matter to acquire an aesthetic impact. For this reason these films, which experiment with overelaborate and virtually unreadable serial structures, come to resemble all too closely the drab and dispiriting commercial exploitation movies whose stereotyped formulas Robbe-Grillet claims to be parodying.
Robbe-Grillet's status within French cinema is controversial and his situation is not helped by his own taste for both oversimplifying and mystifying his work. Many of the conventional critics and historians of French cinema ignore his work—like that of Marguerite Duras—altogether. But Robbe-Grillet's work, particularly the masterly L'Homme qui ment , has enormous theoretical interest and its impact on a whole generation of young French critics and theorists has been both profound and fruitful.
—Roy Armes, updated by David Levine