La Prisonnière (1968)

La Prisonnière (1968)
  • 1154
  • R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release year: 1968 ()
  • Running time: 106 min
  • Original Title: La prisonnière
  • Voted: 1154

Stanislas Hassler blazes the development of modern art in his gallery, packed with works of surprising shapes, colours and textures, and where exhibitions turn into media events. Gilbert Moreau is one of the artists whose sculptures are on display in the gallery. His wife, Josée, is intrigued by the stern Stanislas, who devotes his free time to photography in an apartment that highlights his sophisticated artistic tastes. But besides enlarged pictures of calligraphic samples, Stanislas is amassing a collection of photographs that reveal a disturbed character. So why would Josée endanger her mature relationship with Gilbert for the morbid observation of Stanislas's hidden personality?

1Laurent TerzieffStanislas Hassler
2Elisabeth WienerJosée
3Bernard FressonGilbert Moreau
4Dany CarrelMaguy
  • Visually fantastic final feature from HG Clouzot by 7

    La prisonnière was HG Clouzot's final film and his only in colour. It tells the story of a young female film editor who meets an art dealer via her relationship with an abstract artist. She discovers he photographs erotic pictures of women. Partially appalled, partially intrigued she becomes hooked on his voyeurism and becomes one of his subjects. Its story focuses on themes of submission and dominance, with all three central characters at war with one and other to some extent.

    I don't think the message was necessarily altogether clear at times and I think something must have been lost over the years in terms of the shock we are meant to feel at the erotic material. From the perspective of nowadays in the free-for-all that is the internet age, those images that presumably would have caused some shock back in 1968 seem actually quite quaint by today's anything-goes standards. So you do sort of have to remind yourself that this was a very different world back then in order to understand aspects such as this. I felt on the whole that the story seemed a bit under-developed and not entirely satisfying but what certainly did not disappoint me was the visual aesthetics on display. Considering this was Clouzot's only colour movie, it does have to be said that he embraces the medium in a pretty full-on way. The use of colour is rather splendid throughout. The early gallery scenes are visually delightful with much abstract, expressionistic and pop art imagery present throughout, all beautifully framed, while the closing psychedelic hallucination sequence was a mesmerizing example of visual artistry. So, for me at least, this is a film which is mostly of interest from an aesthetic point-of-view as opposed to a dramatic one. It definitely felt like the work of a young director, as opposed to a veteran, and so indicates the boldness that Clouzot had even in his final years. It's the sort of material that someone like Claude Chabrol could easily have been tackling at the time, except Clouzot's film is visually much more out there than anything that young new wave director every delivered. On the whole, this is a pretty impressively uncompromising bit of cinema for Clouzot to bow out on and is certainly one that should be of interest for anyone interested not only in French cinema of the period but of counter-cultural time-capsule movies as well.

  • A chick gets color sick by 9

    In France they sell this movie in a DVD-collection called The Unclassifyables. Not without reason, as it is indeed very difficult to say what this movie is exactly about. In my opinion it is an early critical comment on post modernism and deconstructivism ? terms coined by French philosophers that became public property only years if not decades after this movie was made. The director sees what the world is coming to - and he does not like it. In this aspect La Prisonniere reminded me very much of Jacques Tati's movies Mon Oncle and Playtime.

    Clouzot also seems to have been influenced here by Michelangelo Antonioni's movies Il Deserto Rosso and Blow-Up. Alienation and disorientation are rampant in all major characters. Apparently it is Clouzot's first movie in color - and it is one of the most impressive color movies I have seen ever. This director was always great with surfaces and textures. Here he adds undisturbed expanses of bright primary or secondary colors to his vocabulary. They are prominent in the greatest scenes, a playful chase on a beach (someone pours a bucket of red paint or blood into the water) and a climactic final scene on a rooftop in the center of Paris. In the house opposite the roof, a gigantic, heavy turn-of-the-century stone structure, all the exterior textile blinds are drawn so that it is sprinkled with tiny crimson squares. In a strange way color whenever it appears as a statement seems to mean artificiality in a negative sense, and the prime affliction of the main female character seems to be a kind of a color sickness. She goes through an interesting choice of different dresses.

    I think La Prisonnière is a great artistic statement about the end of true artistic achievement. It takes the viewer to a fantasy world in which dreams and desires are bound turn into unbearable nightmares. The quick editing and ultra short insertions had other reviewers describe this movie as ?psychedelic". I doubt that a psychedelic experience was what the director intended. I think he rather wanted to warn against the exaggerated input of images post modern society is subjected to. The fantastic, terrifically edited train ride of the main couple at the beginning of the movie seems to indicate as much.

  • Fails to deliver on its unoriginal promise by 5

    Saw this 10/11/15. Clouzot knew the game had changed considerably since his last completed film in 1960. His "La Prisonnière" represents an attempt to join the crowd. Unfortunately, the movie accomplishes little else beyond offering some very interesting photography bringing to mind other nearby films such as "Belle de Jour" (1967), "Two or Three Things I Know About Her" (1967) or "Blow-up" (1966). "La Prisionniere" looks as if the DP presented interesting visual ideas for Clouzot to work into a movie, somehow. I think a stronger movie would have had it the other way around.

    Laurent Terzieff as Stan was apparently stuck with the role of the movie's go-to guy for inchoate forays into masochism and mild lesbianism. Elisabeth Wiener tries her best as his sub rosa subject, and Bernard Fresson is the mercenary, arty, and ultimately, chumpy husband.

    For a director with Clouzot's reputation for cruelty to actors, the movie's theme of dominance and submission is disturbing but unsurprising. Where everyone else seemed to sense freedom in the 60's, Clouzot seems to have believed there was interesting darkness on the flip side.

    Maybe he was not entirely wrong, but a film so conceived was not this one. Nothing is developed to the extent promised or necessary. The able cast cannot deliver more of a movie than Clouzot had designed. The dream sequence is little more than a post production doodle whose visual effects, unable to carry Clouzot's stillborn thematic material, merely look dated. Corman's 1967 "The Trip" played a similar game with greater success. The American's more modest goal of selling tickets seems to have had a better result than the aging French master's muddled quest for great cinema.

  • certainly no Belle de Jour by 8

    What this film lacks in substance is certainly made up for in the starling and typically 1968 visuals. The subject may be BDSM and voyeurism but the look is pure 60s kinetic and op-art. The portrayal as Stan as an obsessive photographer exploring his deeply felt notions of dominance and submission are somewhat muted by his role as art gallery owner, dealing in shimmering and revolving metallic sculptures and rightly coloured geometric shapes. Nevertheless he does a decent job of convincing and some of the photography scenes with his 'little housewife' turned adventuress and submissive are effective. The reliance on great flamboyant splashes of orange and yellow throughout encourage a smile rather than a concern and it is as if Clouzot himself is conflicted. Not the greatest film on the subject, it is certainly no Belle de Jour and despite the arty use of colour, no Blow Up, but still well worth a watch.

1Andréas Windingcinematographer
2Henri-Georges Clouzotdirector
3Noëlle Balencieditor
4Robert Dorfmannproducer
5Monique Langewriter
6Marcel Moussywriter