La Collectionneuse had been on our to-watch list for a while. The result of this wait was sweet. This is a delightfully wicked comedy-drama that makes no two bones about how men look at and think of women, irrespective of where they belong. Haydee (Haydee Politoff), our titular lead, is an object of desire, as introduced to us in the very first frames. As the events lead her to spend the summer in a solitary house in the French Riviera with two older men, Adrien (Patrick Bauchau) and Daniel (Daniel Pommereulle), also on holiday, she is judged for spending every evening with a new man. They refer to her as The Collector... of men, like they collect museum artifacts for a living.
Haydee, however, feels no obligation to hide herself from these two men who she can see are clearly besotted with her but will not make the first move because each man wants to stay on higher moral ground in the others' eyes. So they make disparaging comments in the hopes of humiliating her into bed with them, while claiming they aren't interested in her. Interestingly, the three are capable of enjoying time with each other when the men can let their guards down or are trying another tactic to get her interested in them. Adrien's narration of this incident is meant to sound intellectual, full of depth, as are his conversations with Daniel. But their vanity stops them from creating what could have been a lovely friendship with a woman who is not only beautiful but also confident and intelligent.
Rohmer's portrayal of a languid 1960s French Riviera summer is beautifully designed both visually and aurally. The lethargy from the sun, the sight of the sea, and the sounds of nature immediately take one to a holiday spent doing nothing at all. From a 6-movie series called Moral Tales, La Collectionneuse is about men who worry a lot about how others see them and them being on very aroused tenterhooks around a woman who has nary a care about the code of conduct by which women are expected to live. She is young. She is free. She does seek companionship, but not at the cost of her free will.
La Collectionneuse is available to stream on Mubi India.