The death of an experimental French novelist might seem an unlikely point of inspiration for a post on a spanking blog, but…
Alain Robbe-Grillet, who died last week aged 85, developed the idea of the “nouveau roman”; his most famous book being La Jalousie (1958). He was also associated with the new wave of French cinema, writing the screenplay for Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1961), and making several films under his own name.
What few of his obituaries have even mentioned, however, is his later works, which were increasingly taken over by his sexual fantasies of flagellation and sado-masochism.
As a publicity stunt, his final novel Un Roman Sentimental (2007) came wrapped in a sealed plastic wrapper like a pornographic magazine. The leaves were uncut, requiring the reader to free his forbidden treasure page by page with a paper-knife.
I haven’t read the book, and I’m not sure that I would want to. Described as “an adult fairy story that may offend certain sensibilities”, it contains a sequence of violent pornographic fantasies about sexual abuse following the loose model of the Marquis de Sade.
Whips are flourished, blood and fluids flow, taboos from cannibalism to torture to incest are broken. Many of the victims are apparently young teens. The author admitted that, while the book didn’t claim to be a catalogue of all possible passions, “these are my own fantasies”.
The full story of the relationship between Robbe-Grillet and his wife Catherine could make for very interesting reading if a biography were to come out in the wake of his death.
As recently as 2006, Catherine wrote about her husband’s excitement when she dressed up as a little girl. But age-play was probably just for starters, because Catherine has a proven track record of her own when it comes to all things kinky and sadistic. In the 1950s and 60s she published BDSM-themed writings under the pseudonym Jean de Berg.
Her novel L’Image (1956) came out just two years after The Story of O, and it is not difficult to spot the influence of the S&M classic, also written by a French woman, Pauline Reage.
Set in Paris, it tells the story of the bored Jean who meets Claire, a woman he’s known on and off for years, at a wealthy literary party. She realizes that Jean is becoming fascinated by another young woman at the party, the lovely, blonde Anne. Jean soon discovers there’s a connection between Claire and Anne. Put simply, Anne is a slave to Claire!
Later, Jean meets Claire and Anne in the gothic dungeon in her home. After bathing and grooming Anne for what lies ahead, they charge their glasses of cognac and begin “the punishment of Anne”.
Like The Story of O, L’Image was also made into a film in the 1970s by American director Radley Metzger. Also known by two other titles The Punishment of Anne and The Mistress and the Slave, Metzger went absolutely all-out with this film. If a fetish was on the cultural radar in the mid-1970’s, you can count on seeing it here.
The two lead actresses are well cast in their roles. Rebecca Brooke plays Anne with her wild blue eyes, full of guilt and panicked arousal.
Marilyn Roberts as Claire is the perfect domme – icy cold on the surface, but you can sense the passion and ardour boiling within. Put it this way, if you were just starting your first term at an exclusive girl’s boarding school, you wouldn’t want this lady as your headmistress.
When the two come together for the punishment scenes it makes for some memorable encounters.
The sadism is extreme, even by today’s standards. In addition to whipping, we also get cheese skewers heated over a gas flame, and even strangulation and mock-drowning.
The sexual violence, however, is mainly reflected in the character’s faces – well, Anne’s, anyway. We don’t actually see whips flailing against progressively injured flesh.
The Punishment of Anne, also delves deeper into the power games that are the primary driving force behind most real-world sadomasochistic relationships. Viewers of the film have their senses treated and their emotions tested as well.
A reviewer on the IMDB website has written:
This was my first S&M movie. Found by accident and watched it over and over, until I had to take it back. It is very erotic, and definitely a must see! It changed the way I thought about sex, and opened up so many new avenues to explore.
I have looked for this movie for about 5 years. I wanted my husband to see it. The Punishment of Anne takes you on a ride through the erotic tales of dominance and submission. It is a wonderful ride. If you are new to the B&D scene, this is a good movie to start with. It isn’t too much, but it is enough to wet your appetite and you will be back looking for more. It will quicken your heart rate, and put you in the right mood. I say it is a must have!!!
According to IMDB, New York-based Metzger is “one of the true titans of 70’s arthouse porn, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Russ Meyer, David Friedman, and Michael and Roberta Findlay.”
L’Image certainly pushed back the envelope, but what would Metzger or any of his “sexploitation” contemporaries have made of Un Roman Sentimental, and is there a director around today who would be prepared to tackle it?