Jacques Rivette

Jacques Rivette – Duelle (une quarantaine) AKA Twilight (A Quarantine) (1976)


It all began (as things Rivettian tend to do) auspiciously enough. There were to be four films in a series originally entitled Les Filles du Feu (after Gerard de Nerval) before the more expansive Scenes de la vie parallele replaced it. Each would center on a “non-existent myth” of a battle between goddesses of the sun and the moon for a mysterious blue diamond that has the power to make mortals immortal and vice versa. Each film was to be in a different genre: a film noir, a pirate adventure, a love story, and finally a musical – the last-mentioned of whose scenario particulars hadn’t been completely worked out when the four-film project went into production. Two films were ultimately completed – Duelle (the film noir) and Noroit (1976, the pirate adventure). But two days into the shooting of the third, Histoire de Marie et Julien the metteur en scène (as Rivette always chose to call himself, auteurism be damned) suffered a nervous breakdown, and the entire project fell apart – though traces of it linger in Merry-Go-Round (1981, a paranoid conspiracy jape that has everything but the goddesses) and the semi-demi-musical Haut/Bas/Fragile (1995). Read More »

Jacques Rivette – Paris nous appartient aka Paris is Ours (1960)



Anne, a student in Paris, becomes involved with a group of her brother’s arty friends and gets sucked into a mystery involving Philip, an expatriate American escaping McCarthyism; Terry, a self-destructive femme fatale; theatre director Gérard; and Juan, a Spanish activist who apparently committed suicide, but was he murdered? Philip warns Anne that the forces that killed Juan will soon do the same to Gérard, who is struggling to rehearse Shakespeare’s Pericles. Anne takes a part in the play in an attempt to help him and also discover why Juan died. Read More »

Jacques Rivette – Va savoir (2001)


From French Film Guide:

The first years of the new millenium have marked something of a revival for the French New Wave, with Nouvelle Vague directors Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette all releasing major works which achieved both popular success and critical acclaim. Rivette’s offering is a charming romantic comedy which reminds us of the director’s passion for the theatre seen in his earlier works, such as Paris nous appartient (1961).

Va savoir is constructed as a play within a play, and ultimately ends up with its denouement being played out on a theatre stage. The main action of the film, involving a rolling love cycle reminiscent of Max Ophüls’ La Ronde (1950), is inter-cut with scenes of the stage performance of an Italian play. The themes of this play, cheated love, deceit and revenge, are re-enacted by the characters in the “true life” part of the film, who each embark upon a whimsical diversion in their love lives. Although the film is shot and constructed as a conventional film, with naturalistic every-day sets and dialogue, it gives the impression that it is itself a stage play – indeed, watching the film in a cinema is very much a theatrical experience, in the best tradition of Shakespeare and Molière. Read More »

Jacques Rivette – Secret défense (1998)


There’s a straightforward, relatively conventional crime-movie plot at the heart of Secret Défense, but this is not the place to turn to get a taste of good, old-fashioned, efficient storytelling. Rivette has a lot more in mind than simply telling a story. Or, to put it differently, telling a story is exactly what he wants to do, but his conception of what constitutes a story is much freer, more expansive, and more cinematic than that of the average filmmaker. He’s less interested in narrating, in presenting the situations and plot twists to us, than encouraging us to find our own way into the story. Secret Défense is a movie about cinema, but not in a pretentious, distracting way; it’s not about cinema explicitly. It’s a film that experiments with and explores the potentialities of moviemaking, of cinematic storytelling, and so how it tells its story becomes as important as the story it tells. Read More »

Jacques Rivette – Noroît aka Nor’west (1976)



After her brother was killed by a notorious all-female pirate gang, Morag dedicates her life to bringing the murderers to justice. Soon, she has become an important member of the pirate gang and has begun acquiring the loyalty of key members. Eventually, she makes her move and challenges the leader, a demi-god (literally), known as “The Daughter of the Sun.” The story of Noroit is based on an early 17th-century tragedy by Cyril Tourneur, and, though it is only the third one filmed, the movie is the concluding episode in a four-part series by director Jacques Rivette. Read More »

Jacques Rivette – La Belle noiseuse AKA The Beautiful Troublemaker (1991)


In this fascinating and unconventional examination of the creative process, an artist near the end of his career finds new inspiration in a young model. Edouard Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli) is a famous and well-respected artist who lives in a comfortable estate in the French countryside. At the age of 60, Frenhofer considers his career as a painter to be over; he says he no longer feels any inspiration to create, and his last attempt at a major work, a nude study of his wife Liz (Jane Birkin) called “La Belle Noiseuse” (The Beautiful Nuisance), has sat unfinished for ten years. Just as Frenhofer has lost his enthusiasm for his art, he has also lost his passion for Liz; their relationship is polite and friendly, but without enthusiasm. When Frenhofer tells Nicolas (David Bursztein), his young protégé, that he no longer feels the desire to paint, Nicolas suggests that he needs a more inspiring subject, and he offers his girlfriend Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart) as a model. Frenhofer is taken with Marianne’s beauty, and, with Liz’s cool approval, he and Marianne spend several arduous sessions together, exchanging ideas and opinions as Frenhofer methodically attempts to create a final masterpiece. While La Belle Noiseuse runs 240 minutes, director Jacques Rivette also prepared an alternate version, La Belle Noiseuse – Divertimento, which runs 120 minutes, features a different framing sequence, and incorporates takes unused in the original cut. Read More »