Jaques Rivette(the director) recently turned 80 years old, having not made a film since 2003. This lastest edition to an impressive career must surely be his last masterpiece and proof that with film, the older you are, the better you become.
Taken from the Blazac short story, this film is about a playful society woman and a brooding Napoleanic hero's forbidden love affair(maybe not in actual sex, because it's never really explained) but certainly in mind.
In begins somewhere in the Meditearranean, where our man is seen limping around a monastery, in search of something. We slowly realise he has found a woman he was looking for, who has now become a nun and celebate.
Then what begins is a recollection of their initial meeting at a Paris ball, five years previous. What transpires is an often passionate, sometimes dark tale of game playing between the two.
The woman decides she wants to play with him, maybe out of ennui, maybe out of spite. The man, in turn, vows to take her as his mistress - he is powerful, with high friends, a hero, and believes he can take what he wants.
This never happens, and slowly the roles become reversed, as the woman begins to fall for him. When she attempts to tell him that she really is in love with him, he rejects her out of pride. After he disappears for months, she slowly goes out of her mind.
When he returns, she is gone. He vows to look for her and then the film goes full circle and returns to the scene at the monastery at the beginning of the film. I won't give away the ending, and it is tragic, abrupt and incredibly moving.
Rivette was at the forefront of the French New Wave in the early sixties, and is about the only one left that can still pull out a masterpiece, Rohmer is still there, while Godard continues to babble on about his political views.
his style is quiet, contemplative, almost silent and slow. He prefers to watch from the corners, elegantly tracking with his characters, letting them breath, giving you(the audience) space to see everything. Rivette was a great believer in the image as already fantastic - why bother exerting too much style when it already is.
i found the film utterly compelling. Depardieu was outstanding, and I haven't much liked his previous work. Of course, the film will be crimanally neglected probably for the next twenty years, but enough people with taste and patience can seek it out, Rivette is due serious reappraisal as one of the great directors.
Why is great art always missed?