on 5 August 2013
In the booklet Masters of Cinema dedicate this DVD to 'all the Rivettniks' - not long ago such a dedication would have been meaningless as Rivette was the least well known and least popular of the original French New Wave directors, only La Belle Noiseuse and Celine & Julie Go Boating made much impression outside France. But his profile seems to have risen a lot in recent years, to the extent that he belatedly now has a large cult following - 'Rivettniks' I guess. This is partly because his later films have been more mainstream (eg the brilliant Secret Defense 1998) but also because the DVD era has allowed viewers to really get accustomed to his idiosyncratic style (the BFI release of Rivette's debut Paris Nous Appartient 1960 being particularly useful).
Theatre is usually seen as the opposite of cinema, so Rivette is almost unique in setting the 'artificiality' of theatricality within cinematic 'realism' - a juxtaposition which creates all kinds of weird effects and does admittedly take some getting used to. Le Pont du Nord is an archetypal Rivette film with the actors 'acting out' various playful scenarios in real locations: two women wander around Paris, their wanderings determined by a game / map they have found - while at the same time they are subjected to (and fight back against) an all-pervasive state / terrorist / gangster surveillance conspiracy. Or maybe they are just paranoid and crazy.
Apparently an earlier version of the film was called Paris is Slipping Away and in the DVD booklet Rivette says the film was originally supposed to represent bruised and battered May 68 generation survivors encountering the arrival of the 1980s. Thankfully, improvisation and accident took over (in accordance with Rivette's method) and the resulting film is not a banal nostalgic allegory, but a kind of oblique mysterious comment, playful and sinister by turns, on the arrival of the 1980s (which sort of turned out to be the world we live in today). Most of the film is shot on demolition sites and derelict wastelands - the old Paris being destroyed before our eyes (and an object lesson in how to shoot a film very cheaply!)
Bulle Ogier is great as always and, without going into the biographical background, it is very poignant to see her acting so closely with her real life daughter Pascale. There is also a heartfelt reunion between Bulle Ogier and 60s icon / casuality Pierre Clementi. By contrast young Pascale is pure post punk 1980 (and if you like Pascale Ogier check out the recent DVD of Ken McMullen's Ghost Dance and compare London 1980 there with the Paris 1980 of Le Pont du Nord)
So, if you are indeed a `Rivettnik' you will definitely like this film and this is a very welcome edition with informative booklet from Masters of Cinema - let's hope they get to release all those 'lost' Rivette films from the 1970s soon.
on 5 June 2013
Thank you to the Masters of Cinema Series for releasing this film.
I saw it thirty years ago and it has stayed with me ever since.
How well it survives the test of time remains to be seen, so the
five stars is an act of faith but also an award for the adventurous
policy of the distributors.
Rivette is undoubtedly a major influential figure in World Cinema
but I would remind people that he, like Truffaut, gives himself the
modest (lower case) mise en scene credit at the end. Not for him the
pompous, grandiose "A film by" authorial title that is common-place
today and often unearned and unwarrented. His roots are in the theatre
and he knows that it is a group enterprise. He brings together a
regular team of writers, actors and technicians so it would be much
fairer and more accurate to see him as a superb conductor leading
a small orchestra of soliosts. Viva la bande de Rivette!
PS What about Out 1 now?
Two women,strangers to each other,Marie and Baptiste,meet up by chance and wander the streets of Paris.Rivette has taken an actress well known to him(Bulle Ogier) to act the part,largely through improvisation,of ex-con Marie,who is claustrophobic and cannot bare to go inside closed spaces.The principle of construction is like Celine and Julie Go Boating,day 1,day 2,day 3,day 4.Marie's mission is to find true love,she is driven by paranoid fictions, seeing Paris as a sprawling game-board marked off with tucked-away conspiracies,a return by Rivette to old subject matter,to retrace his steps.The film is a spiral drawn on a map of the city for a Game of the Goose.Between labyrinths and traps,fears and yearnings,there is a constant evocation of perpetual movement of "theoreticalfight against imaginary enemies",taken up by Baptiste(Pascale Ogier,Bulle's actual daughter),a knife-wielding,self-proclaimed karate expert with a drive to slash the eyes of faces in adverts.,who accompanies Marie on her quest to solve the mystery behind the contents of her former lover's,Julien's(Pierre Clementi's)suitcase:an amalgam of newspaper clippings about abductions,killings,robberies,and maps of Paris that points to an unsettling labyrinth of signs and portents whose endgame is unclear.
Now all the above is very much a Maguffin in a film that is beautifully shot by cinematographer Lubtchansky of post-revolutionary Paris.This works due to the natural chemistry of its leading ladies,their interaction,the nature of imagination and memory through a play-within-a-film,the question of what is going to happen to the ladies,the unfolding itinerary of derelict sites,building sites,railway lines,a Paris being destroyed and reconstructed,brought alive through the creativity of play.Baptiste has totalitarian fantasies of being watched by eyes,lions,dragons,spies('Max's) which she fights like Sancho Panza.Cinema for Rivette is closer to dreams and illusions, living through our desires,but true because we aspire to recreate these dreams in real life.They have to build an imaginary life in a city that is falling apart.They are both caught up in the board game,Somewhere-Else-in-Gooseland.The adventures of the actual shoot mirrors the adventures of the characters.No artificial lighting,fiction that courses through the streets,refused the refuge of enclosed space,use of reportage methods as if surprise was paramount. Everything is seen through the eyes of the 2 heroines.The project mixes the memory of our heroes and situations in Don Quixote. .The concrete and scrap-iron city is like a desert(or ghost-town),the Indians(the Max's)are everywhere,there's shelter to be found at night,places to get some water,a compass, showdowns. Rivette takes the blow torch of his genius to scrap metal revealing the hidden structures,painting a tableau of France from his own tower.Breath-taking.
on 29 January 2014
"Daylight is for power, the night for violence." There is menace all about us. Innocence is that which is unwary and therefore destined to fall. To fail to recognize evil because of a pretense of normality will ensure disaster. Hidden from us are the serial "coincidences" which make up our seemingly "free" movements.We can move this way or that, but time is not linear and the future may not necessarily lie ahead. There is an older woman, just out of prison for some kind of political activity. She has hitchhiked to Paris to search for a comrade. In the city she is befriended by a young leather-jacketed priestess of the surreal and dangerous Paris behind the "real one" who vows to protect her, and they wander through the city on paths laid out by a board game they discover in a stolen briefcase. They will find clues but no questions, a body but no reasons; the "comrade" appears and disappears, becoming more menacing all the while. This film is a masterpiece that will haunt you as it has haunted me for almost 30 years. Analyze it at your peril...