on 12 May 2005
Histoires de Marie et Julien is the latest film from Jacques Rivette, who along with Jean-Luc Godard is arguably the greatest living French film director.
Rivette is noted (some detractors might say notorious) for his slow pacing and low-key style, and this film is no exception (it runs almost 2 and a half hours). So whether you will like this film depends very much on whether you like that approach; speaking for myself I like this film very much because Rivette gives you time to absorb the atmosphere and get to know the characters. But if you saw (and disliked) some of the director's earlier available works (such as La Belle Noiseuse and Va Savoir) then rest assured you probably won't like this one much either.
One problem with reviewing this film is that it's really better to see it without foreknowledge of the story, as much of the impact is lessened if you know what is coming. Suffice to say that not everything is as it seems (the film starts out with a fairly mundane blackmail plot), and that Rivette conjurs a disturbing ambience that gradually and almost imperceptibly creeps into the film. Both lead actors (Emmanuelle Beart and Jerzy Radziwilowicz) are superb as they carry the film for 90% of its running time (there are a couple of other characters who are key to the plot but make only fleeting appearances).
The DVD presentation by Artificial Eye is good, with the film presented in its correct aspect ratio and a couple of interesting supplements featuring interviews with Rivette and Emmanuelle Beart (these do reveal significant plot points so are probably best seen after the film).
on 29 July 2005
Marie and Julien have, it appears, enjoyed a brief dalliance in the past: at the time they were both in unsatisfactory relationships but, now free, they realise how much they long to be together again. Julien seems to conjure her up out of a dream - they meet ... unsure, but certain, and begin an affair, an epic love story.
We learn nothing of Marie, but we slowly discover Julien. He is a clock repairer - old clocks, big clocks. His hands - butcher's hands - are always dirty, his house is dominated by clutter and chaos. Yet he strives to make things run like clockwork. He also dabbles in blackmail - we are left wondering about his darker side, wondering how it is that he can manipulate his victim so blatantly.
But Julien invites Marie into his idiosyncratic world. It's a bachelor world - he's shared it with at least one woman before, but the only influence she's had on him is negligible ... and now forgotten. Some of her clothes remain in a wardrobe, some of her cosmetics are in a bathroom cabinet: her existence is shut away behind closed doors, archived in Julien's past.
Marie sets about the transformation of a spare room, imposing her identity on it and signifying her entry into his world. She empties the wardrobe and bathroom cabinet of evidence of Julien's earlier relationship and quickly establishes herself as his accomplice in the blackmail sideline.
But she remains a mystery figure, elusive, a young woman prone to dissolving into a trancelike state - capable even of walking out and abandoning him when the mood seizes her. She rapidly becomes the centre of his life, but we are never certain whether he remains peripheral to hers ... or precisely what it is she wants from him. The mystery gradually deepens.
Jacques Rivette directs this film with astonishing magnanimity. His presence is almost anonymous as Emmanuelle Béart and Jerzy Radziwilowicz are allowed to dominate the screen and stamp their personalities on the narrative. The film, however, is typical Rivette - slow moving, lyrically erotic, embracing naturalistic sounds and effects, yet with tantalising use of fantasy and enigma.
It's a long film - nearly two and a half hours. Its long, lyrical silences are fascinating enough, but you wonder if it could not have been cut by thirty minutes without losing anything. However, despite its urban setting, it is a film which creates an almost pastoral sense of tranquillity: indeed, this sense of tranquillity, this sense of any lack of urgency heightens the amorality of Julien's blackmail, and makes the tensions in his relationship with Marie so much more human. He's a tolerant man, a patient man, a man who understands the measure of time, a man who is not in any hurry. But time, we will discover, is of the essence of the story.
Delightful, relaxing film with a couple of entertaining extras served up on the DVD. There is an enjoyable interview with Emmanuelle Béart, and an intriguing one with Rivette - who seems quite intolerant and dismissive of the interviewer at times, and who appears to view the need to provide 'extras' as an insult to his art and invasion of his time.
Continuing on my tour de Rivette, is this stop, L'Histoire De Marie et Julien, a dark movie about love, lust and blackmail.
Julien is a clock repairer - and he's a loner, he's got his cat with him, and now lives alone, mainly talking to his cat at night. When he finds things of Mademoiselle X, he decides to blackmail her into getting some money for it. When he crosses Marie one day, his love for her is re-kindled and he decides he wants to go back to being with her, but with the mystery of X, her papers, and who Marie is, he soon finds himself taking too much on.
This film is very slow to get going, but once it is in full swing this is a great piece of cinema, I didn't expect less from Jaques Rivette, who's used the same crew he did on Secret Defense and other movies. Again Jerzy Radziwilowicz is brilliant as the clock repairer - and Emmanuelle Béart as Marie is amazing. He seems to always get the pieces in the right place, and considering he was 75 when he made this it's quite a phenomenal feat. Everything from the places they used, the colours, the lack of musical soundtrack, it makes this a real masterpiece to enjoy many times, as it's not concrete what happens to them in this movie, and will make you ask questions about the film for days on end.
This DVD is OK too, DVD9 (needs to be as this is another epic 2hr 24min film) and the sound and video are very good. The picture is nice and sombre like it should be, and the sound is clear. The subs are white and are quite clear - and thanks to Artificial Eye, can be turned off if not needed, which is a very welcome addition.
Very watchable, but you need to be patient and give it your full attention.
on 6 April 2015
If you are thinking of watching Histoire de Marie et Julien (English title The Story of Marie and Julien), I would urge you to do so whilst knowing as little as possible of a synopsis. If you do enjoy the film, then that pleasure is likely to be enhanced by knowing as little as possible about the plot.
The music as the opening menu (Film, Scene Selection etc) appears is a superb jazz recording from 1962 by Blossom Dearie, and it sets the film up nicely.
The story is delivered slowly and reveals itself in a film that has been directed, acted, filmed and edited superbly.
Although the film has a not unfamiliar them, I am fairly sure I can say I have not seen anything quite like it and that, for me is always a good thing. Histoire de Marie et Julien has a small cast who give subtle, very believable and never over-acted performances, together with a story that is delivered really well.
It doesn’t surprise me that this film has received four and five star reviews on amazon, but it does surprise me that at the time of writing this review there are no one or two star reviews shown, as I would have thought that it may be something of a you-either-love-it-or-hate-it type of film.
I bought the DVD simply for the fact that Emmanuelle Béart is one of the actors in it, and deliberately chose to not know a synopsis. Whether you know what it is about or not, if you watch it hopefully you will also enjoy it, but as I said earlier I can see that it won’t be to everyone’ taste.
For me though I loved it.
On the DVD you get:
Histoire de Marie et Julien (2 hour 24 min)
Interviews with Jacques Rivette (40 min) and Emmanuelle Béart (15 min)
Filmographies of: Jacques Rivette (Director), Emmanuelle Béart, Jersy Radziwilowicz, Anne Brochet.
Theatrical Trailer (1 min 23 sec)
Audio and Subtitle Options: Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1, Subtitles On/Off
There are optional English Subtitles for the main film and the extras.
In the film we get the intermingling of dream and reality, life and death. Julien sees Marie in a dream and speaks to her, this ends with her raising a knife to him and him waking up in a bar. All of a sudden he meets her in the street by chance and arranges to meet her, only she doesn't turn up. He is a 40-something clock-restorer, loner, who is blackmailing the rich and mysterious MadameX (Brochet),who traffics in fake antiques. Marie(Beart),the beautiful woman with whom he fell in love a year earlier, calls at his house and he attempts to rekindle the affair.There follow episodes where she is both there and disappears or wakes up early and goes. Rivette uses chance to propel the narrative. We also get the use of shifting narrative perspectives from Julien to Marie and back to Julien or an intermingling of the two, when they become co-creators of erotic narratives while making love.Julien is unsettled by the enigmatic Marie's strange and distant behaviour. All is fiction . Marie is aware of being in a narrative and of playing a role. She is aware of her character's fate, she tries on someone else's clothes. Lines recited are not words of the speaker but belong to the narrative as in words she recites from a letter from Madame X's sister, or in Gaelic words she utters in an attic room. We also learn she cuts without bleeding and has premonitions of something terrible happening. Only Madame X holds the key to unlock Marie's terrible and devastating secret. Marie acts as "the other woman" , a go-between between Julien and his victim. We learn that Madame X's sister is dead and the sense she commited suicide. Marie,it's suggested, is like Madame X's sister.
Rivette, in an interview has said she is not a ghost, she is a revenant, somebody who returns and is fully alive in the flesh. She partakes of strange rituals like rearranging the furniture in an upstairs attic room and decoration. She stands on a chair repetitively and seems to recite the behaviour of a hanging with a noose above. She also performs secret signals to Madame X,who imparts her condition to Julien. She has come back from the afterlife to make amends to a lover, who is now deceased. So she is `waiting' and loves Julien by proxy. He tinkers with large clocks, assembling and disassembling them by sound,rather than by sight. Time seems to stand still in this house so that normal rules do not operate. We get the real and imagined, the lived and the dreamed fused together,the cinematic transubstantiation of reality. The roles disappears into the actors ,so they, in a filmed narrative, get lost in the house. The girl you met in the park may seem less a chance acquaintance than a figure in a story that now contains you.Where does reality end and fantasy begin? The cat called `Nevermore' alludes to Edgar Allan Poe. This film was to be made 30 years before with Leslie Caron and Albert Finney but was shelved after 2 days, due to lack of funding. Part of a cycle of films including Duelle and Noroit. This can be viewed as the maturation of a good wine enriched by the years in which it took to gestate. I'll be watching this film for years and looking for new meanings.
on 19 May 2013
Because this film moves quite slowly, it is impossible to review it in anything but the most general terms except by giving something of the plot away. So if you don't want to know what happens, look away now ...
Historie de Marie et Julien is the story of a blackmailer, Julien, who unexpectedly meets his former lover, Marie, in a Paris street. The two swiftly resume their affair, but Marie's behaviour is a little too erratic for comfort. It turns out she committed suicide some time before their reunion and she's come back from the dead to seek forgiveness of some kind. I won't give too much away: suffice it to say, the film concludes happily. Perhaps unintentionally, the ending is also highly Christian. Suffering becomes blood becomes redemption becomes bodily resurrection. You'll know what I mean when you see it.
The whole lover-who-can't-let-go-so-comes-back-from-the-dead thing has been done lots of times, of course. Ghost, The Sixth Sense and Donnie Darko spring to mind. There is only one such film that bears comparison with Historie of Marie and Julien, though, and that is Solaris, which I think is a superior treatment of roughly the same theme in every respect (the Soderbergh version being better than the Tarkovsky in my opinion, although foreign-film buffs will probably spit blood at this). Just like Historie, Solaris deals with notions of the afterlife, but does so in a more mature way. It supplies some sort of metaphysical framework, for a start. And it is more explicit, and much more sophisticated, in its awareness of the limits of what can be said, and what can't. Historie is fairly banal in this respect, having only some vague recourse to "the Celtic religion" (see below).
Curiously, I think the director himself, Jacques Rivette, sabotaged Historie - ie, his own film! - making it much less than it could or should be. It stands up chiefly not because of him, but because of the excellence of the actors. Emmanuelle Béart gives the game away a little in her interview (part of the DVD extras): "As usual the screenplay was going to be written from day to day" (so minimal time for rewriting - surely the essence of good practice here); "He [Rivette] told me I wouldn't know everything and that he'd conceal part of the screenplay from me" (so he didn't bring the actors fully on board either). She also tells us Rivette's notion was that Marie's suicide meant "she had no right, in accordance with the Celtic religion, to be at peace in death". Yet there was nothing explicit about the Celtic religion in the film, at least that I could see. Diplomatic as she is, Béart makes all Rivette's weaknesses here sound like strengths.
Why is Julien a blackmailer? There is nothing intrinsic to his relation with Madame X that requires such a thing. Why does Madame X have to be a swindler? Ditto. Why does Marie have to build an exact replica of the room in which she killed herself? Why do find ourselves examining an obscure tenet of "the Celtic religion" when a stronger focus on love, grief and redemption might have served the film better? The answer to all these questions, and others, is probably: because the screenwriters had their hands tied. It is tempting to conclude that Historie de Marie et Julien is therefore partly Rivette's vanity project.
Funnily enough, though, it still works. It is still a very moving experience. True, there are parts that are as dull as watching dust motes in a bare living room, but it still works. Some of this is due to the ending. But some of it is the genuine sense of mystery. Thankfully, the Celtic religion didn't get as much of a look in as it could have. Perhaps this is also unintentional, though: perhaps it would have been more conspicuous had the screenwriters not been so hamstrung (I am not suggesting they were not complicit in this - obviously they were).
A very good film. But there's a much better one struggling to get out.
Tragically for us, had it done so, I think it might well have been one of the greatest ever.
on 3 June 2010
This is an excellent film - very unexpected and unformulaic, even by Rivette's standards. Emmanuelle Beart is as excellent as ever, and almost as interesting as the film itself is a very candid and revealing interview with the leading lady.
A film that warrants a second viewing, I find myself looking forward to revisiting yet again.
Note: best viewed with no prior warning of the plot, so I will say no more!
on 30 October 2015
Excellent item, timely shipment. Thanks.
on 24 February 2015
Perfect.item like in desription.