Mirror Mirror: The Films of Jacques Rivette

Mirror Mirror The Films of Jacques Rivette

 

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The received wisdom on Jacques Rivette, for supporters and detractors alike, is that his is a cinema of endurance. It’s impossible to read an appraisal of this influential member of the French New Wave without mention of his films’ extensive lengths; this, aside from a seemingly unvarying opening/closing credits font, is the director’s distinguishing surface trait, and it no doubt induces equal measures exasperation and caution. Rivette’s films don’t so much move as imperceptibly invade—we need to arrive at their far-off finales to determine if the journey through them is worth it. It’s about commitment, in other words, about dedication to against-the-grain ideas of cinema and artistry (heavy on themes of theater and performance) that don’t always come off. I suspect that the wondrous Céline and Julie Go Boating is Rivette’s apex: Even his most enthusiastic proponents (David Thomson and Jonathan Rosenbaum among them) write of the later films with a slightly dutiful air, as if they’re waiting around (slaves to a countercultural limbo) for some of the old magic to resurface. But I concede, with tempered but determined enthusiasm: Rivette is deserving of full consideration, a near-impossibility up until now as his films have very rarely been released stateside. We must therefore be grateful for the Museum of the Moving Image’s near-complete retrospective, which is screening all but Rivette’s most recent feature, Ne Touchez Pas La Hache (currently in post-production and scheduled for a 2007 release), and a few of his short films. Rivette’s more popular works (e.g. La Belle Noiseuse and Va Savoir) can now be viewed in the company of his mystique-laden obscurities (e.g. Noroît and Le Pont du Nord), though the retro’s prime offering is the barely-screened Out 1: Noli Me Tangere, a 12-hour plus magnum opus that has been referred to as the cinephile’s Holy Grail. Check back throughout November and December for new capsule-review additions to this ongoing Slant Magazine feature. Keith Uhlich