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Jacques Rivette at MOMI: Week 2

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Jacques Rivette at MOMI: Week 2

Museum of the Moving Image’s (MOMI) comprehensive Jacques Rivette retrospective continues this coming weekend (Saturday, November 18th and Sunday, November 19th) with single screenings of four of the director’s features, one of Rivette’s shorts, and a Claire Denis documentary on the New Wave maestro himself.

First up is Denis’ film, an episode of the television series Cinéma, de notre temps entitled Jacques Rivette: The Night Watchman, in which her mentor fields questions from the late French film critic Serge Daney. Screening the same day is Rivette’s adaptation of Denis Diderot’s novel La Religieuse, entitled The Nun (1966), which I was able to preview. From my Slant Magazine review, published in the website’s ongoing Rivette feature:

“No bones about it, The Nun is a mess—a garish potboiler first and a harsh critique of religious institutions last. But it is never less than involving and is anchored by Anna Karina’s simmer-to-boil-and-back-again lead performance as Suzanne, the bastard daughter of faded aristocrats who is effectively sacrificed to a corrupt, 18th-century religious hierarchy. More icon than actress, Karina bravely allows the constrictive period garb to engulf her natural vitality. When she lashes out at the cruel forces surrounding her, she is feral, possessed, but little more than a puppet fighting, with unhinged futility, against unbreakable strings.”

The Nun will be preceded by Rivette’s short Le Coup de Berger. From Frenchculture.org’s entry on the director:

“In 1956, Rivette shot Le Coup du berger, his first short on 35mm, which was co-written and co-financed by [Claude] Chabrol, and featured performances by other New Wave directors. The story follows the fate of a mink coat, passed through a series of unfaithful lovers.”

The Saturday screenings conclude with Rivette’s 1975 film Duelle, which the New York Times harshly dismissed prior to its 1976 New York Film Festival screening:

Duelle … is about the struggle between a Sun spirit and a Moon spirit, in the course of which several ordinary people are badly chewed up. It is simply about itself, despite its contemporary references and setting. It spills over into nothing of ours but décor, and even the décor is an airless, garish, 1930’s affair. The whole thing is filmed inside a Tiffany lamp. As the characters stand at the far end of significant perspectives, they resemble nothing so much as show-window mannequins draped portentiously in the foreground of some nonexistent intrigue—sheikhs seducers or beached Rolls-Royces in the background.”

The estimable Dave Kehr offers a more positive take in his Chicago Reader capsule:

“The second installment of a four-part series that was never completed, Jacques Rivette’s 1975 film is a haunting fantasy about two goddesses (Bulle Ogier and Juliet Berto) who descend to contemporary Paris and battle for possession of a magic stone that will allow them to remain on earth. The plot decodes into a conflict between the magical and the realistic cinema—Lumiere versus Melies—and Rivette works out the implications of this contradiction in his mise-en-scene, which applies a long-take, realistic technique to enigmatic situations and mysterious characters. Darker and quieter in tone than Rivette’s better-known Celine and Julie Go Boating, though just as inventive and cryptically intelligent.”

The retrospective’s Sunday screenings kick off with Rivette’s 1966 episode of Cinéastes, de notre temps, which profiles the great director Jean Renoir. Entitled Jean Renoir, the Boss, this documentary had the distinction of being edited by Jean Eustache, director of the highly influential The Mother and the Whore. From Rivette scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum’s Chicago Reader review:

“In 1966 Jacques Rivette made a three-part TV documentary titled Jean Renoir, the Boss, and its 90-minute centerpiece has rarely been seen since. “A Portrait of Michel Simon by Jean Renoir, or A Portrait of Jean Renoir by Michel Simon, or The Direction of Actors: Dialogue,” … is a missing link that’s key to understanding Rivette’s work. It’s a raw record of the after-dinner talk between one of the world’s greatest directors and his greatest actor, both in their early 70s, punctuated by clips from the five films they worked on together—Tire-au-Flanc (1928), On Purge Bébé (1931), La Chienne (1931), Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932), and Tosca (1941). It also includes occasional remarks by Rivette, the documentary’s producers (Janine Bazin and Andre S. Labarthe), and the stills photographer (the distinguished Henri Cartier-Bresson). The joy Renoir and Simon clearly share at being reunited is complemented by Rivette’s determination to exclude nothing, so that the “direction of actors” applies to him as much as to his two principals, each of whom can be said to be directing the other. For both Renoir and Rivette, direction requires a profound open-mindedness, alertness, and acceptance.”

The final screening of the weekend is Noroît, Rivette’s 1976 feature starring Geraldine Chaplin and Bernadette Lafont, the second film in his projected, though never completed four-part series, Scenes from a Parallel Life. Rosenbaum again, from his Chicago Reader capsule:

“While the mise en scene and locations are often stunning, the film seems contrived to confound conventional emotional reactions of any sort. It’s a movie where the casual slitting of someone’s throat and the swishing sounds of Lafont’s leather pants are made to seem equally relevant—a world apart from Rivette’s … La belle noiseuse. Yet Rivette’s feeling for duration, immediacy, and moods of menace are fully present here, and days or weeks after you see this chilling conundrum of a movie, sounds and images may come back to haunt you. Rarely screened—the film never even had a commercial run in France—this monstrous work deserves to be seen as a uniquely disquieting experience.”

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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