L’Amour Fou is a transitional work for Jacques Rivette, the bridge to the superb Out 1 and its equally masterful re-edit Spectre, relying heavily on its director’s newfound love of improvisation to achieve its aims and effects. The result is a mish-mash of ideas and situations both brilliant and inane: a good stateside comparison, coincidentally created around the same time, is John Cassavetes’s Faces, which, like L’Amour Fou, is a jagged-edge black-and-white psychodrama prone to rather unbelievably grand gestures in constrictively intimate settings. Were I more of a Rivette-head, I might be able to forgive L’Amour Fou’s frequent lapses into overextended contrivance masquerading as on-the-fly/fly-on-the-wall spontaneity: the numerous switches between 16mm and 35mm footage (anticipating Atom Egoyan, for better and for worse) hint at an aesthetic conversation that never coalesces into anything particularly profound. It is, instead, a successive series of disconnected actorly moments performed, primarily, by Jean-Pierre Kalfon as playwright Sébastien and Bulle Ogier as his live-in girlfriend Claire. L’Amour Fou’s best scenes are its early ones where Claire holes up in the duo’s apartment while Sébastien spends an increasing number of hours at a Paris theater, rehearsing a never-to-be-performed production of Racine’s Andromaque. An extended passage where Claire effectively disappears from the film (only to abruptly resurface as an attempted suicide) as well as a later, incredibly sustained sequence where the lovers exhaust their rekindled passions by destroying the home they both share are two more standout moments among too few. These scenes are spread thin over the film’s feels-every-minute-of-its-four-hours run time, and their impact is further dulled by a good bit of nails-on-chalkboard filler (the rehearsals are particularly extraneous, little more than a conceptual dry run for Out 1’s much more insightful examination of performance and how it extends, often violently, beyond the stage). Claire’s hilarious, boredom-laced interlude with a Russian doll is itself an all-too-apt metaphor for L’Amour Fou: much energy exerted for increasingly diminishing and hollow returns.
- New Yorker Films
- 255 min
- Jacques Rivette
- Marilu Paolini, Jacques Rivette
- Bulle Ogier, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Maddly Bamy, Étienne Becker, Yves Beneyton, Dennis Berry, Liliane Bordoni, Celia, Michel Delahaye, Josée Destoop, Françoise Godde, André S. Labarthe, Dider Léon, Michèle Moretti, Claude Richard, Patrice Wyers
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