Jacques Rivette’s short Le Coup du Berger has quite the pedigree. The film was co-written by Rivette and Claude Chabrol, assistant directed by Jean-Marie Straub, and features cameos from fellow New Wavers François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, but the initial excitement in seeing these names grouped together is tempered by the film itself; this is clearly an apprentice work for all involved. Jonathan Rosenbaum has quite rightly suggested that Le Coup de Berger (which the subtitles translate as Checkmate) is more Chabrol’s film than Rivette’s. Aside from the occasional languorous long take, Rivette is present only in the literal sense: He calmly and coolly narrates the proceedings (an unfaithful marriage roundelay that follows a cheating wife’s ill-fated attempt to retrieve the fur coat gifted her by a lover), likening the characters’ actions to moves across a chessboard. The attitudes and settings, on the other hand, are all Chabrol: Even at this early stage he’s poking holes in the bourgeois barricades, especially evident in the film’s vaguely condescending use of classical music to counterpoint and heighten the overall sense of pettiness, which the movie then proceeds to frivolously tsk-tsk. The whole thing is shallow and obvious in ways that Rivette’s features never are.
- 25 min
- Jacques Rivette
- Jacques Rivette, Charles Bitsch, Claude Chabrol
- Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Virginie Vitry, Anne Doat, Jean-Claude Brialy, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette
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