Precious, lifeless, and ultimately meaningless, meticulously constructed yet possessing all the interior profundity of a wiffle ball, Jacques Rivette’s Love on the Ground is the kind of French-farcical roundelay that Gallic cinema is frequently accused of producing en masse. This one stands apart from the pack only in a few minor details, specifically Geraldine Chaplin—wonderful as ever as “apartment theater” performer Charlotte—and in a cutting pair of cameos by filmmaker/producer Barbet Schroeder and film critic Serge Daney, both of whom are tellingly shown walking out on Love on the Ground’s indulgent play-within (a thinly-veiled confessional-cum-tantrum authored by Jean-Pierre Kalfon’s Mabuse-lite mastermind Clément Roquemaure). Clément might be the older, sell-out version of the nerve-jangled playwright Sébastien (also played by Kalfon) from Rivette’s L’Amour Fou; after seeing Charlotte and her colleague Emily (Jane Birkin, coming off, like always in Rivette, as a second-tier Juliet Berto) mangle one of his earlier plays, he recruits the duo as the lead actresses for his latest score-settling production, to be staged in an airy, labyrinthine mansion that, as suggested by several ghostly occurrences, possesses various hidden and haunted depths. Yet it is sadly all smoke and mirrors; despite the incredibly photogenic locale (Rivette’s frequent cinematographer, William Lubtchansky, makes nary a false step) Love on the Ground plays as little more than a shallow imitation of its director’s recurrent obsessions. A three-hour cut of the film exists (Jonathan Rosenbaum reports that it is Rivette’s preferred version), though I suspect it would still be a failure, something along the lines of the over-praised La Belle Noiseuse and its underwhelming alternate footage re-edit, Divertimento. Any way you slice it, when the masks drop away in Love on the Ground, there is little behind them worthy of illumination.
- 125 min
- Jacques Rivette
- Pascal Bonitzer, Marilù Parolini, Suzanne Schiffman, Jacques Rivette
- Jane Birkin, Geraldine Chaplin, André Dussollier, Isabelle Linnartz, Sandra Montaigu, László Szabó, Eva Roelens, Facundo Bo, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Pascal Bonitzer, Barbet Schroeder, Serge Daney
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