Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Histoire de Marie et Julien

In 1976, Rivette had just started work with Leslie Caron and Albert Finney on the third of a proposed tetralogy of mystical films with female protagonists, inextricably linked in terms of theme and focus but separate entities in their own right. He had a breakdown two days into shooting, and the third and fourth installments were never made (and Duelle and Noroït are so hard to find with English subs that they are almost phantom films themselves). His return to the material in 2003 is by no means the film he had started 17 years before, but is at least a happy reminder of those mystical and harebrained days, with a mystery plot barely explained but consistently intriguing, strange otherworldy goings-on, and an indefinable aura of menace. Julien is blackmailing a woman, known only as Madame X, over some fake Chinese silks, a photograph and a small doll. He is also a restorer of clocks, and the large exposed wheels in his workshop fit together as mysteriously as the plot elements, their true function – and the fact that they do not run entirely smoothly – not revealed until the final (touching) ending. The literary eminence grise this time is Poe’s “The Raven” (clued by the name of the wide-eyed cat, Nevermore), but once again the primary concerns are the passage of time, and how men and women can live with one another, as Marie and Julien rekindle their relationship that (perhaps never really) started one year previously. A substantial and rewarding film but it could never match one’s imagined version of the original incarnation, not least as the stateliness that has crept into Rivette’s later work (with success, for the most part) is no replacement for his 1970’s joie de tourner.

d Jacques Rivette p Martine Marignac sc Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette ph William Lubtchansky ed Nicole Lubtchansky pd Manu de Chauvigny cast Emmanuelle Béart, Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Anne Brochet, Bettina Kee, Olivier Cruveiller, Mathias Jung, Nicole Garcia
(2003, Fr, 150m)
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