Jacques Rivette  

A difficult film-maker to peg but he was a pioneer in the French New Wave and, similar in some ways to Godard during the early stages, he deconstructed cinema and often used improvisation and long takes, creating some movies that resembled a visual avant-garde jazz piece. His many experiments include: Multiple interweaving story-lines, characters playing stories off each other, discarding of narrative, and an emphasis on acting, an idea, a situation, a place, a genre, exploring these through improvisation, parallelization or jagged spiraling structures without linear developments or denouements, thus trying to capture or explore the elements of the movie rather than the movie itself. Rivette places strong emphasis on the actor's job, frequently exploring acting from different perspectives: Its relationship to the imagination, reality, the actor's psyche, its effect on the actor, the artist, real life, the mechanisms of creating a reality through acting, the shaping of an emotion, a story, a genre through the actors and the movie itself. Sometimes it's as if he creates movies by collecting some actors, giving them general guidelines, the skeleton of a story and a theme, and then telling them to throw away all the rules, adding improvisational riffs to the plot while focusing on the metaphysics or the act itself, collecting the spontaneous pieces he thought captured something essential without covering it in any cheap narrative. Another way to look at it is that he experimented with the mechanics of thrillers, mysteries, dramas, and fantasies by stripping them of all the props and typical visuals, and letting the actors create the elements of these genres with their imaginations and acting skills alone. This loose approach always resulted in very long movies, most of them running for over two or three hours, or even 13 hours, of what is basically an avant-garde actors' workshop. This rebelliousness and energetic, constant digging into the layers of an actor's world reached a peak of sorts in the early 80s which resulted in a nervous breakdown, after which he seemed to become relatively more conventional, albeit still firmly in the art-house circles. This page is only concerned with his more extreme experimental stage. Died in 2016.

Of Some Interest

Celine and Julie Go Boating  
By far the most popular Rivette movie. Julie is a librarian into witchcraft, Celine is a magician, both are lost in their fantasies, dreams, romance, child-like imagination and old movies. They meet on a magical day in the park, play a strange following game while she drops items of clothing, hang out together, invent stories about chases and voyages (and yet some strange magic does seem to be at work), then start experiencing their lives in a parallel circular story involving melodrama, murder and ghosts, all drawing parallels to Alice in Wonderland as she follows the rabbit into a hole. In order to get involved and solve the murder-mystery they take candies that appear in Celine's mouth, then some magic potion and play around with the alternate reality, getting involved, commenting on the scenes as if it were a movie, and play-acting the roles. This is a celebration of female child-like imagination, as well as an exploration of acting that generates a reality, and seems to appeal to many, the movie revolving around the actresses (they wrote their own dialogue) letting their hair down. But where most people seem to see exuberant play, I see instead schizophrenic, self-obsessed, overgrown children that deny reality. An imaginative flight of fancy is one thing, but this is the dark side of such a mentality, and I find that they bring out the cynic in me instead. When reality strikes a somber hiccup, Celine almost runs away, and when a man in the audience calls out the fakery of her act, he is quickly carried away. Mostly overlong and annoying, with some interesting elements.

Pont du Nord, Le  
Typically free-form early Rivette movie featuring a thriller without a plot, and a mystery without a solution. A strangely insane woman roams Paris using her scooter as a call for battle, staring at statues of lions, and thinks posters with eyes are threatening her, assuming a karate stance like a cat that sees its own reflection. Marie is another enigma with a criminal past, severe claustrophobia that makes her unable to breathe behind closed doors, and a mysterious lover involved in some kind of conspiracy. They meet, become friends, wander around Paris, converting mundane locations to fantastical pieces of a nonsensical conspiracy, stalked by a strange duo of aggressive characters. Cobwebs are used as magical weapons, a bridge becomes a fire breathing dragon, and a map with numbers converts Paris into a game, but the mechanics of the story fall apart and a karate fight becomes a sparring game instead. A strange experiment.


Duelle AKA Twilight (A Quarantine)  
The first in a planned quadrilogy. A bizarre fantasy about mythical goddesses duelling and searching for a crystal, set in ordinary locations as a film-noir with free-form acting and scenery. Four women with different personalities, two of them goddesses, confront each other in many ways and in different variations, while seducing and playing with Pierrot, a man with magical talents. The settings are in dusk, twilight, seedy bars, dark locations, clubs, casinos, etc. the confrontations employ domination, money, emotion, scheming, revenge, magic, spells, psychic energy, hypnosis, and more, focusing on the actresses and their interactions rather than on any coherent narrative. Artsy indulgence, like the equivalent of masturbatory acting.

An improvised crime/mystery with many nonsensical twists, feeling as if the story reacts and changes according to the actor's whims rather than any plot. Clues, cemetaries, a kidnapping, criminals, conspiracies, role-acting, and even psychic connections all add up to nothing except the experience of a thriller abstracted in freeform. Intercut with this typical Rivette spiraling are surreal scenes of the man and woman running in a forest/desert, being chased by dangerous people, dogs, snakes or each other until they finally find peace. Also cut together with a performance avant-garde jazz piece for two to accompany the jagged, improvisational movie.

Northwest Wind  
Possible Rivette's most impenetrable piece at the height of his experimental stage. The Revenger's Tragedy, some dialogue and characters involving female pirates, assassins, and a revenge, all serve as the skeleton to this seemingly random movie. Snippets of several stories involving revenge, plots and schemes make an appearance only to quickly hide and let the actors play with the scene, dance or perform. Sudden violence, duels, pirating, treasures, drama, hate, hidden agendas, double-crosses, etc all lurk in the air, the characters suddenly breaking out in a play about violence and revenge, quoting verse from a play, dying melodramatically, or fencing words with each other while an irritating avant-garde musical ensemble play in the shadows. Experimental but unrewarding and annoyingly avant-garde.

1999- by The Worldwide Celluloid Massacre Table of Contents