Paris Nous Appartient

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Rivette beat Nouvelle Vague colleagues Godard and Truffaut into production when he started shooting this debut feature in 1958, begging and borrowing resources over the two years it took to finish. Such piecemeal origins are evident in the film’s occasionally scrappy visual quality, but as a harbinger of Rivette’s unique cinematic concerns and a time-capsule of Left Bank Paris, it remains a fascinating artefact.

We’re in the realm of corduroy, pipe-smokers and print dresses as a group of intellectuals circulates between parties in tiny apartments, theatre director Gianni Esposito rehearses his no-budget production of Shakespeare’s ‘Pericles’, and student Betty Schneider ponders the connection between her neighbour’s disappearance and the suicide of an avant-garde guitarist much admired by this social circle. Fugitive American writer Daniel Crohem serves to heighten anxieties by suggesting the dread involvement of an all-powerful yet mysterious cabal.

While the paranoia’s very much of its Cold War era, the thrust of Rivette’s doom-laden quasi-thriller is about our need for connections and explanations to make sense of our world, and how our uncertainties filter through into artistic expression. It’s territory he’s since reworked obsessively and, though admirers will appreciate seeing how those preoccupations emerged fully-formed, the uncommitted might surmise mere vagueness in the attempt to frame the essential slipperiness of meaning. Although fragmented rhythms make the film seem longer than it already is, the images of Parisian streets eventually take on a haunting quality of threatening unknowability. By no means this great filmmaker’s best, it’s still an auspicious beginning to the monumental oeuvre to be revealed in the NFT’s much-needed major retrospective.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday April 14 2006
Duration: 140 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jacques Rivette
Screenwriter: Jacques Rivette, Jean Gruault
Cast: Betty Schneider
Gianni Esposito
Françoise Prévost
Daniel Crohem
François Maistre
Jean-Claude Brialy
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