Story of Marie and Julien

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Like his old New Wave muckers Godard, Rohmer and Chabrol, Rivette remains an often formidable talent. His last – ‘Va Savoir’ – was a masterly example of his dazzling wit and erudite eccentricity. This chamberwork, however, is darker, more demanding and, sad to say, rather drearier.

It begins intriguingly, with Julien (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) remembering/ dreaming about a chance meeting with Marie (Emmanuelle Béart). They fell for each other once before, but had partners. Now they’re free to begin again, and soon Marie moves into Julien’s house. But Marie’s changeable, even volatile, and not just because she finds out Julien’s been blackmailing a mysterious Madame X (Anne Brochet); she also has her concerns about his ex, and takes to doing disappearing acts and redecorating a room in the attic. Still, the sex is good, so he accepts her strange ways. Then Madame X’s sister turns up and tells Julien the secret she shares with his lover… So what’s it all about? Rivette’s leisurely pacing and somewhat detached mise-en-scène ensure that this mysterious tale, with its echoes of Poe and Hitchcock, never supplies the frissons expected of a ghost story or the emotional draw of a good love story. He meant to film the story in the late ’70s with Leslie and Albert Finney – the latter would almost undoubtedly have been livelier and more interesting than Radziwilowicz – but didn’t; maybe he shouldn’t have bothered. Far from bad, but academic and – for once with this director – overlong.

By: GA

Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday October 8 2004
Duration: 150 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Jacques Rivette
Cast: Emmanuelle Béart
Jerzy Radziwilowicz
Anne Brochet
Bettina Kee

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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In the film we get the intermingling of dream and reality, life and death. Julien sees Marie in a dream and speaks to her, This ends with her raising a knife to him and him waking up in a bar All of a sudden he meets her in the street by chance and arranges to meet her, only she doesn’t turn up. He is a 40-something clock-restorer and loner who is blackmailing the rich and mysterious MadameX (Brochet), who traffics in fake antiques. Marie(Beart),the beautiful woman with whom he fell in love a year earlier, calls at his house and he attempts to rekindle the affair. There follow episodes where she is both there and disappears or wakes up early and goes. Rivette uses chance to propel the narrative. We also get the use of shifting narrative perspectives from Julien to Marie and back to Julien or an intermingling of the two, when they become co-creators of erotic narratives while making love.Julien is unsettled by the enigmatic Marie’s strange and distant behaviour. All is fiction.. Marie is aware of being in a narrative and of playing a role. She is aware of her character’s fate, she tries on someone else’s clothes. Lines recited are not words of the speaker but belong to the narrative as in words she recites from a letter from Madame X'x sister or in Gaelic words she utters in an attic room. We also learn she cuts without bleeding and has premonitions of something terrible happening. Only Madame X holds the key to unlock Marie’s terrible and devastating secret. Marie acts as “the other woman� , a go-between between Julien and his victim. We learn that Madame X’s sister is dead and the sense she commited suicide. Marie it's suggested is like Madame X’s sister. Rivette in an interview has said she is not a ghost, she is a revenant, somebody who returns and is fully alive in the flesh. She indulges in strange rituals like rearranging the furniture in an upstairs attic room and decoration. She stands on a chair repetitively and seems to recite the behaviour of a hangingwith a noose above. She also performs secret signals to Madame X, who imparts her condition to Jullien. She has come back from the afterlife to make amends to a lover, who is now deceased. So she is ‘waiting’ and loves Julien by proxy. He tinkers with large clocks, assembling and disassembling them . Time seems to stand still in this house so that normal rules do not apply to what we see.. We get the real and imagined, the lived and the dreamed fused together, the cinematic transubstantiation of reality. The roles disappears into the actors ,and they ,in a filmed narrative, get lost in the house. The girl you met in the park may seem less a chance acquaintance than a figure in a story that now contains you. Where does reality end and fantasy begin? The cat called ‘Nevermore’ alludes to Edgar Allen Poe. This film was to be made 30 years before with Leslie Caron and Albert Finney but was shelved after 2 days due to lack of funding. Part of a cycle of films including Duelle and Noroit. This can be viewed as the maturation of a good wine enriched by the years in which it took to gestate. I’ll be watching this film for years and looking for new meanings.