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.
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.
Celine and Julie Go Boating
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.
Pont du Nord, Le
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.
Duelle AKA Twilight (A Quarantine)
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.
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.