Where’s the love? On the ground.

The smashed Cupid who, possibly, gives LOVE ON THE GROUND its name.

Jacques Rivette’s LOVE ON THE GROUND has little reputation, even among diehard Rivetteheads. But I just wanted to say, for the record, that I enjoyed it.

A theatre production at a big strange house, with a phantom room/wing, in the sub-suburban outskirts of a weirdly depopulated Paris, with sexual intrigue, conspiracy and magic in the air — the set-up is so classically Rivettian that maybe the film suffers by comparison with other movies, movies I perhaps haven’t seen (even after PARIS BELONGS TO US, CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING, DUELLE, LA BELLE NOISEUSE, SECRET DEFENCE and THE STORY OF MARIE AND JULIEN, I still feel like a novice). But this movie has something that the others didn’t have for me, an active hook that seizes the attention, albeit gently, in scene one, and continues to draw you through the first act. There were no scenes whose major active question was “Why is this in the film?” or “What’s going on?” or “Huh?” which I sometimes get with Rivette.


So — either I’m slowly getting used to Rivette and starting to appreciate and even understand him more (although, I should stress, I rather enjoy NOT understanding him), and this is causing me to rate this movie higher than it deserves, or I’m not temperamentally a perfect match for him, and so I respond more to one of his lesser, but more linear, works. A third option, that I’ve spotted strengths in the film that top-ranking Rivetters (B. Kite, D. Ehrenstein, J-Ro) have missed, strikes me as pretty unlikely.

Note — B. Kite, the living lodestone of New York, points out that he has only seen the short version of this film, and doesn’t like to divide Rivette into these major and minor categories anyway.

Who needs people-removing software when you’ve got EMPTY ROOMS?

So, I resolve to blunder blindly on through Rivette’s mysterious theatre-worlds, just as his characters are doomed to do, cheered by the prospect that maybe the films are starting to reveal their secrets to me, or at least define them, and that I have lots more films to see (and he’s still making them, at eighty!) and that all the Rivettes I’ve seen so far (Well, maybe not SECRET DEFENCE?) seem set to reward more deeply on repeat viewings…

12 Responses to “Where’s the love? On the ground.”

  1. I’m planning on redecorating my bedroom, I’ve been looking for some wallpaper for the feature wall but this is a MUCH better idea – paint one wall to look like streaky bacon! Perfect!

  2. L’amour par terre always struck me as fairly light-hearted Rivette, coming as it did in the wake of the pos-Out 1 biggies. It’s his first with the Beyond Essential Jane Birkin. And it was based on a theatrical production done in Los Angeles that as far as I know Rivette never saw — jst heard about. It was a play staged in a giant old house (set in Mussollini-period Italy) in which the audence was free to move around through various rooms and observe dramatic events in the order of one’s choosing. It ran for over a year.

    ivette has always been about the intersection of theater and “real life” so a film like this was inevitable. I recall likling it but not being carried away by it. However I haven’t seen it in years and should do so again. I recall an especially teriffic shot of Andre Dussollier, observed through a keyhole, asleep in a chair — almost like a vampire at rest.

  3. I’ll get to this one soon… watched the first couple minutes and it looks great. This week I watched “Divertimento” instead, the short version of “La Belle Noiseuse”, and I had the exact same thought – “Who needs people-removing software when you’ve got EMPTY ROOMS?”

    It’s been a couple months since I watched the four-hour version, and my memory is horrid, but it seems the main deletions in Divertimento are the empty rooms, the painter’s hand, and any parts without dialogue. I was working on subtitling Divertimento and couldn’t believe that hardly a minute went by without two characters having a long conversation!

  4. Birkin and Chaplin are terrific together, there’s a mix of acting, play-acting, and real conversation going on. The actresses become the characters in much the same way they do in the film. I just saw that Glenn Kenny has posted about this recently on his blog and he has some more detailed observations on this.
    I don’t think I’d seen any JBirkin from this period, I know her early work and her recent stuff a bit more. Her face is going through a beautiful transitional period in this film!
    The film has many many great rooms, also. Easily enough to inspire a whole series of flats. The streaky bacon one isn’t necessarily the best look, but it’s definitely striking.
    Apparently the short and long Noiseuses also use different takes of the same shots, so there are lots of subtle alterations.
    I should probably have mentioned that the R2 DVD of Love on the Ground is the long version that Rivette himself prefers, and this may be also why I liked it better than some reviewers who maybe only saw the shortened-for-release cut. I’d agree it’s minor JR, compared to something like Celine and Julie (haven’t seen Out1), but it’s very engaging.

  5. Well Out 1 is a life-altering experience. So much so that its in a separate category from the rest of Rivette even though it’s also the ultimate Rivette.

    Being the Goddess that she is, Birks fits right into Rivetteville. And I’m greatly looking forward (to put it mildly) to his next work, currently in pre-production. It’s the life of Raymond Roussel, with Birks cast as the great eccentric proto-surrealist’s mother!

  6. Yes, this is all v. exciting. And with Out1 starting to get screenings ocasionally, I can actually hope to see it sometime. Which is nice.

  7. It’s not as daunting as you might think. Each episode is roughly 90 minutes, with a few minutes of black and white recap of the last moments at the start of the next. With plenty of breaks it’s easily digested in screenings spread out over two days. Long a cinematic legend, seeing it was like seeing the complete Greed — the “impossible” rendered actual. A triumph of Hawksian cinematics (everything is in Plan Americane) it’s an elegy for the lost utopianism of May ’68.

  8. OUT 1 is godlike! Top 10 film easily. I tried to get Ben to come see it at the London premiere but he couldn’t make it… he strangely requested that I record it on my mobile phone for him to watch at his own convenience! :)
    One screening is not enough though; I’ll be buggered if it didn’t make it to New York some weeks later and Comrade K got to see it (more than?) twice, lucky fucker.

  9. “It was a play staged in a giant old house (set in Mussollini-period Italy) in which the audence was free to move around through various rooms and observe dramatic events in the order of one’s choosing. It ran for over a year.”

    I know that is not what you meant but it got me thinking. I love the idea of one long ‘real time’ play running for an entire year in a house! You could visit at different times of the day or night to see different facets of the characters lives, maybe get ‘invitations’ to visit at certain times to see particularly important sections of the ‘play’ – dinner parties, family visits and so on – so you pick up the most significant sections of the story!

    As long as the play isn’t a version of Salo! I don’t think I’d ever want to visit that particular grand old house!

  10. You could just SAY that your domestic situ is now a play, and audiences are welcome to drop by and see how it progresses over the year.

    I might visit the house in Salo, but only while everyone was asleep, visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.

  11. dpcoffey Says:

    I’ve had the sense for a while now that Birkin and Chaplin are playing Celine and Julie a decade later. Chaplin’s character’s regrets, which she relays to Dussolier late in the film, strike me as those of a woman who could have been as carefree and charged with the excitement of possibility as either C&J ten years earlier, but is now living in a different time.

  12. That’s a lovely idea. Rivette certainly has a certain type of female character (and actress) that interests him (with variations, of course). The characters are probably MORE contrasting when he recasts the same actress in a later film.

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