Archive for Rivette

Rivette the Rosier

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on February 2, 2016 by dcairns


First up — the Indiegogo campaign for THE NORTHLEACH HORROR is going great — but that doesn’t mean you are exempt! More contributions greatly appreciated.

Second up — more limericks at Limerwrecks, of a vampiric nature — NOSFERATU, THE VAMPIRE BAT (with Surly Hack) and also a solo one, and on bats in general, taking in BRIDES OF DRACULA and KISS OF THE VAMPIRE.

Third up — like a lot of people, I have been revisiting Rivette in the wake of his passing from this corporeal plane. I’d never watched LA BANDE DES QUATRE, so I did, and by coincidence it features a character who calls her parents in Limerick, so it all ties together, doesn’t it?


This is one of Rivette’s long film about life and theatre — the four leads are female drama students on an exclusive course run by Bulle Ogier. There’s a mysterious man hanging around them, whose stories don’t add up. And there’s an invisible dancing ghost in one room of the suburban house they share. Rivette on ghosts and magic is fascinating — it seems pretty clear he really believes in them, unlike nearly everyone else who makes films about those kinds of things. I mean, Del Toro I think has said he’s had supernatural experiences, but his films are so stylised there’s no question of him bringing his true-life encounters to bear on his cinema. Rivette’s languorous mise-en-scene makes the most sense when it’s dreamily, eerily but casually evoking the numinous and occult, and in a way the electrifying effect of these scenes (here, and in DUELLE, and in L’HISTOIRE DE MARIE ET JULIENNE) justifies the slow, relaxed approach elsewhere. Rivette films everything as if it was a supernatural encounter.




Here are some interstitial moments from LA BANDE DES QUATRE, what the ancients of cinema used to call PHANTOM RIDES, which contrive to make Paris look haunted, haunting, desolate, unreal and undead. A film made from a spirit’s-eye-view. Aren’t they all?


Peck’s Bad Boy

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2011 by dcairns

I have to say that Fred Zinnemann’s BEHOLD A PALE HORSE deserves its comparatively low status among his work, but it’s still full of interest. Based on a novel by the director’s old Berlin coffee house buddy Emeric Pressburger, it’s set in more or less contemporary Spain and across the border in France, where a die-hard rebel (Gregory Peck) is carrying on the Civil War as a personal feud with Guardia Civil chief Anthony Quinn.

At two hours, the film feels sluggish, in part because J.P. Miller’s script features minor characters not essential to the action — either they were in the book, or have been added to give Quinn’s character more “depth”. The effect is to further diffuse a movie which seems uncertain who its main character is. We’re introduced to the story through the eyes of a young boy (Marietto, a typically excellent Zinnemann juvenile), pick up Peck, follow Quinn for a while, and then bond with Omar Sharif (!) as a priest who gets mixed up in the action due to the dying wish of Peck’s mother.

Another reason for the prevailing inertia (apart from maybe a certain lack of energy in Zinnemann’s handling at times) is the story structure, in which Peck conceives of a daring mission in Act 1 — his mother is dying, under armed guard, and he wants to circumvent the Spanish authorities, break into the hospital, and see her — which is then endlessly deferred by a series of almost Bunuelian plot digressions. Some of the intervening action is exciting or compelling in its own right, but at the back of our mind is the knowledge that a gripping adventure awaits that we’re just not getting to, and that has the effect of making what’s currently onscreen seem less exciting.

There’s also the problem of casting. The first section of story has Marietto visiting Peck, a friend of his late father’s, to ask him to avenge dad’s death by killing Quinn — in other words, it’s TRUE GRIT before the fact. And, as in TG, the kid is severely disappointed by what he finds, at first wondering if the old guy slumped in the dingy hovel is the father of the man he’s looking for. The problem, of course, and it’s a fatal one for a movie about a man approaching old age and opting for a dramatic death, is that Peck looks remarkably healthy for his age. A certain tightness of the shirt about the belly does not serve to evoke advancing decrepitude (and we also have our outside knowledge that G.P. would last almost another forty years).

And of course Peck is his usual staunch, stolid self, with nothing of the bandit and less of the Spaniard about him. Did any actor of reasonable ability ever evoke so many recasting fantasies? Imagine Robert Ryan as Ahab in MOBY DICK, James Stewart as Sam Bowden in CAPE FEAR (in which Peck is good). Even in ROMAN HOLIDAY, which seems to work like a dream, I could be persuaded that William Holden might have raised it to an even higher level (there’s never any doubt that Peck will behave nobly, whereas with Holden, doubt is in his DNA).

The Brêche de Roland, 8,000 feet up in the Pyrenees. Such is my naivety, I assumed this HAD to be a matte shot. It’s real!

Zinnemann’s hand is otherwise quite sure, with some striking sequences and performances. Quinn doesn’t overact, and while it’s hard to figure out how Sharif wound up in a French monastery, he’s very soulful and effective. The movie’s not too strong on explaining the political background — Zinnemann worried that he was glorifying a terrorist, but a sterner eye on the Franco regime’s abuses might have alleviated his concerns.

And Peck gets one terrific scene, a classic of poetic understatement, excerpted for your pleasure here. He’s finally off on his mission, one of certain death. He pauses, and there’s an erotic distraction. But it’s too late for that kind of thing.

Gregory Peckory from David Cairns on Vimeo.

The cameo role of the girl is performed by Elizabeth Wiener! — Clouzot’s LA PRISONNIERE, Rivette’s DUELLE. And I can forgive both Peck and Maurice Jarre their many sins, looking at something like this.

As in the delightful, allusive moment in THE SUNDOWNERS where Deborah Kerr stares wistfully at a glamorous woman on a train, contrasting with her own sun-bleached, wind-blown appearance, nothing is spoken but everything gets said.

Circus World

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 12, 2010 by dcairns

First movie viewing in NYC, on Friday — Jacques Rivette’s 36 VUES DU PIC SAN LOUP, for some reason called AROUND A SMALL MOUNTAIN here. A tricky case for reviewing, in the sense that although Rivette developed the film and started making it, it seems he didn’t complete it owing to illness. Discussing the film afterwards with friends, I was charmed by the proposal that it’s actually appropriate that Rivette’s probably last movie, his testament, was made largely in his absence, could be considered incomplete… since the film summarizes so many of his themes, those are almost apposite qualities for it to possess.

It may be fruitless to speculate about how Rivette’s version of the movie would have differed had he completed it. Since Rivette famously develops his films beyond what is present in the script, one imagines a longer, messier film would have resulted. This one is maybe slightly too well-rounded, almost pat. But it’s nevertheless charming, beautiful, mostly very elegantly made — I don’t think we’d really know he was unable to supervise the whole shoot if we hadn’t learned it.

Jane Birkin plays a circus artist who’s returned to the family show after fifteen years away, driven off and then driven back by the same traumatic event. A traveling Italian businessman (Sergio Castellitto) takes an interest in her and resolves to cure her of the fear that prevents her from re-entering the circus ring, and, by extension, life. There are clowns, acrobats, and we get to see Birkin walk the tightrope, a talent she has somehow failed to demonstrate in any other movie of hers I recall. If I could walk the tightrope and I was a movie star, I would make sure they had a tightrope scene in every movie I did.

Like the movie itself, the closing image is arguably too neat a metaphor, but it’s so beautiful and tender, how can we object? A vast radiant moon slowly eclipsed by clouds. If this is to be the last Rivette movie, that’s a lovely summation.