Jacques Rivette

By: Franklin Bruno
March 1, 2013


A year before JACQUES RIVETTE (born 1928) finished his first feature (Paris Belongs to Us), he appeared fleetingly in Godard’s Breathless as a hit-and-run victim. This may be the swiftest cinematic event of his career. Although fellow Cahiers du Cinema critic Francois Truffaut has said that “it was Rivette who told us that we all had to make movies,” his own early directorial efforts stalled, thanks in part to his hands-on approach to production and editing — what one collaborator called his “passionate relationship with the film stock.” He picked up steam in the 1970s, peaking — as far as most filmgoers will ever know or care — with the three-hour Celine and Julie Go Boating (1975), in which the title characters chase each other into a parallel narrative universe where they are helpless (like a movie audience) to intervene. It’s a one-reeler next to Out 1: Noli me tangere (1971), which shades from extensive documentation of avant-garde theater rehearsals into an almost-suspenseful update of a Balzac novella over the course of thirteen mind-bending (and ass-numbing) hours. A four-hour edit, Out 1: Spectre, has a tighter narrative inconsistent with the longer film; both versions concern a conspiracy of thirteen Parisians who either rule the world or want to, and who barely seem to know one another. Several characters court madness in trying to uncover what the group intends, or whether it even exists: American fans of Rivette’s unwieldy and rarely screened oeuvre may find themselves in the same position.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Justin Bieber, Harry Belafonte, and Georg Simmel.

READ MORE about members of the Postmodernist Generation (1924-33).


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