Although the legendary filmmaker François Truffaut hailed him as the man behind the French New Wave movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Jacques Rivette is little known. Outside of his own country and the arthouse circuit his work exists on, his is a name rarely mentioned with those of his peers and yet his films are perhaps more synonymous with and typical of the movement than any other director.
Rivette’s films range from the intriguingly mysterious to the downright bizarre, and this new collection from Arrow Films provide the opportunity to test your cinematic mettle. Never actually a formal movement, French New Wave encompasses a group of filmmakers who experimented with the art. Fragmented narratives, unpredictable editing and an abundance of seemingly random scenes create a sense of heightened realism that is as ambiguous and engaging as it can be frustrating.
This style is never more evident than in Rivette’s most remarkable work, Out 1. Originally made as a thirteen-hour epic, and intended to be screened as a mini-series, it is included here as a four and a half hour “re-conceived” version. Titled Out 1: Spectre it is an extraordinary work that weaves multiple plots and characters against a backdrop of burgeoning artistic creativity within theatre groups. As mysterious as it is meandering Out 1: Spectre is a film that will either delight due to its expressive freeform structure or drive you mad as you try to unravel the conspiracies and contrivances within.
Accompanying Out 1: Spectre in this collection is Noroît, widely considered to be Rivette’s best film. The second film in what was conceived as a four picture series (abandoned due to Rivette suffering a breakdown), this is a convoluted tale of love and piracy. Despite having a more traditional narrative, in the sense that there is one, it is still full of Rivette’s New Wave tropes. Noroît is a film that rewards patience and persistence and if only one feature could be chosen as an example of Rivette’s career then this is it.
Also included in this new collection are fantasy adventure Duelle and surreal mystery Merry-Go-Round, and they both compliment and balance the artistic excess of Out 1: Spectre and the objective/subjective realism of Noroît.
There is often a compulsion to watch films that are revered and championed by scholars and filmmakers; films that “do you good” and perpetuate an ongoing cinematic education. Rivette’s films are undoubtedly impressive, and sit comfortably alongside those of Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, and they deserve an audience they have yet to truly receive. They are also occasionally impenetrable and often baffling. Worth approaching, but only with a truly open mind.
THE JACQUES RIVETTE COLLECTION / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JACQUES RIVETTE / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: JEAN-PIERRE LEAUD, MICHAEL LONSDALE, BULLE OGIER, JULIET BERTO / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW