Paris Belongs To Us (1961)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BB.5

Original title:  Paris Nous Appartient

France, 1961.  , .  Scenario and dialogue by Jacques Rivette, .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Film Editing by .  

Several giants of French cinema claim that this film, the debut feature by the brilliant Jacques Rivette, is responsible for giving birth to the Nouvelle Vague. I dare not go against those who obviously know better by virtue of having actually been there, but considering how very poorly this work has aged (particularly when compared to the still-lively works of such as Truffaut, Chabrol and Godard), it’s hard to believe that this passable but often dull film would have captured anyone’s imagination…almost. French cinema was rife with overstuffed melodramas and studio-bound soap operas at the time, so it’s an easy guess that those underwhelmed by the stiff and unlikable Lola Montes would see something in Rivette’s natural pacing and casual dialogue. Its ingenuity has since been copied to better effect, however, which might be the reason why this one fails to retain its hold (the rest of Rivette’s oeuvre is astonishing, though: a false start is no reason to discount the immensely important work that the man has contributed to the art of cinema). The weighty but enigmatic plot centres around a dull young woman with very little discernible personality named Anne, whose evenings with her friends eventually reveal a mystery: a Spanish activist whom she’s never met has gone missing and so has a piece of music he composed, one which her theatre director friend Gerard would like to use in his newest play. She tries to get information out of her Marxist American ex-patriate friend Philip, as well as the missing fellow’s girlfriend Terry, but all of them stay clammed and drop hints about the forces that did away with their friend, forces that are still at work and could hurt Anne if she continues to pursue her investigation. Not that the plotting is ever that overt: the story reveals itself quite mildly over drinks in cramped apartments and shouted from stages to fauteuils during theatre rehearsals, a long and drawn out tome that was probably an intellectual stimulation at one point but is now merely a historical curiosity.

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