by Sam Juliano
The ferocious blizzard of last week has been followed up with some moderate temperatures, which have enabled much of the snow on the ground to melt away. We now move to February, another winter month with a nasty track record, so we can’t be too complacent. The science-fiction countdown at the site draws closer, and all prospective voters are urged to give the venture some thought, if not some re-viewings. Several weeks down the line I plan to send out an announcement to our e mail chain. Pretty much similar to the last five genre polls all readers are urged to cast ballots, even if they are unable to write any of the essays. January has been an awful moths for passings, the latest of whom is French New Wave master Jacques Rivette, a long-time favorites of this site’s writers and associates.
Our great friend and site countdown writer Stephen Mullen (Weeping Sam) has waxed lyrical on Rivette at The Listening Ear and it is well worth re-printing here at WitD: “Jacques Rivette has died. He was 87, and apparently has been suffering from Alzheimers disease for the past few years – I had heard he was ill, and so am not surprised. Still; saddened. The news come the day after I finally finished paying my 88 pounds for the new Out 1 collection – unfortunately, before this object crossed the ocean to my front door, so I can’t spend the next week watching it… But it is coming…
He is One of the Great Ones. I haven’t posted any kind of list of favorite directors lately, but if I did, he would be up there – top 10 somewhere. I came to him late – most of my favorites I discovered in the mid and late 90s, when I started watching films obsessively. I saw some Rivette in that period, but didn’t see enough until 2007, when I saw a whole series – that immediately elevated him to his place among the greats. I do remember when I first heard about him – when La Belle Noiseuse came out – that was before I was an obsessive filmgoer, and the main thing I remember about it is that it was a very French film about a painter that had some actress naked for 3 hours. Some time after that, probably around 1998 or 99, I finally saw a Rivette – Haut Bas Fragile – by that time I had become an obsessive filmgoer, I knew who Jacques Rivette was, in a general sense (historically), and had seen some films obviously influenced by him – Pascal Bonitzer’s Encore, possibly, or some of the Assayas or Desplechins films that call Rivette to mind… I liked it – quite a bit in fact, though I don’t know if I could have explained it at the time. Later, Va Savoir got a bit of an American release, and I saw that in the theaters. And I tried renting the Story of Marie and Julian, though the DVD copy I got was damaged and I missed the opening 15 minutes or so of the film – which made it even more incomprehensible… Though still enjoyable. I liked Va Savoir very much – liked The Story of Marie and Julian well enough. It meant that Rivette had gone into that pile of directors whose films are just too hard to see – so you have to wait for your chance and take it.
That’s what happened: the HFA booked a whole run of his films, and I went to see them, starting with Paris Belongs to Us, the Nun and Celine and Julie Go Boating – and those three were enough to put him in the pantheon, and then I saw Out 1: Spectre and L’Amour Fou andJeanne la Poucelle and La Belle Noiseuse – and that settled it. They all hit me hard – you can see the comments from back when I wrote about films I saw, at the Rivette link – his films, once I saw them clean like that, really hit the sweet spot. All those doubles and old houses and games and plays and lost manuscripts – that stuff fascinates me; the structural games – but also the sense of play, invention, imagination in his films. Their playful postmodernism – if I had been able to see Paris Belongs to Us in 1993 or so, I would have saved a lot of time. Back when I was reading Pynchon and Barth and Gaddis and McElroy and Queneau and DeLillo, and reading about them – it struck me when I saw the film how well it matched them. LikeLookout Cartridge or V, with its mystery plot, lack of resolution, the lost artists and artifacts, the shadiness of the whole thing, the way it comes apart and gels into something sinister at the same time. Seeing it, it felt like something I had been waiting to see – and then I sawCeline and Julie and the short Out 1, and those were even more perfect. They bring in the other great thread in his work – the making of art, of theater, or sometimes music, painting, etc. But especially theater, since it is art as collaboration, as invention and exploration, and as acting things out. Maybe most of all, he gave us a view of art as play. That convinced me. That series, and his films, changed how I saw films, and probably how I saw the world.
It is sad that there will be no more Rivette films – though given what I still haven’t seen (the three titles in the Arrow set I just bought, mainly – Out 1: Noli Me Tangere, Duelle and Pont Du Nord), I have plenty to look forward to – and more, his films have a kind of inexhaustibility that makes rewatching them as surprising as watching them. The ones Ive managed to buy never disappoint, and I keep noticing more to them, more twists and ideas and details. And more – his films have been immensely satisfying, intellectually – but they are also, always, exceptionally entertaining. They are full of pleasures, like early Godard, as well as depth and thought. He was one of my favorites, and will be missed.”
– Stephen Mullen
Lucille and I saw two important (and excellent) movies this week, one in theaters, and the other on a European blu-ray, though the film is none other than the latest by Terence Malick.
Knight of Cups **** 1/2 (German blu ray) Friday
Mustang **** 1/2 (IFC Film Center) Saturday
KNIGHT OF CUPS is an elegiac film of disillusionment awash in decadence, and I suspect will only get batter and better on reviewing. Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett plays the leads in a meditative film that detractors will dismiss as pretentious, but those understanding where Malick is coming from will be astounded.
MUSTANG is a stark, emotionally overwhelming film shot in Turkish (though up for Best Foreign language film from France) about female empowerment, and taking up arms against stiffing traditions, often riddled with injustice. Some humor, and a great deal of heartbreak.
A good number of the links have been updated:
At Noirish John Grant has penned a superlative review of Julien Duvivier’s “La Chambre Ardente”: https://noirencyclopedia.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/chambre-ardente-la-1962/
John Greco has penned an excellent review on Samuel Fuller’s “Forty Guns” at Twenty-Four Frames: https://twentyfourframes.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/forty-guns-1957-sam-fuller/
Aaron West offers up his twenty-fifth podcast, on D.E. Pennebaker’s “Don’t Look Back”: http://criterionblues.com/2016/01/24/ccu25-dont-look-back-1967/
Laurie Buchanan’s lastest post at Tuesdays with Laurie is a splendid one titled “Bald is Beautiful”: http://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2016/01/26/bald-is-beautiful/
At a newly-decked out “Patricia’s Wisdom” our erstwhile proprietor has written another lovely book review, this time on “How to Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness that Helps the World”: http://patriciaswisdom.com/2016/01/how-to-be-alive-a-guide-to-the-kind-of-happiness-that-helps-the-world-colin-beavan-author-of-no-impact-man/
Pat Perry is back in the blogging business at Part Time Cinephile with a fabulous round-up of 2015 Films: http://parttimecinephile.blogspot.com/2016/01/at-last-these-are-not-20-best-movies-of.html
Filmmaker Jeffrey Goodman offers up his Top 12 films of 2015 in brilliantly written capsules at The Last Lullaby: http://cahierspositif.blogspot.com/2015/12/my-top-twelve-films-of-2015.html
At FilmsNoir.net Tony d’Ambra leads with a fabulous post on Manhattan Transfer 1925: http://filmsnoir.net/film_noir/the-noir-city-manhattan-transfer-1925.html/
At the Creativepotager’s painting blog the incomparable Terrell Welch offers up a sublime work-in-progress post titled “Intention, Composition and Underpaiting are tools of the trade used by the artist”: http://creativepotager.com/2016/01/14/intention-composition-and-underpainting-are-tools-of-the-trade-used-by-the-artist/
At Ferdy on Films Marilyn Ferdinand has offered up a terrific essay on Larissa Shepitko’s “Wings”: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/2016/wings-%D0%BA%D1%80%D1%8B%D0%BB%D1%8C%D1%8F-1966/27152/
David Schleicher has posted a terrific review of “The Revenant” at The Schleicher Spin: http://theschleicherspin.com/2016/01/11/reverence-for-the-revenant/
At Movie Classics Judy Geater has posted a fantastic review for the “Raoul Walsh and James Cagney’s 4 Films Together” blogathon: https://movieclassics.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/raoul-walsh-and-james-cagneys-4-films-together/
Joel Bocko has penned a terrific review of “Jaws” in his ‘favorite’ series at I Lost It at the Movies: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-favorites-jaws-71.html
At Little Miss Litberry Charity has penned a fabulous review of the non-fiction work “Wonder Garden”: https://littlemisslitberry.wordpress.com/2016/01/20/wonder-garden-a-review/
At De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children Lyn Miller-Lachman has written a fabulous review on Marguerita Engel’s award-winning memoir “Enchanted Air”: http://decoloresreviews.blogspot.com/2016/01/enchanted-air-two-cultures-two-wings.html
At Read It Real Good Alia Jones has penned a terrific review of Marilyn Nelson’s “My Seneca Village”: http://readitrealgood.com/2016/01/20/my-seneca-village/
At American Indians in Children’s Literature Debbie Reese has penned a fascinating feature titled “Where do you shelve Native American stories?” https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2016/01/where-do-you-shelve-native-american.html
Robert Tower has written a terrific review of “Edge of Tomorrow” at It Rains…..You Get Wet: http://le0pard13.com/2016/01/29/edge-of-tomorrow-film-review/
Weeping Sam waxes lyrical on Jacques Rivette’s passing at The Listening Ear: http://le0pard13.com/2016/01/29/edge-of-tomorrow-film-review/
At Attractive Variance James Uhler shows some love for ABBA: https://attractivevariance.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/songs-i-love-watch-out/
Dean Treadway offers up a look at 1973 in his annual series at Filmacability: http://filmicability.blogspot.com/2016/01/1973-year-in-review.html