Contains some spoilers. If you want a more concise and suggestive take on the film tune in on Tuesday; coincidentally, Allan has made Paris (under its French title) his next entry in The Fish Obscuro. Then check out the film itself (it’s not the most difficult of “unavailable” films to find) and read this. Or heck, just plunge in here and now, in the spirit of Rivette…
Paris Belongs to Us, France, 1960, dir. Jacques Rivette
Starring Betty Schneider, Giani Esposito, Françoise Prévost, Daniel Crohem, François Maistre, Jean-Claude Brialy, Jean-Luc Godard
Story: Anne Goupil is slowly drawn into a mysterious and complicated plot involving her brother’s bohemian circle of friends, one of whom is directing her in a play. She slowly discovers that Juan, a young musician and supposed suicide, may have been murdered, either by the femme fatale Terry or a worldwide conspiracy of fascists…or both, or neither.
“I want to tell you that the world isn’t what it seems.”
– Philip Kaufman
“It’s shreds and patches, yet it hangs together over all. Pericles may traverse kingdoms, the heroes are dispersed, yet they can’t escape, they’re all reunited in Act V. … It shows a chaotic but not absurd world, rather like our own, flying off in all directions, but with a purpose. Only we don’t know what.”
– Gérard Lenz
“I speak in riddles but some things can only be told in riddles.”
– Philip Kaufman
• • •
Whether you find Paris Belongs to Us a richly original debut, a frustrating mess, or a bit of both depends on how you come at it. The first time I saw it I loved it, falling deeply under its spell; more recently it seemed somewhat more limp than I remembered, its ragtag assembly less charming, the aloofness of its allure more challenging (you must be willing to approach and enter it before it unfurls its tentacles and wraps you in its embrace). If you are in the right mood, Paris Belongs to Us intoxicates – and the ambivalence of its appeal reflects the nature of the conspiratorial mindset itself: to those prone to paranoia, all the loose and dead ends add up to form a complex puzzle that only the “in” can see – if you are lucid enough to step aside and maintain your skepticism, the bits and pieces fall apart and toxic anxiety is exposed as its own self-poison. Ironically, Rivette is able to capture the mood of the first mindset while himself embodying the second: this conspiracy belongs more to the imagination than reality, and Paris Belongs to Us is in part a cautionary tale about the dangerous allure and self-fulfilling prophecy of paranoia.