Sylvie (Sandrine Bonnaire), a research scientist, learns from her brother Paul (Grégoire Colin) that their father, who had died five years before in a train accident, had not fallen off the train but had in fact been pushed. Paul suspects their father’s business partner Walser (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), who now runs the business in his place. Sylvie is not so sure, but she fears that her brother will rashly and foolishly try to kill him, so to cut him off she goes to kill Walser herself instead. This triggers a convoluted sequence of events in which Sylvie is placed in the same situation as her hated nemesis, coming to understand Walser and why he did what he did. The film doesn’t lack for drama, but that’s not what primarily interests Rivette. The most crucial narrative scenes have a kind of blunt, clipped quality, as though Rivette is only fulfilling an obligation by showing us these things. Violence happens quickly and abruptly, with a faint undertone of surrealist absurdity, and also a touch of Rivette’s theatricality: these are stage deaths, the gestures just slightly exaggerated and stylized.
Jacques Rivette was born in Rouen in 1928. In 1950, he began attending the Cine-Club du Quartier Latin in Paris, and contributed articles to its bulletin, the Gazette du Cinema, edited by Eric Rohmer. During this time he embarked on his career as a filmmaker with his first short films, Aux Quatre Coins (1950), Le Quadrille (1950), and Le Divertissement (1952).
Rivette’s friendship with Rohmer led him to begin writing articles for the new film journal Cahiers du Cinema. Here he met and became friends with Claude Chabrol, Francois Truffaut, and Jean-Luc Godard. At Cahiers he became one of the first to champion contemporary American cinema as opposed to the staid French “cinema of quality”, then prevalent. He became known as a fierce advocate of the auteur theory and praising the work of such directors as Howard Hawks, Nicholas Ray, John Ford, and Robert Aldritch.
In the mid-1950’s he continued his filmmaking education by serving as an assistant… read more
This is a movie that should be boring, but it isn't. Rivette has a way of generating interest in the littlest of things. The tension here is like a screw being tightened. There's always a feeling that everything is about to explode. It's very hard to explain the appeal here, but I dig this one a lot.
I enjoyed it immensly! Great efforts from Rivette, Lubtchansky, Bonitzer & Cuau and Bonnaire. (Colin's and Radziwilowicz's performances are fine as well, though I think both did even better - Colin in 35 shots of Rum, for instance and Radziwilowicz in Histoire de Marie et Julien.) Simply I more and more fall for Rivette & his folks.