Of the many later Rivettes anticipated by this early land-grab, Paris Belongs to Us, albeit conventional by comparison, felt to me (and it's just a feeling, unfocused by any analysis) most like Le Pont du Nord. Multivalent mazes that double as their own maps, both films are strangely gripping, spellbinding even, while also evincing elements of deep play; as, I suppose, any serious mystery must. A many-marveled debut.
Paris belongs to us. Paris belongs to no one. Should seem obvious at this point that you don't get to discuss youth and radicality in the 60s without discussing serious attempts to establish new groups and new psychosocial formations in relation to groups. Rivette was really the only great filmmaker of the groupuscule until Godard came along w/ La Chinoise. No other new wave director began nearly as socially radical.
Steeped in disaffected bourgeois pessimism and alienation, Paris itself becomes a playground for the darker aspects of the human psyche. The city looms and menaces; it's once glorious monuments and architecture become threatening through Rivette's lens. However, though latent with paranoia and dread, the film still manages moments of discordant yet refreshing playfulness.
“Everything is interconnected”, points out Anne, the protagonist in “mystical crisis”, about Shakepeare's Pericles. Like a snakes-and-ladders game in the form of film, Rivette's first feature mixes, in several cyphered signs of visual and sound, the conspiracies and mysteries, secrecy and lies, love and death, theatre and cinema — all in literal and figured labyrinths, between the truth or lie of fiction itself.
Rivette's first feature, it has a few rough edges in the craft, but the sensibility is fully formed, and it's one of the most influential of the latter 20th century. Here he plants the seeds of urban paranoia that would flourish from Kubrick's Lolita, through Pynchon, The Parallax View, and on to Mulholland Drive and Eyes Wide Shut. Rivette would get better at making movies. Most of them were footnotes to this one.
Pascal Bonitzer's theory on de-framing (décadrage) finds here one of its defining examples: as on Straub or Rouch, the un-centered compositions aren't pictorial, but reinforcements of the borders as a limit - a tool used on narrative purposes such as the threats that are always invisible (for us and for the characters), outside of the frame.