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Boston French Film Festival 2010 and "Around a Small Mountain"

François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard "established the now half-century-old New Wave with two films about social delinquents, The 400 Blows (1959) and Breathless (1960)," and in so doing, argues Peter Keough in the Boston Phoenix, "They set a precedent of transgression that subsequent auteurs have striven to follow. As indicated by some of the films (24 new ones in all) in this year's Boston French Film Festival, their rebelliousness and nonconformity still reign today — in content, if not so much in style."

"Yet the festival demonstrates how vibrant French cinematic culture remains," argues Mark Feeney in the Boston Globe: "does any other country love the movies the way France does? And it reminds us that at least three things about French films remain sublimely... well, French: an extraordinary cinematic tradition; an awful lot of cigarette-smoking (the museum might want to think about offering nicotine patches at the entrance to the Remis Auditorium); and Isabelle Huppert." And he writes up some of the festival, running through July 25. It opens this evening at the Museum of Fine Arts with Christian Carion's Cold War espionage thriller Farewell, starring Emir Kusturica and Guillaume Canet.

The lineup also features Jacques Rivette's Around a Small Mountain, which sees a week-long run at the IFC Center in New York starting tomorrow. "And after a long and stubbornly marginal career heading his creative family, 82-year-old director Jacques Rivette nears closing time with this commedia dell'arte," writes Nick Pinkerton in the Voice. "Leads Sergio Castellitto and Jane Birkin have appeared for Rivette before; regular Pascal Bonitzer contributes to the script; Irina Lubtchansky, taking over the cinematographer's chair, does proud her recently passed father, William, Rivette's DP of 30-odd years." The bottom line? "It's all slight enough to blow away, and rare enough to warrant seeing it before it does."

More from Richard Brody (New Yorker), Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York), Andrew Schenker (Slant) and Benjamin Strong (L). And the New York Times has a clip.

Updates, 7/9: "It flows effortlessly from scene to scene, the story floating on Mr Rivette's gentle camera movement," writes AO Scott in the New York Times. "Yet at the same time, like the work of Clémence [Julie-Marie Parmentier] and the other performers in her small, itinerant troupe, the film reflects meticulous discipline and unerring craft."

"Could this be the filmmaker's requiem for the art of cinema?" asks S James Snyder for Artforum.

Update, 7/10: "Sometimes, a director's last film, like Carl Dreyer's Gertrud, Robert Bresson's L'Argent, or Maurice Pialat's Le Garçu, manages to sum up their entire body of work while offering something new as well," writes Steve Erickson for Gay City News. "Others testify to burnout and a lack of ideas. Unfortunately, Around a Small Mountain falls into the latter camp. There's nothing seriously wrong with it, but it doesn't amount to much. The shortest film Rivette has ever made, its 84 minutes are stretched thin."

Updates, 7/12: "The cinema of Rivette — mysterious, enveloping, poetic—is colored and shaded by a deeply sensual pleasure, of watching, experiencing, feeling, what is being seen and being shaken and fulfilled in the process." Patrick Z McGavin: "Watching La belle noiseuse again recently, I was reminded of my initial response, the tactile urgency, the visual language of his movies, the jump cuts that leave such an excitement and tenderness. Rivette creates worlds, even in cases like Around a Small Mountain, when there is little plot or story to speak of."

"A tricky case for reviewing, in the sense that although Rivette developed the film and started making it, it seems he didn't complete it owing to illness," blogs David Cairns. "Discussing the film afterwards with friends, I was charmed by the proposal that it's actually appropriate that Rivette's probably last movie, his testament, was made largely in his absence, could be considered incomplete... since the film summarizes so many of his themes, those are almost apposite qualities for it to possess."

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“And after a long and stubbornly marginal career heading his creative family, 82-year-old director Jacques Rivette nears closing time with this commedia dell’arte… Rivette is known, if for nothing else, for making epically long features…”
Marginal career…known for making epically long features. Yikes.

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