Emmanuelle Béart in “Histoire de Marie et Julien” [2003 France, Italy]

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Jacques Rivette is definitely one of the influential directors of the Nouvelle Vague, even if he’s probably lesser known than the likes of Godard and Chabrol outside of France. His style is telling a story through observation – you get to know the characters through a series of vignettes performing seemingly mundane and sometimes repetitive tasks. Consequently his films tend to be long, sometimes stretching into several hours, and demands a greater attention span from its audience. Dreams and visions are one of his frequently explored themes. I wouldn’t call his style experimental, but one can say with certainty that he will spare little time for those less informed.

But he is also a fine example of how great directors themselves draw inspiration from others, in his case from all over the world including Hollywood greats such as Otto Preminger and Alfred Hitchcock. Like Rohmer and Roeg, he didn’t start making feature films until after many years in the industry, and had worked under legends like Renoir and Becker before venturing out on his own.

I’ll start Rivette’s filmography here with one of his later films, the fantasy drama “Histoire de Marie et Julien” [Eng. Title: The Story of Marie and Julien], one that was also in gestation for close to three decades. In an insightful interview among the DVD extras, he describes the extent to which his lead actors influenced not only the screenplay, but the script as well – his original plan had Leslie Caron and Albert Finney play the lead roles, but took on a different shape when Emmanuelle Béart and Jerzy Radziwilowicz were finally cast for the production. Ms. Béart too explains her input into the characterisation. While it is a fine film that rewards one with patience, this isn’t actually my favourite Rivette. This is also one for Emmanuelle Béart completists. But if you’re a die-hard Rivette enthusiast, the film is Highly Recommended Viewing..!

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This was taken from my Artificial Eye “The French Collection Volume 4 – Emmanuelle Béart” box-set, featuring three classics of Ms. Béart. It also includes Rivette and Béart’s previous collaboration “La Belle Noiseuse”, and André Téchiné’s Les Témoins.

If revenants speaking in Gaelic are your thing, this is pretty much up your alley. Julien, a middle aged clocksmith keeps dreaming about a woman he met a while ago, Marie – she was with a boyfriend at the time. But Marie has died since and suddenly reappears to embark on a sensual relationship with Julien. For all intents and purposes, she’s real, save the tiny detail that she can’t or won’t shed a tear nor bleed when cut, even if she could obtain physical orgasm in full flow. An ideal scenario, a man might think – an attractive woman who doesn’t complain (cry) nor need taking care of (cottonwoolled), but one readily available for sexual pleasure. Until this pesky little thing called ‘love’ creeps in. And when Julien learns the fate of the ‘real’ Marie, one or the other has to crossover to the other side to stay together. Who will it be – Julien, or Marie? Only time will tell…



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