Click here for John Harkness's roundup of Rivette's films on DVD.
Va Savoir directed by Jacques Rivette, written by Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent and Rivette, produced by Pierre Grise, Martin Marignac and Maurice Tinchant, with Jeanne Balibar, Sergio Castellito, Marianne Basler, Jacques Bonnaffé and Catherine Rouvel. 149 minutes. A Pierre Grise production. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Opens Friday (January 25). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies, page 76. Rating: NNN
the poster for va savoir shows the head and upper torso of star Jeanne Balibar popping up through a skylight onto a Parisian rooftop, suggesting something cute in the vein of Amélie. People who go expecting that will be disappointed.Jacques Rivette's latest is a modernist variation on the old-fashioned boulevard farce, with lovers operating at cross-purposes and confusion steadily mounting as the characters ricochet off one another.
It's a construct Rivette has always been fond of, whether played as phenomenological nightmare in his first film, Paris Nous Appartient (1960), as paranoid political fantasy in Out 1: Spectre (1971) or as mystery-thriller in The Gang Of Four (1988).
Rivette, now 73, was a founding member of the French New Wave along with Truffaut, Godard, Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, and he remains the least appreciated -- and least seen -- of the group in North America.
His films present obstacles to commercial distributors, among them monumental running times (seven of his 23 features are three hours or longer) and a theoretical rigour that tends to make his later films less dramas, though they all have stories and characters, than essays on the idea of narrative and space.
If Godard has spent 30 years in a love-hate relationship with the cinema, in love with images but trying to blow up the factory that makes the movies, Rivette is more subversive and sneaky. While his early-70s films (Celine And Julie Go Boating, Duelle, Noroît) treat narrative as hallucination, his subsequent works look like conventional movies but feel like anything but. He's experimenting as much with the audience as he is with the form of film.
In Va Savoir, Balibar stars as Camille, a French actor returning to Paris from Rome with an Italian theatre company whose director, Ugo (Sergio Castellito) is her lover. She wishes to close the book on her previous relationship with Pierre (Jacques Bonnaffé), a philosophy prof now living with Sonia (Marianne Basler). Ugo, searching for a lost play by Goldoni, becomes involved with Dominique, whose brother is pursuing Sonia.
All of this is intercut with scenes from Pirandello's Come Tu Mi Vuoi, which in turn offers a running commentary on the action of the film, a favourite Rivette device going back to L'Amour Fou (1968).
Va Savoir initially feels like minor Rivette (but I should say that I viewed it immediately after watching Jean La Pucelle (1994) and Secret Défense (1998), both starring the great Sandrine Bonnaire, who makes Balibar seem an annoying bundle of tics). Yet I liked Va Savoir better on second viewing, so I should probably see it a third time, a practice I reserve for really good films.p>