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August 26, 2002

DVD Journal: "Va Savoir"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Friedrich --

Have you seen many of Jacques Rivette's movies? I haven't -- he's one of the bigger gaps in my movie knowledge-base. "Va Savoir," which I watched last night on DVD (the wife fell asleep about ten minutes into it and snoozed all the way through its 2.5 hours), was only my third. (And one was "La Belle Noiseuse" -- more a film for admirers of Emanuelle Beart fans than for Rivette buffs.) I haven't yet brought myself to face "Celine and Julie Go Boating," which some critics adore.

I wonder if I ever will. Do you know Rivette's schtick? Slow, long-form illusion/reality, theater/cinema/reality games, done with what I suspect he wouldn't be displeased to hear called philosophical playfulness. And duller and more prosaic on the surface than you'd expect -- I assume we're supposed to be dazzled by the whirling thematic undercurrents. Lots of real-time scenes done in one shot; no music score; much concentration on the sound of doors creaking closed, footsteps crossing wooden floors, etc.

You like what he does or you don't, I suppose -- and maybe, given that Rivette made "Va Savoir" when he was 73, that's OK by him. A feast for film buffs, who can amuse themselves interpreting the mindgames and tracing all the carefully-planted connections. But I haven't found his movies to have a lot of sparkle, and this one has a (to me) not-very-charmante main actress of the winsome-and-angular type the French occasionally produce -- think Audrey Hepburn meets Fanny Ardant.

Autumnal, Serene and Giddy?

All that said, the visuals were eye-gasm fabulous: blue-gray Paris light, alabaster stone, richly textured aquas and peaches on the interior walls, much backstage lusciousness, oily maroons and browns (the action moves back and forth between a theater and various libraries, with occasional stops in hotels, cafes and apartments). Many gorgeous fabrics -- Rivette's playing here with Italian theater (Pirandello, Goldoni), and has lots of expensive-looking harlequin-striped fabrics onscreen.

European films can be wonderful to watch even while they're boring you to tears. I remember an Agnes Varda movie from maybe ten years ago -- dimwitted and uninvolving, but I loved the way it looked, moved, and felt. So simple yet so rich: lots of natural light, I assume, and (especially by comparison to American films, where the effort generally goes into making the image pop, and the actors pop out of their environments) no fear of darks, moods, recessiveness and shadows. In the photographic work (and, come to think of it, the sound work too) of some of these New Wave-era filmmakers, there's an underlying old-world calm crossed with a modern informality that's very pleasing.

Daddy's Girl?

Hoping to drag the wife (an amazingly good sport) this afternoon to see "The Scarlet Diva" -- Asia (daughter of Dario) Argento's NC-17 semi-autobiographical DV extravaganza. My heart's beating faster just typing those words.



posted by Michael at August 26, 2002


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