Saturday 3 December 2022

Paris Belongs to Us [1961]

 Rivette’s exhilarating debut feature Paris Belongs to Us – the film’s emblematic title could serve as a slogan for the Nouvelle Vague in how the city played such an absorbing role in it, even if it ironically began with the quote “Paris belongs to no one” – should’ve been one of the first works of that extraordinary movement. However, chronic funding, postproduction and distribution challenges meant that by the time it saw the light of day, both Truffaut and Godard had made their legendary debuts, and as a result it was relegated to their shadows. At once expansive and close-knit, freewheeling and compact, and luminous and idiosyncratic, this fascinating co-existence of antithetical facets was mirrored by its arresting tonal diversities too – especially in the way bonhomie, melancholy, angst, idealistic fervour and paranoia were intermingled across its sprawling narrative. Anne (Betty Schneider) is a naïve and lonely literature student whose staid life is irrevocably disrupted upon becoming enraptured by a group of non-conformist and radical bohemians, thanks to a party she attends on her elder brother Pierre’s (François Maistre) invitation. There she learns about Juan, an anti-Frank rebel, who's mysteriously died; meets Philip (Daniel Crohem), a Pulitzer-winning journalist on the run from McCarthyism, who’s convinced of a sinister global conspiracy; befriends Gérard (Giani Esposito), a passionate theatre director struggling to stage Shakespeare’s Pericles; and becomes mystified by Terry (Françoise Prévost), a femme fatale who was earlier Juan’s fiancée and who the doomed Gérard is now bewitched by. The luscious B/W photography of Parisian cafés, hotels, streets, corners, desolate exteriors and cramped indoor spaces, and the jazz-based score, accentuated its ominous moodiness and evocative zeitgeist. The film also boasts of a sardonic cameo by Godard.

Director: Jacques Rivette

Genre: Drama/Urban Drama

Language: French

Country: France

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