Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

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Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Dec 06, 2005 11:56 pm



The Story of Marie and Julien (Histoire de Marie et Julien), the latest work from French New Wave filmmaker Jacques Rivette, was originally intended to complement his two films from 1976: Duelle and Norot. Together, these films were meant to be a part of a project called "Scnes de la Vie Parallele," in which Rivette planned to tackle his penchant for radical narrative themes by employing generic conventions. Unfortunately, his first two efforts in the series werent able to find much support (certainly a shame in the case of Norot), which was primary the reason why Marie and Julien, originally starring Albert Finney and Leslie Caron, was abandoned very early on in the process. (However, the preparations for the original project introduced Rivette to Claire Denis, his new assistant back then, whos now one of his most ardent supporters among the post-New Wave filmmakers and a master in her own right.)

But Rivette never allowed himself to let go of the idea. And recently, with the help of his current writing partners, Pascal Bonitzer and Christine Laurent, its mythical, fantastic elements (originally conceived with the late, great Jean Rouch) were modulated to make way for an intense and haunting love story, which Marie and Julien first and foremost is. Starring Jerzy Radziwilowicz and Emmanuelle Bart, the film, his darkest since Le Pont du Nord (1982), allows Rivette to explore the notions of time, memory, and space in a manner not granted to him in quite some time.

Divided into four sections -- each indicating the name of one or both of the characters -- Marie and Julien begins with Julien (Radziwilowicz), a middle-aged clockmaker, relaxing on a park bench, ultimately getting up to meet Marie (Bart) whos passing by with an angelic pretense. It turns out that he was dreaming, but he runs into Marie again, who he had initially met and fallen in love with a year earlier, the very same night. After setting up an appointment with Marie, Julien leaves her to fulfill another with a woman, Madame X (Anne Brochet), who hes in the process of blackmailing via certain documents and photographs that connect her with her sister.

After drawing the films narrative outline, Rivette settles down as usual with his elegant pacing and graceful movements to uncover and fill in the rest. We learn that Julien is living a rather uneventful life in a dilapidated mansion that he shares with his cat. On the other hand, the enigmatically beautiful Marie simply travels from one hotel to another. But after she moves in with Julien, their burgeoning love causes them to discover conflicting desires and elements about themselves and each other.

The mysterious, almost ghost-like appearance of the Paris normally on display in Marie and Julien brings back memories of such previous Rivette films as Paris nous appartient (1960) and Le Pont du Nord, among others. The physicality of the love affair involving Bart obviously refers to La Belle noiseuse (1991). Radziwilowicz and the house point to Secret dfense (1998). On top of that, as Film Comments Gavin Smith mentioned, with the blackmailing scheme Rivette expertly employs a "MacGuffins," a Hitchcockian plot devise to advance his narrative. Juliens cat (whose performance leads me to believe that even the animals act better in the company of an auteur) is named "Nevermore," from Edgar Allen Poes "Raven." There are countless other references and tributes in this sublimely complex work.

Barts performance in Marie and Julien is arguably her best to date. At once incisive and surreal, shes riveting to watch. And her mystery is delicately uncovered by Rivettes longtime cinematographer William Lubtchansky with intricately choreographed camera movements (the under-lit mansion hallway which abstractly separates life and death is brilliantly incorporated). Radziwilowiczs almost menacing presence works remarkably well in the numerous passionate sex scenes.

The film consistently grows in immediacy, astonishing for one which is 150 minutes long. With utmost skill and dexterity, Rivette continually blurs the lines between dream and reality ultimately ending the film with an echo bound to reverberate in the cinematic universe for years to come. And thats only one of the reasons why Marie and Julien, outside of his untouchable 13-hour masterpiece Out 1: Noli me tangere (1971), is one of Rivettes greatest films.

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*THE STORY OF MARIE AND JULIEN premiered at the 2003 Toronto Film Festival. Available on DVD in the U.S from Koch Lorber Films; in the U.K. from Artificial-Eye.
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[Edit]DVD info
arsaib4
 


Re: Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby A » Thu Dec 08, 2005 4:44 pm

Haven't seen the film, yet, but read an article on it in a swiss film magazin when it got released there (March 2004). The reviewer didn't seem as enthusiastic as you, but in fact reading your text gave me more personal satisfaction and a better feeling for the film
Obviously demanding films aren't popular on German screens. The same magazine also had a fine essay on Angelopoulos along with fantastic screenshots from "The Weaping Meadow" when it was released in Switzerland (in Germany still nada). I'm holding it in my hands right now, and the photos prompt me to see the film again. If only I could see it on a big screen.
The last film by Rivette that was shown here theatrically was "Va savoir", which I didn't go to see because of german dubbing. Guess I'll have to rely on import-DVDs… :(
A
 

Re: Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby trevor826 » Thu Dec 08, 2005 6:01 pm

I wouldn't call it demanding but arsaib4's review is excellent, I found it entrancing and a delight.

Cheers Trev.
trevor826
 

Re: Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Jan 11, 2006 6:01 am

John, didn't you post about this a few months ago? Could you please re-post any comments you made (if possible). Thanks.
arsaib4
 

Re: Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby trevor826 » Wed Jan 11, 2006 10:01 am

Yes I'm sure he had a good write up on this and also (if I'm not mistaken) Celine and Julie go Boating. Hopefully he has a cache of comments tucked away somewhere.

Cheers Trev.
trevor826
 

Re: Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby A » Wed Jan 11, 2006 6:12 pm

Hehe, that would be great, seeing a number of John's reviews popping up on the site.
A
 

Re: Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby Anasazie » Thu Apr 06, 2006 1:49 am

With only a cat for company, clock repairer Julien (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) lives a solitary life in a ramshackle house littered with a lifetime of memorabilia. As a sideline to his business he has set himself up as a blackmailer to a mysterious and troubled shop owner, Madame X.

Still haunted by the memory of a fleeting former lover Marie, Julien seems to summon her presence after seeing her in a dream. Evasive at first, Marie (Emmanuelle Bart) eventually agrees to move in with Julien.

Marie falls in step with the habits of the house, acting as Juliens blackmail accomplice. She keeps one part of herself in reserve for the pain-staking restoration of one of his rooms, an activity that is key to understanding this enigma.

Divided into four chapters, Veteran French director Jacques Rivette makes subtle shifts between the perspectives of the two main characters, weaving a complex web from the strands of their daily lives and their dreams.

Elusive and haunting, this film defies definition and demands the active participation of the viewer, in its exploration of love, loss, guilt, redemption and the passage of time.

The sublime subtleties of the story are perfectly played out by the two leads, the ethereal Bart again demonstrating she is at the top of her craft.

Superb picture - 9/10
Anasazie
 

Re: Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby A » Thu Apr 06, 2006 8:28 pm

Have deleted the other thread.
Thanks for your comments
A
 

Re: Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby Johndav » Wed Jun 28, 2006 5:49 pm

I may have said something about it, can't remember very well, but anyway, can't surpass Anasazie's review which summarizes it just about perfectly. Yes, i was going to say ethereal too. And add that Rivette has a peculiar ability to stretch time in unusual ways- not just through the length of his films, but a mysterious indefinable something at work, an elusive other-worldly quality even when ghosts or revenants are not involved. (As they are too in Celine + Julie as it happens). So clocks seem very appropriate here. Did you notice the veins sticking out in Bart's forehead in a sex scene; no wonder she said she was exhausted; no soppy, trying so hard to be sexy Hollywood oohing, aaahing, panting, grandstanding here- Rivette clearly meant business and no amount of acting could replicate her expression.
Johndav
 

Re: Rivette's The Story of Marie and Julien (France-Ita / 2003)

Postby wpqx » Thu Jun 21, 2007 11:06 pm

I finally saw the film today, and it really is a treat watching Rivette's films in relatively short order. This one baffled me in ways that you should almost expect from Rivette. I wasn't at all prepared for what happened, but with Rivette you have to just let him work at his own pace. The ending defintely seems to echo most of his undramatic climaxes, and certainly fits well within his body of work. Beart was great as arsaib pointed out, and its nice to know Rivette is still going strong.
wpqx
 


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