(director/writer: Jacques Rivette; screenwriters:
Eduardo De Gregorio/Suzanne Schiffman; cinematographer:
William Lubtchansky; editor: Nicole Lubtchansky/Catherine Quesemand;
music: Barre Phiiips/John Surman; cast: Maria Schneider
(Leo Hoffmann), Joe Dallesandro (Ben Phillipps),
Francoise Prevost (Renee Novick), Maurice Garrel (Julius
Danvers), Daniele Gegauff (Elizabeth Hoffmann), Sylvie
Meyer (Shirley), Michel Berto (Jerome); Runtime: 160;
MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Stéphane Tchalgadjieff;
Ripley's Home Video-PAL format; 1981-France-in French
with Joe Dallesandro in English)
"A tough one to sit through."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A purposefully obtuse and bizarre psychological mystery film about parallel realities directed by Jacques Rivette ("Secret Defense"/"La Belle Noiseuse"/"The Story of Marie and Julien"), that's mostly rambling, meandering and nonsensical. Rivette co-writes with Eduardo De Gregorio and Suzanne Schiffman. The acclaimed French director reportedly had a nervous breakdown upon completion of the film. It sat on the shelf and wasn't released until two years later in 1983. That it almost redeems its long haul of 160 minutes and its confusing head trip story line by coming up with a beautifully filmed climax, maybe is reason enough for not jumping ship and sticking it out until the end.
A pair of musicians, the
bassist Barre Phillips and clarinetist John Surman,
improvise a doleful jazz to open things. The musicians
return periodically throughout the film, and might be
the best thing about this turkey.
Andy Warhol fave, the scruffy Joe
Dallesandro, plays New Yorker Ben Phillipps, while
hippie-looking Maria Schneider plays the Parisian
mystery woman Léo Hoffmann. They meet in a Paris
countryside hotel in search of the elusive Elisabeth
(Danièle Gegauff) after receiving separate
telegrams from her to meet there. She's the
ex-girlfriend of Ben and Léo's missing sister.
The strangers wonder why Lisa isn't there to meet them.
But finally connect in the countryside following a few
scavenger hunt like clues of hunting her down, and we
learn the girls' dad stole four million francs and
probably faked his death in an airplane crash. This
begins a labyrinthine
plot, as Lisa is kidnapped and her friend Shirley (Sylvie Matton) appears on
the scene with more confusing information for us to
For most of the film Ben and
Léo, who has the combination to the safe where
dad hid the loot but no knowledge of where is the safe,
playfully try to get acquainted and search for the
missing Lisa and the dough as if they were tripping.
They search empty houses and such when not running in
the woods or in the dunes. The result is an overlong,
dull, padded and pretentious film that is a chore to sit
through. Though the goofy leads are as appealing as
babies, but even this cuteness grows tiresome as the
ponderous film plods on with barely a concern that it's
such a sketchy and lazily put together work. There are
only minor indications that a talented filmmaker was
behind this ignoble project.
This was supposed to be part of a four film work by the director: with Scenes from a Parallel Life (Noroît (1976) and Duelle (1976) already completed. But investors at The Centre National de la Cinématographie backed out and a despondent Rivette sulked that he only reached half of the intended films for the project. But Rivette made this third film by raising just enough money to get it completed. When the shoot went on for too long Schneider split before the finale and was replaced by Rivette regular Hermine Karaghuez, and Dallesandro resorted to heavy drug use--which failed to improve his previous wooden acting. The oddball maniacal pic leaves us some breathtaking scenes and its experimental filmmaking techniques might interest Rivette fans or film scholars, all others be warned that this is a tough one to sit through after the first half-hour.
REVIEWED ON 5/15/2012 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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