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A Beautiful Troublemaker: Rivette's Mystery Without Facts

“What is happening?”: Béart and Radziwilowicz
photo: Koch Entertainment
“What is happening?”: Béart and Radziwilowicz

Unaccountably but inspiring little surprise, Jacques Rivette's 2003 film found no theatrical takers here, so the DVD should count as a release. It is, in any case, another fabulously Rivettian dream-time, a seamless, elliptical meander through a vaguely menacing contemporary Paris networked with subterranean messages, unreadable portents, and unspoken motivations. In fact, it's the most symptomatic film he's made in years (he began it in the '70s, with Albert Finney and Leslie Caron, but then abandoned it), examining what happens when a moody clocksmith (Jerzy Radziwilowicz, surrounded by ticking gear work) blackmails an indulgent merchant of chinoiserie (Anne Brochet) as he also re-ignites an affair with a beautiful and maddeningly distant woman (Emmanuelle Béart). "What is happening?" Béart's ethereal femme says at one point; who can answer with certainty? Of course, the slow-moving story—a mystery without facts—is merely the road map, not the trip; Rivette confidently works in the same border world between narrative meaning and cinematic artifice that he has since Paris Belongs to Us. The movie is surprisingly savvy about romantic delusions, but just when you're wondering if Rivette has been a cineastical metaphysician from his first film, Marie and Julienbecomes a ghost story, infinitely ponderable and strange, not unlike Celine and Julie Go Boating. The supps include a coffee shop interview with the 77-year-old master, nervously nattering over tea about supernaturalia.

 
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