Paris nous appartient | Paris Belongs to Us [1961]

2/10 | 22.May.12
Paris nous appartient | Paris Belongs to Us

DIRECTOR: Jacques Rivette  |  WRITERS: Jacques Rivette, Jean Gruault  |  CAST: Betty Schneider, Giani Esposito, Françoise Prévost, Daniel Crohem, François Maistre  |  France

Jacques Rivette’s first film, Paris nous appartient, is awful. Not agonizingly awful or unbearably awful, just awful. The movie is set in Paris in 1957 and follows along as a drippy American college student, Anne, is introduced by her older brother to an odd and loosely connected circle of acquaintances made up of theater people and political exiles (from McCarthy’s America, from Franco’s Spain, from post-1956 Hungary). A beatnik refugee from Spain has recently killed himself, or been murdered, and a tape of his rapturously beautiful guitar music for a production, in French, of Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre (but of course) is missing. If Anne can find that tape maybe she’ll be able to find out if Juan, the beatnik, really did kill himself or was murdered by either double agents from Spain or by an invisible and nameless group that really runs the world, has always run the world. Cue the free-floating paranoia. Cue the sitar music. Seriously: cue the sitar music.

The screenplay is a pretentious and scattered mess that seems even worse than it is because the directing is so unsteady. The acting is almost universally amateurish with the exception of the severe American expat Terry (played by Françoise Prévost, even though she speaks English with an almost impenetrable French accent), and Georges (Gianni Esposito) the boyish theater director whose dream it was to stage Pericles. I’ve never read any of the criticism and theorizing Rivette produced over at his day job at Cahiers du Cinéma, but I’m hoping he was better at that than he was at this. Yes it was his first film, but that’s no excuse.

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