French New Wave can’t be talked about without mentioning the name of Jacques Rivette. What? You don’t talk much about the French New Wave movement? Well, let’s fix that.
The films: 2.5/5
Jacques Rivette is a name that many US filmgoers might not recognize. However, he is very important to the French New Wave movement. He was a director and critic that helped propel the movement in the time. With this set, Arrow has brought three of his films to widespread availability stateside, Duelle, Noroit, and Merry-Go-Round. Notably, this set does lack Out1, the nearly 10 hour ambitious project that Rivette might be best known for. As Carlotta seems to have the rights for Out1, Arrow has chosen to bring this set stateside with the other three.
The three films included are pretty different in tone and story despite having the director’s touch throughout them. The first film, Duelle, is a story of two women do battle over a gem that will allow one of them to remain on Earth. This is an intriguing combination of supernatural scenes with everyday life. We watch these two, the Queen of the Sun and the Queen of the Night battle between each other in scenes spliced into the normal modern-day Paris. These switches between the two realities of the movie keep the movie in an odd space. It never feels like it switches for too long or that it every truly leaves or enters either world, keeping one foot in both.
Unfortunately, this is also not the clearest story to follow for the first time, but I liked how that played into the tone of the film. Not to mention, the framing of the altercations between the two women was always an engrossing presentation. That isn’t to say that the rest of the movie wasn’t beautiful to watch because it certainly was.
The second film, Noroit, is a fun little pirate revenge flick. A man is murdered by a female pirate captain and left on the beach. After weeping over his dead body, his sister resolves to avenge his death. She then sets off to study the pirates and with some help concoct a strategy to ensnare the leader and to kill her. This one felt very different from Duelle, but still very interesting. Overall it is a bit simpler to follow despite some of its failings.
Sadly, the performances in Noirot are not the best. This might be because as some of the actors revealed later, some didn’t know exactly what they were filming at the time. However the overall story in the movie is a simple concept so it isn’t hard for the viewer to piece together. Once again, Rivette gave us a beautifully composed film to look at and enjoy despite those weaknesses.
The third film, Merry-Go-Round, where a young woman receives a telegram from her sister to join her in Paris to sell their father’s estate. When she arrives, she meets her sister’s ex-boyfriend who has likewise been invited and a mystery soon unfolds. Unlike the other two films in this collection, this one feels significantly more down-to-earth. It feels much more like a page out of life that any of us could live out for ourselves. The problem is the narrative clarity is also probably the worst in this film compared to the other two. And the film also drags, slowly moving from one scene to the next without compelling pace. I found myself becoming disinterested several times in this film. And this was after I was on board with Rivette from the first two.
Technical Side: 4/5
The films in the Jacques Rivette Collection look quite good despite their age. Arrow has done a great job cleaning up these transfers. The tracks are likewise pretty solid. The scores sound rather pleasing. Despite me not understanding a word of French in these films, the dialog is all audible. It is nice to be able to hear every word even if I have to rely on subtitles.
Special Features and Packaging: 4/5
Remembering Duelle: Retrospective including Bulle Ogier and Hermine Karagheuz. Mildly interesting but rather short.
Scenes from a Parallel Life: Rather long collection of two interviews with Rivette. One from the 90s and one from 2004. The interviews cover a lot of ground, both focused on these films and wider to his career as a whole.
Rosenbaum on Rivette: This is a reasonably long interview with Jonathan Rosenbaum offering commentary on Rivette.
The special features are varied, but mostly interesting. The real disappointment is that there are only three features for the three movies. On the other hand, the booklet is rather nice and pretty lengthy. The packaging is also quite nice and the artwork looks great with a charm.
The Jacques Rivette Collection brings a lot to the table. Arrow presents to us three very different films. While all have his style, they all offer very different experiences. And unfortunately, different levels of coherence and quality. However, this release offers great technical merits given the source and a nice collection of extras. Any fan of Jacques Rivette or film history, especially French film, would be well-served to check this out. However, more mainstream fans are best served to just borrow this from a friend or renting it online.
Note: This Blu-ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.