As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
In this film inspired by the ancient erotic and mysterious tales of the Middle East, the main story concerns an innocent young man who comes to fall in love with a slave who selected him as... See full summary »
A dense film that cuts up footage of a primary plot of two young Yugoslavian girls, one a politico and the other a sexpot, and an affair with a visiting Russian skater. Mixing metaphors of ... See full summary »
A mysteriously linked pair of young women find their daily lives pre-empted by a strange boudoir melodrama that plays itself out in a hallucinatory parallel reality. Written by
David Watson <email@example.com>
It is a misconception that most of the film was improvised by the actors. Jacques Rivette provided structure but did not let his actors "go wild", instead he let them write. A single scene was improvised, where Celine, played by Julie Berto, brags to her associates about her rich American friend. The rest of the scenes where shot from scripted material, mostly thanks to participating actors. The film is collaboration by several authors, including actors Berto, Labourier, Ogier and Pisier. Rivette's involvement in the writing was to give structure to all the contributions, tightening things up. See more »
For over 30 years I have been calling this my favourite film. Like Céline and Julie I was young in 1974, there was magic in the air: dressing up with floating scarves and feather boas brought performance into everyday life, fashionable dalliance with the magic symbols beloved of the Surrealists contrasted brightly with the still fairly recent, drab post-war world. Rivette's film had more than a little of "l'air du temps". So would I be disappointed over 30 years later, seeing the film (subtitled in English) in London's National Film Theatre in May 2006? Emphatically, no. Rivette's genius is to recreate a timeless magic which weaves seamlessly through city streets and gardens and which is to be accessed in a more condensed form in the cinema (symbolised here by the rather more wooden and conventional story within the film) .
This is a film for those who can sit for hours on a park bench in Paris, or at a café table, unaware of the passing of time, but entranced by the details of the surrounding architecture and the glimpsed lives of passers-by. Over three hours long, it is not a film for the person impatient for the plot to race to its conclusion, when every question is answered and every mystery solved.
Magic is the magic of Paris itself. Lingering shots of cats hold our focus on the magic of the prosaic, while also reminding us of witches' familiars. Magic exists in the performance of the magician Céline. The viewer is also reconnected to the magic of childhood. We see Céline in the children's section of the library, and it is with the solemnity of small children that the two girls are happy to substitute the perfume "L'Air du Temps" (ultimately just air) for the element of air in their magic potion. The whole adventure can be seen as a return to childhood, an old photo in a toy box giving us a clue as to the origins of the mysterious house in which the girls alternately act the part of the nursemaid.
It is a film with layer upon layer of allusions. The magic sweets echo the madeleines with which Proust's Marcel regained with immediacy memories of his childhood, just as they echo the magic potion in "Alice in Wonderland".
Humour abounds. Try, if you understand French, to follow the word-play in the original (sometimes necessitating inaccurate translations, as when the punning pair of words "persil" (parsley)/ "esprit" are rendered as "clover"/ "clever"). Delight in the natural exuberance of the two girls as when, fearful of being discovered as one and the same nursemaid in the mysterious house, they almost literally fall about laughing as they try to disguise themselves as mirror images of themselves.
Mirror images and symmetry shape the film, and are extremely satisfying to the viewer. This time round I noticed many details that I hadn't noticed before. In the penultimate scene, for example, both girls are wearing identical boating jumpers. We have to wait for the last scene for the patterns of identity to come full circle.
I think this will always be my favourite film.
12 of 16 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?