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Self reflexive movie about the creative process, and life as theatre
I feel lost and out to sea watching this stuff but maybe that's how you're meant to feel? It's like you are watching the rites of a cult. Do you even want to understand? Not me, not really. I have this strong feeling that Rivette is a mystic.
The outline of the plot is that you have three friends Emily, Charlotte, and a guy who I think was called Silvano, they do a play, in an apartment, the idea is that the audience turn up and watch in silence, whilst being directed around the apartment by a guide. Obviously this is not something you can do for a large audience. Anyway I quite like the idea, although the jostling would be unbearable. The play they are doing is basically a theft of an early play from a guy called Roquemaure, who just happens to be in the audience.
It's also improvised as Silvano is being naughty and is getting himself drunk in reality rather than just drinking ginger ale from the whisky bottle prop. So Roquemaure is appreciating this anyway and decides he's going to get these three Thespians to act in a new play of his, which he is going to get them to do in the same style, i.e. the audience will follow the players around his mansion. So this is like mutual theft, Silvano has stolen Rocquemaure's play, Rocquemaure steals Silvano's style. It's not the first act of theft we're going to see here, Rocquemaure gets one of the actresses as a supposed audition to do an ad lib, the results of which he then impregnates the play with. Rivette really rubs this in towards the end Rocquemaure keeps on writing down things that people say to him for incorporation in future plays. So one of the points of the film perhaps is that art and life are really the same thing, and that artists steal from each other. There are also allusions to Rocquemaure's script being modified by his butler/famulus Virgil behind the scenes. That is that artists are collagists, collaborators, plagiarists, in short not so auteurist as they would have us believe.
Anyway it becomes clear that the play Rocquemaure is putting on is really an almost unadulterated transcript of a real life ménage à trois involving himself, the magician Paul, and a woman called Beatrice, set in the very places it happened. Paul is there the whole film observing the rehearsals and sticking his oar in. Rocquemaure as a high jest perhaps, has a woman, Emily, play Paul's part and gives him the name Troppman. Obviously there are romantic liaisons going on throughout this.
This is a film that may well reward study, there's too much to take in, too many implications. What I did catch though were the numerous implications and insights about the creative process. One further one is that it becomes clear that one of the main motivating factors for Emily and Charlotte is the cash and they probably would have stopped working on the play without it, as they had lost belief. There are probably religious connotations, Rocquemaure is like some sort of Wagnerian God controlling all of these puppets.
The film is also very playful, at first we think that some of Paul's magic or some of the magic inherent in the magnificently particoloured villa may be malfeasant. However, like in a Robbe-Grillet movie, it's is all heavily disclaimed at some point, all we are watching is a fantasy.
I love this movie.
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