|Index||3 reviews in total|
With the exception of Julie & Celine Go Boating, Rivette's films are not well known in this country, and therein is quite a loss. This is a very complicated story of student-roomates whose ordinary lives threaten to shatter their ordinary lives. Love, betrayal, the arts, sexuality, criminal behavior and trust are a few of the many themes that permeate the slowly developing action. The entire film is visually gorgeous and challenging, especially the shots from the elevated subway, which provide not only enlightment and whimsey, but also prefigure the escalating actions and surprises of the slowly moving plots. The young actresses are quite good, especially Laurence Cote, whom some may know from her role in Les Voleurs, a very fine film by Andre Techine. There is no easy way into Rivette's excellent films. Most of them are slow to develop and far from obvious. But all of them are deeply rewarding, warrant numerous repeat screenings, and Gang of Four is no exception.
"Gang of Four" is hard to find words for. However I think it does
address, in a detached and engaging manner, the themes of coming-of-age
and community in the lives of several young women at an elite
prestigious acting school?
And gender seems to be the most specific definer of these themes. The teacher, Constance, at some point in her professional career, made the decision to exclude male students from her school. This in turn informs the lives of her young actors, who are each expected to play male role and female roles. Claude seems especially affected by this form of teaching and experiences much confusion in discerning men and in her own gender identity.
Lucia, another of the four, has disgraced her family over her refusal to marry a pre-selected husband. Anna, whose actual name is Laura, takes this name to hold the memory of her missing sister close to her thoughts and actions. Cecile is not one of the gang of four (she left this residence house earlier) but she is having much of her identity shaped by a relationship to Antoine, who seems to be involved in some kind of dubious radical or criminal activities (this was never clear to me).
And then there's Thomas who seems to be the cross between a mole and a eunuch, who slithers into the the female household, in his ostensible pursuit of the elusive Antoine. However, his unstated purpose seems to be to disrupt and control the individual lives and growing commonality of the four women. He manipulates one woman against another by seduction, lies, and feigned heroism. And with an unrelenting mocking presence for which he has no compunction he puts the full disruptive burden of his presence onto them If it's Constance's resolve to exerts a kind of pressure on her charge's youthful insecurity and dependency and steer them clear of false emotions, Thomas' resolve is to break their solidarity, not test it.
Despite the drama on and off the stage, and all the motion, energy, body language, gestures, declamations, and tantrums, the general effect is both low key and even. No one stands out except perhaps Laurence Cote and Bulle Ogier as Claude and Constance. In the end, all the closures and variables in the lives depicted seem begin to co-exist. The young women come to inhabit their own scripts, and this in a world without and sometimes in spite of men.
Gang of Four is my first Rivette, so I cannot comment on how
classically structured it is as opposed to experimental, because I have
yet to see Rivette's experimental work, yet I read from a Chicago
critic, Chicago being the city wherein I discovered Rivette, that this
is an ideal introduction to his work because it is more of a
compilation of the themes that are typically abound in his films, such
as theater, conspiracy, sexual frustration, female camaraderie, and
things of that nature.
I was not thrilled and yearning for more, but I was interested in what Rivette tries to do enough to want to see some of his other films, even La Belle Noiseuse, a four-and-a-half- hour film with only two people in one room. What I liked about Gang of Four was how the four main characters, the girls in the acting class who share a small house together, have a way of turning everything into a dramatization of things as their alternative to such a packed in environment that is squeezed progressively tighter by the mysterious man and the ambiguously existent conspiracy he speaks of.
The reason I don't have much else to say is because Rivette's direction seems too static somehow, but there is intrigue in his style and in his stories. I found the film interesting and dull at the same time. Perhaps it's my fault and I was expecting a different sort of film-making than what the movie was made of.
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