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Julien lives alone with his cat. He dreams of Marie, and a few minutes later, he sees her on the street and makes a date. He asks her to move in with him, and she does. Her boyfriend is dead, the rest of her past a mystery. Although they quickly seem to fall in love, she sometimes pulls away suddenly from Julien, is distant, and spends the night in a hotel. She also dreads something imminent and warns Julien that if he missteps, he will lose her and all memory of her. Julien responds by digging into her past: what explains her remodeling an upstairs garret room, her nightly dreams, her fears? What can Julien, now desperately in love, do when he learns why? Can either rescue the other? Written by
The French movie Histoire de Marie et Julien was shown in the U.S. with the translated title, The Story of Marie and Julien (2003). It was directed by Jacques Rivette.
Rivette was the first great proponent of what became known as the French New Wave. His contemporaries like Godard and Truffaut respected him, and followed in his path. (Incidentally, Rivette died in January 2016.)
As the title tells us, this film is a story--actually a love story--about Marie and Julien. Julien, played by the excellent actor Jerzy Radziwilowicz, repairs large clocks that are placed in bell towers. He lives a quiet life with his cat, Nevermore, until he chances to meet Marie. (Marie is portrayed by Emmanuelle Béart.)
Also, as we learn when the movie begins, Julien is a blackmailer. He has found some incriminating material about a woman we only know as Madame X (Anne Brochet). She is willing to pay his price, and the blackmailing proceeds, in stages, throughout the film. No one seems to notice or care that Julien is a blackmailer. Apparently, this is just a small quirk.
For the record, Anne Borchet is a beautiful woman. Rivette loved to direct beautiful women. These included many of the most famous women actors of the era--his muse, Bulle Ogier, Sandrine Bonnaire, and Anna Karina. However, none of them can compare to the chemistry that Rivette shared with Béart.
Emmanuelle Béart was extraordinarily beautiful. We know it, she knows it, and director Rivette knows it. The part of Marie requires someone truly beautiful, because she is the true protagonist of the movie. There are long takes where only Marie is on screen. We see her wandering around Julien's house, touching things, looking into cabinets, arranging a room. If Marie weren't beautiful, we wouldn't really care about how interesting she is, how unusual she is, or how mysterious she is. With Béart in the role, we care.
When the film was produced, Béart was 40. She had lost the ingenue qualities we had seen in Manon of the Spring and La Belle Noiseuse. However, she had lost none of her beauty, and Rivette utilized it every time he presented her to us. She made the movie work.
Special note should be given to Julien's cat, Nevermore, played by Gaspard. Gaspard is everywhere when we are in Julien's home, and although he doesn't have a speaking role, the other actors all talk to him. (At one point Marie tells him, "Stop spying on me. Mind your own business.") Nevermore wears a bell, so when you don't see him, you hear him. (It's true that, when they are hunting, cats are so agile that they keep the bell from ringing. Nevermore doesn't care if the bell rings. It's his theme song.)
We saw this film on DVD, and it worked very well. Naturally, Rivette crafted it for a movie theater audience, but the small screen was fine.
This is a slow film, with many long quiet moments. If you want action and excitement, it's the wrong movie for you. However, if you want to see a thoughtful, unusual movie, find Marie and Julien and watch it.
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