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 ... See full summary »
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
While The Story of Marie and Julien seemed to be a minor Rivette film to me when I bought the DVD, it's taken on whole new meanings in the context of his entire oeuvre, which I've been following at a local festival. What's immediately noticeable -- and Rivette movies need at least 10 years to age before really coming into their own, the moment in which they were filmed needs to have passed from concrete reality into vague memory -- is that Marie et Julien has the feel of a concluding statement. But unlike most concluding statements of great authors, such as Eyes Wide Shut, where Kubrick essentially undoes the arrogant moral and intellectual certainty of 2001 and admits he's going into the great beyond with the innocence and confusion of a baby ( or starchild ), this isn't about what Rivette has learned or unlearned during his 70-odd years on earth. What gives Marie et Julien its particular character is that its relative simplicity is not something arrived at but something that has been DELIBERATELY REPRESSED during the entire half-century of Rivette's career. Though it takes place in the modern day, one feels that Rivette is referring to a central personal experience that happened before he ever began making films, way back in the mists of time, something so primal that he's had to dance around it for fifty years, in a kind of monastic flirtation with death, sensually delaying the moment of his final consummation by immersing himself in the unknown. But all along, this was an act, a masquerade, just as he considers this life itself to be. All this time, he wanted us to be seduced by his reflections of life's mystery, in order to feel the vicarious joy of not-knowing, of fear and uncertainty, the only real pleasures of being human. But in truth Rivette, like Meister Eckhart, or like the goddesses from his own Duelle who beg to be made mortal in order to be divested of the burden of total awareness, has always been one of those from whom "God hides nothing." This greatest poet of conspiracy and mystery here admits the truth he's been puckishly concealing all along -- mystery, fear, terror are illusions. There is only love.
The result of this unveiling, this outwardly old man's return to purity, hope and youth, for those ready to receive it, is a movie that accomplishes what so many charlatans through history have promised -- it defeats death. If you don't shudder at Emmanuelle Beart's final line, if you don't get a frisson at the opening sound collage of car motors and pedestrian noise being swallowed up by a ghostly drone, that's fine, it just means you are being kept in the dark temporarily while you complete your mission, whatever that may be. It's not for me to blurt out in a review what Rivette knows must not be said directly. Well, not in a FREE Internet review, anyway.
P.S. See if, during one of the numerous sex scenes in this film, you can spot the oblique reference to Heinrich von Kleist's strangely cinematic play Penthesilea ( it dates from the early 19th century yet was considered unstageable then, being written like a modern film script with tons of brief scenes. ) I thought I was hallucinating this reference until I saw a Rivette documentary from 1990 where he talks about Kleist. The play, as everyone who has read it knows, is the greatest ever written about the damage that men and women do to each other on earth. That is half of what this film is about, too. The other half isn't about earth at all.
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