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Max Baissette de Malglaive,
In Majorca, in 1823, a French general, Armand de Montriveau, overhears a cloistered nun singing in a chapel; he insists on speaking to her. She is Antoinette, for five years he has searched for her. Flash back to their meeting in Paris, he recently returned from Africa, she married and part of the highest society. She flirts with him, and soon he's captivated. His behavior is possessive, insistent. Then, it is her turn to become obsessed. Letters, balls, scandal, a kidnapping, and an ultimatum bring her to the cloister and him to melancholy. Whose steel proved sharper? Is it tragic or grotesque? Written by
Jacques Rivette knows how make his feelings bare, then have them mysteriously vanish into dark corners. The same could be said about his characters. The disappearing act takes place when another actor takes over, but the actor who has gone, stays with you; doesn't move but lies in wait.
A modern masterpiece from Rivette which gave me the excitement and awe I experienced when I first encountered Truffaut, Chaplin, Vigo, Renoir, and Becker. For others, it may be Rohmer, Godard, and Rossellini. It will be different for everyone else. I have seen almost all of Rivette's work up unto this point, so by saying this, I don't mean I am experiencing him for the first time. This film just displays that subtle love of film-making I experience when I first saw these filmmakers. The daring moods the film shifts between, carefully holding you tight through the games of passion being battled out between the two main characters.
Its a shame people did not appreciate this; I'm very sorry you didn't. The entire time your minds raced around the desire to hate the pacing of this film, thus the film itself, a great thing of beauty passed by you. You may never see it. I even came across someone who said they had been annoyed by Depardieu's character's wooden leg and found it ridiculous. That is the character and that is also Depardieu. His father's greatness has certainly passed onto him.
To loosely quote Henri Langois: "People are accustomed to crap when they have been fed crap their entire lives. Their throats become coated with it." To the people that have walked out of this film, or the others who have chosen to believe "they know the film's proper length" over the filmmaker's, I'm sorry. But it is an injustice on anyone's part to think they know more about the films of Rivette than Rivette himself.
But to the people out there, the adventurous lovers of the cinema, DO NOT listen to the hostile words surrounding this film. It is splendid. It is another masterstroke in the career of a master like Rivette, and also a blow of justice to the wondrous pages of Balzac.
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