Elizabeth sends telegrams to her old boyfriend Ben in NYC and to her younger sister Leo in Rome to join her in Paris, where she is selling her dead father's estate. When Ben and Leo arrive, a mysterious adventure begins.
During the rehearsals for the production of the tragedy Andromaque, the leading actress and her director, a couple behind the scenes, can't find a way to leave their personal problems at ... 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 ... See full summary »
Anne Goupil is a literature student in Paris in 1957. Her elder brother, Pierre, takes her to a friend's party where the guests include Philip Kaufman, an expatriate American escaping ... See full summary »
A play within a play within a play within a play. Actors perform a play in a house, an audience member invites them to work in his own home improvising a play around his own life. The line between fiction and reality blur.
Rivette is relatively precise in his dealings with meaning. He is the most atavistically ceremonious of the Vague, in the sense that his abstraction as a journey leading inwards is always attended by signs and codas that affirm our passage. The transcendent rite of passage, in more ways than one, is about the symbolic enactment that paves the way. The transcendence itself is left to our sphere of experience, but we're at least brought to the doorstep.
Oh, there's the improvisational flow that seems to throw people off, that things seem to be randomly bubbling up from nothing without significant plan or substance. The chance encounters in a world that we may recognize, the geography vaguely familiar whose nature is yet ultimately insoluble. There's a lot of that here. As in Celine, it is the breathing space that conducts our preparation to step beyond the mechanisms of reason. We don't reason with it, rather trust its intuitive flow. Like the dream world, it is only the figment of the known world spontaneously arisen as a stage or blank slate for the atavistic portents and divinations of the subconscious mind to be writ.
But the rite of passage matters, in spite of the seemingly aimless wandering. Here it is about human effort to bypass the 'wall of paradise' constituted by the coincidence of apparent opposites (good and evil, light and dark, being and non-being). A barrier that obscures vision and traps in a world of names and forms that is only an apparent reality.
Rendered in the film as twin goddesses of sun and moon, vying for a precious stone that enables their descend into the human world. The human characters are mere pawns to their schemes; to be seduced, tricked, threatened, or ultimately destroyed. Twin femme fatales, weaving spells in an inverse noir universe magnified into a macrocosmic struggle.
The ill-prepared man who chances to steal a glimpse of them in their true form, like in the myth of Actaion who steals upon the Greek goddess Artemis bathing naked in a pool, has his consciousness shattered by the revelation. His mirrored image (the soul, the reflected half) is cracked.
The woman who finally shatters the illusionary duality that quarantines human consciousness into meaningless dilemmas, does so by a sacrifice of blood.
And this is the problem of the film. So much of it is a stridently symbolic enactment, a matter of ceremony. The sacrifice is, quite literally, a matter of spilling blood upon the symbolic stone and does not flow from anything - it is simply the schematic end of the spiritual myth. Although valuable as insight, the meaning of the film is trapped inside the rituals performed to signify it. Having cracked the outer shell to absorb it, the film seizes to resonate.
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