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For Jacques Rivette, film-making is as natural as breathing. As a prime example of his effortless technique (often mistakenly referred to as "minimalism") is this half-hour companion piece to Le Pont du Nord.
Apparently created from out-takes, alternate takes and overlapping footage used for the feature film, Paris s'en va dispenses with the feature's narrative elements. With poetic and cryptic voice-over it is a wistful, moody look at Paris, not the picture postcard approach, but a deeply felt creation that will resonate with anyone who has wandered around the City of Lights in a self-absorbed state. For Rivette aficionados, of which I count myself since I was first mesmerized by his L'Amour Fou at a NYFF screening nearly 40 years ago, this is pure cinema, allowing the viewer to make up his or her own film rather than be manipulated by the auteur.
Recurring image is of the famous Lion of Belfort statue in the 14th arrondissement. Great minds often think alike, and it is the same image (minus her fantasy accoutrements) that Agnès Varda used in her 2003 short Le lion volatil.
From Pont de Nord, Bulle Ogier portrays an end-of-her-tether woman, literally supported by a forceful young woman Pascale Ogier, her real-life daughter. An element of panache exists in watching it now, since Pascale died tragically of a heart attack 3 years later, just as her promising career was taking off. Pierre Clémenti also appears briefly as Bulle's lover, and uncredited is a stray shot of Jean-François Stévenin performing some martial arts moves.
Stripped of dialog and narrative, Paris s'en va hangs in space as an intentional fragment - inaccessible to the general film-goer or even the typical "show me what you've got -impress me" film buff. It is yet another example of the irrelevance of duration -once one has given one's acceptance to Rivette's particular universe, an unplotted 1/2 hour opus zips by just as his typically 3, 4 and even 12-hour works similarly compel attention.
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