Inventory: Jacques Rivette

Ten years ago I bought tickets to see Rivette’s Out 1 over two days in New York, having only previously watched his The Nun (on cable I think, or VHS). In preparation for the big event I watched the three Rivette movies I could most quickly get my hands on, from the early 1960’s to the late 90’s, giving me a weird sense of his cinema. And after Out 1, I was in love, resolving to watch every Rivette movie.

I suppose I completed this goal two years ago when Spectre came out on DVD, coming full circle from the Out 1-initiated quest. But I’ve been meaning to watch his three-part Renoir documentary. And I’d like to see the extended version of Joan The Maid. And three early shorts are being restored and will hopefully come out on video next year. And I wanted to rewatch Lumière and Company. And his 1980’s and 90’s features are playing U.S. theaters this year, so one can dream of a blu-ray box set. And rewatching Duelle and Noroît in HD last week gave me a new appreciation and understanding of them, so I should rewatch more of the movies.

This is the kind of thinking that keeps me from wrapping up these little completism projects I set myself and starting new ones. It’s not like I’m closing the door on Rivette, just rounding up some first passes at his work. Anyway, some of these I know are masterpieces, some I wasn’t fond of, and all I’d like to watch again. I cleaned up some of the posts linked below, but the Out 1 entry remains a sprawling mess – after watching it for what I assumed would be the only time, I wanted to map out every person and scene, because I knew I wouldn’t forget the overall experience but knew I would forget half the scenes and character names pretty soon.

Rivette, on why ranking the films is ill-advised:

One always speaks of films as if they were absolutes; yet we always see them in particular circumstance, be it only because of the different projection conditions of each theatre. All that matters enormously. So, it often happens that I see a film I know has objective value and yet sit through it absolutely bored even though I know, at the moment I’m watching it, that I will find it remarkable if I watch it again in three months time; and vice versa.

The Films:

1956 – Le Coup du Berger
1961 – Paris Nous Appartient
1966 – The Nun
1969 – L’Amour Fou
1971 – Out 1
1972 – Out 1: Spectre
1974 – Celine and Julie Go Boating
1976 – Duelle
1976 РNorǫt
1981 – Merry-Go-Round
1981 – Le Pont du Nord and Paris s’en va
1984 – Love on the Ground
1985 – Hurlevent
1989 – Gang of Four
1990 – Jacques Rivette, Le veilleur
1991 – La Belle Noiseuse / Divertimento
1994 – Joan the Maid
1995 – Up, Down, Fragile
1998 – Secret Defense
2001 – Va Savoir
2003 – Histoire de Marie et Julien
2007 – Don’t Touch the Axe
2009 – Around a Small Mountain

Other Works, more or less related:

Aux quatre coins / Le quadrille / Le divertissement (1949-1952)
Bérénice (1954, Eric Rohmer)
Une Visite (1955, Truffaut)
La sonate à Kreutzer (1956, Rohmer)
Chronicle of a Summer (1961, Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin)
Cinéastes de notre temps: La nouvelle vague par elle-même (1964)
Jean Renoir, le patron (1967)
Piege (1968, Jacques Baratier)
Les Idoles (1968, Marc’o)
Surreal Estate (1976, Eduardo de Gregorio)
Every Revolution is a Throw of the Dice (1977, Straub/Huillet)
La mémoire courte (1979, Eduardo de Gregorio)
The Third Generation (1979, Rainer Fassbinder)
Serge Daney: Journey of a Cine-Son (1992)
Lumière and Company (1995)
Small Cuts (2003, Pascal Bonitzer)
Mysteries of Paris: Out 1 Revisited (2015)


Rivette in 1981:

I have on occasion seen films on television at friends’ homes, and since I’m not used to it, I’ve always had the impression that I was not watching the film, that I was seeing something else, a reflection … television is great for a second viewing, but not for discovering a film.

Rivette in 2007:

Films today have a completely different life with DVD, which I think is the greatest … that’s practically the only way I watch films anymore.


Rivette, on wanting to be a filmmaker after reading Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast diaries: “Cinema was a place where things happened, where one debated with people, where one invented and tried things, whether they worked or not.”

I detest the formulation “a film by”. A film is always by at least fifteen people. I don’t like “réalisation” very much either, which seems to me very portentous, maybe because its root is “reality.” Mise en scène is a rapport with the actors, and the communal work is set with the first shot. What’s important for me in a film is that it be alive, that it be imbued with presence, which is basically the same thing. And that this presence, inscribed within the film, possesses a form of magic. There’s something profoundly mysterious in this. It’s an alchemy that one procures, or does not … It’s a collective work, but one wherein there’s a secret, too. For that matter, the actor has his secrets as well — of which the director is the spectator.