Gang of Four (1988, Jacques Rivette)

Netflix says: “Art and life intertwine when four aspiring actresses study with a renowned film instructor in this acclaimed psychological drama … Assigned to analyze the play Double Infidelities, the women – who also happen to be roommates – soon find themselves caught up in a web of suspense and scandal as the script spills over into their offstage lives.”

EDIT: you know I’ve got a horrendous writeup when it opens with netflix’s envelope plot description… need to watch this again and update.

Half of this one takes place in Bulle Ogier’s theater, where the girls are practicing a play we never see performed, and I’m watching, all “ooh, that’s just like in Out 1 and Paris Nous Appartient” but I’m not really paying attention to the text of the play, so whether the Netflix blurb is accurate I cannot say. Then we’ve got a secret conspiracy, the train rides from Secret Defense (done very differently here, brief and abstract), a direct reference to La Belle Noiseuse, throw in Bulle and you’ve got Rivette 101.

The careful compositions and slow unveiling of story and character flow like a Rivette film, but otherwise I can’t say it was similar to his others that I’ve seen… the experience of watching them was very different. I guess it’d be most similar to Secret Defense.

Above: JR muse Bulle Ogier as a great actress turned acting instructor.

The titular four are Joyce, Anna, Claude and new roommate Lucia, who is replacing ex-roomie Cécile, who has started acting strangely and disappearing, caught up in her boyfriend’s criminal trial. In a mystical storm scene, Lucia finds some keys that Cécile has hidden in the apt., keys which could clear the boyfriend’s name while taking down someone powerful. Thomas is out to stop this at all costs, following each of the girls (mostly non-threateningly) and asking them questions, finally getting sometime-lesbian Claude to fall in love with him, gaining him access to the house so he can search for the keys. Cécile has also come back looking for the keys, and even Constance (Bulle Ogier) gets involved, getting arrested at the end for hiding Cécile’s boy after he escaped prison.

Some occasional Celine and Julie antics (see mock trial above). What movie has most in common with Out 1 is its split between the easily-summarized plot (above) and the theater scenes.

Irene Jacob of Red and Double Life of Veronique had a small part, as one of the actors I think.

Above: the Four, left to right:
Lucia – Inês de Medeiros – in movies by João César Monteiro and Pedro Costa
Joyce – Bernadette Giraud – later in Secret Defense and Joan of Arc 1
Claude – Laurence Côte – in Up Down Fragile, Thieves and Godard’s Nouvelle Vague
Anna – Fejria Deliba – in an Olivier Assayas movie

Cécile – Nathalie Richard – Up Down Fragile, 2 by Assayas, 2 by Haneke
“Thomas” – Benoît Régent – lead dude in Blue, died a month after Red opened
Constance – Bulle Ogier – of Out 1 and everything else

Jan 2024: watched again in lovely HD. No men onscreen for the first half hour, and you forget you’re watching an ’80s movie until the moment they appear. Bernadette nails the snooping cop in the head at end after he assaults Portuguese Lucia for the key they’ve been hiding. Not an improv movie like I half-remembered it, proper blocking and editing within scenes. My 2007 writeup is bad but Reverse Shot concurs that it “reeks of Rivette from the very outset… really, what could be more Rivette?”