(Visual) Quotes…, 3/19

This is something of a special installment of (Visual) Quotes of quotes of quotes of quotes: A small fleet of images from an unbelievably enthralling (and wonderfully inexplicable) film with mise en scène by Jacques Rivette, 1976’s “Noroît.” I’m not yet sure where to place “Noroît” in my personal list of favorites by Rivette, but rest assured that it’s an undeniably ballsy work by an undeniably ballsy artist.

I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Part of the potency of Rivette’s films is how up-front they are about being both mysterious texts (something for the spectator to get lost in) and pure objects (something that enters the spectator’s world and produces considerable effects with its presence alone).

I wish I could say more about “Noroît” but, at the moment, I feel incapable of doing so. May this decorative labyrinth receive an American DVD release sooner rather than later.


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6 Responses to “(Visual) Quotes…, 3/19”

  1. D Ochiva Says:

    Noroit sounds at first like a film that shouldn’t work. But of course Rivette has somehow figured how to create large mysterious narratives out of what would be a cliched Pirates of the Brittany Coast costume drama in most any other filmmaker’s hands.
    Unconnected, hallucinatory scenes somehow built into a story that, something like an overtone, coheres elsewhere.

    • Dan Sullivan Says:

      One might even say that Rivette isn’t interested in storytelling at all; in his films, narrative often functions as a simple yet opaque system of laws to which his characters, objects and settings adhere while ceaselessly threatening to transgress it. In other words, Rivette is more concerned with reconsidering narrative than with telling a story. Compared to “Noroît,” his other key works of the 1970s—“Celine and Julie Go Boating,” “Duelle” and “Out 1”—are kind of straightforward (or at least coherent).

  2. D Ochiva Says:

    While Rivette is notoriously hermetic during his shoots (well, most of the time afterwords too), and much of his work employs improvised actions/dialogue, I still would have loved to have been the mouche on the wall listening in as he discussed the script with Eduardo de Gregorio.
    I think he does still employ story–his straight ahead admiration for Howard Hawks and other workman like directors gives a clue–but atom smashing his new script against Cyril Tourneur’s revenger work led to totally new results that we’re still trying to decipher.

    • Dan Sullivan Says:

      “Preminger believes first in mise en scène, the creation of a precise complex of sets and characters, a network of relationships, an architecture of connections, an animated complex that seems suspended in space. What tempts him, if not that fashioning of a piece of crystal for transparency with ambiguous reflections and clear, sharp lines or the rendering audible of particular chords unheard and rare, in which the inexplicable beauty of the modulation suddenly justifies the ensemble of the phrase? This is probably the definition of a certain kind of preciosity, but its supreme and most secret form, since it does not come from the sue of artifice, but from the determined and hazardous search for a note previously unheard; one can neither tire of hearing it, nor claim be deepening it to exhaust its enigma—the door to something beyond intellect, opening out on to the unknown.

      Such are the contingencies of mise en scène, and such the example that Preminger seems to offer, of a faith in the very practice of his art which enables him in another way to uncover his greatest depth.”

      From “The Essential,” Rivette’s review of Otto Preminger’s “Angel Face” and “Whirlpool” (http://www.dvdbeaver.com/rivette/OK/essential.html).

      Though earlier in the article Rivette says he prefers the “naïve” conceptions of cinema implied by the work “of Hawks, Hitchcock or Lang, who first believe in their themes and then build the strength of their art upon this conviction,” I nevertheless think this passage is Rivette writing retrospectively about the oeuvre he was soon to build.

  3. D Ochiva Says:

    Granted. And of course an intricate cat’s cradle of an explication from Rivette, as expected.
    I guess, however, that I still think he is fully within a more or less settled narrative, story tradition that is part and parcel of modern European thinking, however opaque it can get.
    Compared to the avant garde film movement in both European and American cinema–which he could have well turned to early in his career as that genre was taking off at that point in time–Rivette generates plenty of narrative, story, and character hooks to encourage you to sit through films of 3+ hours in length.
    If it weren’t for such real world connections, he wouldn’t have been able to find funding for any of his films, not that this has ever been easy for him.
    I think we can both agree he’s an exceptional theorist and critic of cinema, and one of the most intriguing minds to apply his intellectual discoveries to celluloid.

    • Dan Sullivan Says:

      Agreed. For me, the genius of Rivette is how he’s managed to have it both ways: throughout his career he’s revaluated (in the Nietzschean sense of “revaluation”) cinematic narration while simultaneously telling stories that, peculiar and overtly artificial as they may be, are extremely engrossing. I’ll cry a torrent of invisible tears if “36 Views from the Pic Saint-Loup” doesn’t play in or near Madison.

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