Jacques Rivette was a French filmmaker known for his innovative and challenging works that often blurred the lines between reality and fiction
Rivette was a visionary filmmaker who challenged traditional cinematic conventions and pushed the boundaries of what was possible in film.
His works are complex and challenging, but they are also deeply rewarding for those who are willing to engage with them.
Best Jacques Rivette Films
Let’s look at the best films by Jacques Rivette.
1. La Belle Noiseuse (1991)
“La Belle Noiseuse” is a 1991 French drama film directed by Jacques Rivette, based on the short story “The Unknown Masterpiece” by Honoré de Balzac.
The film follows the story of a reclusive painter, Edouard Frenhofer (played by Michel Piccoli), who invites a young artist’s model, Marianne (played by Emmanuelle Béart), to pose for him as he attempts to complete his masterpiece, which he has been working on for years.
The film is notable for its slow pacing and meditative tone, as well as its exploration of the creative process and the relationship between artist and model.
It also features several extended sequences of the painting process, showcasing the intricate and laborious work of the artist. The film was critically acclaimed upon its release, with particular praise given to the performances of Piccoli and Béart.
“La Belle Noiseuse” is considered one of Rivette’s most accomplished films and has been cited as a masterpiece of French cinema. It is a rich and contemplative exploration of art, creativity, and the human condition, and has been praised for its visual beauty and philosophical depth.
2. Paris Belongs to Us (1961)
“Paris Belongs to Us” is a French film directed by Jacques Rivette and released in 1961. The film tells the story of a young woman named Anne who becomes involved in a group of bohemian artists and intellectuals in Paris.
As Anne becomes more deeply involved with the group, she begins to unravel a mystery involving a missing playwright and a conspiracy to suppress his work.
The film is notable for its exploration of themes such as paranoia, political disillusionment, and the struggle for artistic freedom. It also features a number of references to the political and cultural climate of the time, including the Algerian War and the rise of the Beat Generation.
“Paris Belongs to Us” was a critical success upon its release, and is considered an important early work in the French New Wave movement.
The film’s innovative storytelling techniques, non-linear narrative structure, and use of improvisation were influential in shaping the style of subsequent New Wave films.
3. The Nun (1966)
“The Nun” is a French drama film directed by Jacques Rivette and released in 1966. The film is based on the novel “La Religieuse” by Denis Diderot, and tells the story of a young woman named Suzanne Simonin who is forced into a convent against her will.
The film explores themes of power, sexuality, and the struggle for freedom, as Suzanne tries to navigate the strict rules and regulations of the convent while facing abuse and exploitation at the hands of the other nuns.
The story is set in 18th century France and provides a powerful critique of the Catholic Church and the social institutions that oppressed women at the time.
“The Nun” is known for its striking visuals and haunting soundtrack, as well as its powerful performances by a talented cast of actors, including Anna Karina in the lead role of Suzanne.
The film was controversial upon its release, with some critics accusing it of being anti-Catholic or sexually explicit, but it has since been recognized as a masterpiece of French cinema and a landmark of the French New Wave movement.
One notable aspect of the film is its use of long takes and minimal editing, which creates a sense of realism and intimacy between the viewer and the characters.
The film also features a number of symbolic motifs and recurring images, such as the use of mirrors and reflections, which add to the film’s dreamlike and surrealist quality.
4. L’amour fou (1969)
“L’amour fou” is a 1969 French documentary film directed by Jacques Rivette, which explores the romantic and artistic relationship between the famous French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé.
The film offers a unique and intimate look into the couple’s personal and professional lives, and chronicles the creation of Saint Laurent’s 1969 fashion collection, which was inspired by the Russian Ballet.
The film is notable for its unconventional structure, as it weaves together interviews with Saint Laurent, Bergé, and other figures in their social circle, along with footage of the couple’s daily lives and scenes from the fashion collection’s creation.
The film also features a powerful and evocative soundtrack, which heightens the emotional impact of the film.
Overall, “L’amour fou” is a deeply personal and moving film that offers a unique look into the life and work of one of the most iconic fashion designers of the 20th century, and his relationship with his partner.
The film is a testament to the enduring power of love and artistic collaboration, and is a must-see for fans of fashion, art, and cinema.
5. Out 1 (1971)
“Out 1” is a 1971 French film directed by Jacques Rivette, and it is considered one of the most innovative and challenging films in the history of cinema. The film has a runtime of nearly 13 hours, and it was initially released in two parts, “Out 1: Spectre” and “Out 1: Noli Me Tangere.”
The film follows two theater troupes as they rehearse different plays in Paris. The characters become embroiled in a complex web of conspiracy and mystery as they attempt to decipher a series of cryptic messages and clues.
The film is a labyrinthine exploration of politics, philosophy, art, and identity, and it requires a significant investment of time and attention from the viewer.
“Out 1” is notable for its unconventional narrative structure and its use of improvisation and experimentation.
The film features extended sequences of dialogue and performance, as well as moments of silence and reflection. The film’s themes and characters are complex and multifaceted, and the film rewards repeated viewings and deep engagement.
“Out 1” is an ambitious and challenging film that represents the best of the French New Wave and the experimental filmmaking of the 1970s. It is a landmark of cinematic history and a must-see for cinephiles who are interested in exploring the boundaries of the art form.
6. Out 1: Spectre (1972)
“Out 1: Spectre” (1972) is a French film directed by Jacques Rivette. The film is a 12-hour long epic that follows a group of artists, performers, and bohemians as they become embroiled in a complex and mysterious conspiracy.
The film is notable for its experimental structure and its use of improvisation. The story is loosely structured around two theater troupes, each of which is rehearsing a different play.
As the story unfolds, the characters become involved in a series of interconnected events that suggest the existence of a larger conspiracy.
Rivette’s direction is characteristically innovative, with long takes and a loose, improvisational style that creates a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability. The film is also notable for its use of location shooting, which gives the story a sense of realism and immediacy.
Despite its length, “Out 1: Spectre” is a compelling and engaging work that rewards careful attention and engagement.
The film is a meditation on the nature of art and creativity, and it challenges the viewer to consider the ways in which the creative process can intersect with the larger world. Overall, “Out 1: Spectre” is a masterpiece of experimental cinema and a landmark work of the French New Wave.
7. Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)
“Celine and Julie Go Boating” is a 1974 French film directed by Jacques Rivette, and written by Rivette, Juliet Berto, Dominique Labourier, and Eduardo de Gregorio.
The film follows the story of two young women, Celine and Julie (played by Berto and Labourier), who become increasingly involved in a surreal and mysterious world of magic, memory, and time travel.
The film is known for its playful, experimental approach to storytelling, as well as its exploration of the nature of storytelling and the relationship between art and reality.
It also features elements of the fantastic, including a haunted house and a time loop, which contribute to its dreamlike atmosphere. The film was praised for its inventive storytelling and its strong performances by Berto and Labourier.
“Celine and Julie Go Boating” is considered one of Rivette’s most acclaimed films, and has been cited as a seminal work of the French New Wave movement.
It is a fascinating and multi-layered exploration of memory, identity, and the power of imagination, and has been praised for its playful and innovative approach to narrative.
8. Noroît (une vengeance) (1976)
“Noroît” is a French film directed by Jacques Rivette and released in 1976. The film is also known as “Noroit: Revenge of the Pirate” in English.
The film is set on a remote island where a group of pirates, led by the charismatic Morag, live a hedonistic and violent existence. When one of Morag’s former crewmates arrives on the island seeking revenge for a past betrayal, tensions escalate and the group is thrown into turmoil.
“Noroît” is notable for its experimental approach to genre filmmaking, blending elements of the pirate adventure and revenge thriller genres with avant-garde aesthetics and techniques.
The film features extended periods of improvisation and experimentation with sound and image, and its nonlinear narrative structure can be challenging for some viewers.
The film received mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising its bold experimentation and others criticizing its sometimes obtuse storytelling.
Despite its mixed critical reception, “Noroît” has gained a cult following among fans of avant-garde cinema and experimental film.
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9. Duelle (1976)
“Duelle” is a French fantasy film directed by Jacques Rivette and released in 1976. The film tells the story of a group of supernatural beings who are locked in a battle for a magical gemstone that will allow them to return to their home world.
The film is notable for its experimental storytelling techniques, dreamlike atmosphere, and complex themes of desire, power, and mortality.
It features a talented cast of actors, including Juliet Berto, Bulle Ogier, and Jean-Pierre Léaud, who bring the film’s otherworldly characters to life.
“Duelle” is also known for its unique visual style, which blends elements of film noir, science fiction, and the supernatural to create a distinct and unforgettable cinematic experience. The film features stunning cinematography, intricate set design, and a haunting electronic score by composer Jean-Pierre Drouet.
One notable aspect of “Duelle” is its use of improvisation and experimentation during the filmmaking process. Rivette encouraged his actors to improvise their lines and actions, which gave the film a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability.
He also made extensive use of non-linear narrative techniques, which allowed him to explore the film’s themes of time, memory, and illusion in a more complex and layered way.
While “Duelle” was not a commercial success upon its release, it has since gained a cult following among fans of experimental cinema and the French New Wave movement. It remains a visually stunning and thematically rich exploration of the mysterious and otherworldly.
10. Merry-Go-Round (1980)
“Merry-Go-Round” is a 1980 French film directed by Jacques Rivette. The film tells the story of a young woman named Lena who travels to Paris to investigate the disappearance of her friend, who was last seen with Lena’s ex-lover, a man named Paul.
Lena becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue and danger as she searches for her friend and navigates the complex relationships of the people she encounters.
The film is notable for its dreamlike atmosphere, which is created through its use of long takes and slow pacing. The film’s languid pace and meandering plot create a sense of unease and disorientation, which is heightened by its surreal imagery and haunting soundtrack.
The film also features an impressive cast, including Maria Schneider, Joe Dallesandro, and Danièle Gégauff.
Overall, “Merry-Go-Round” is a complex and enigmatic film that offers a unique and unforgettable viewing experience. The film is a meditation on identity, memory, and the elusive nature of truth, and is a must-see for fans of experimental cinema and art-house films.
3 Characteristics of Jacques Rivette Films
Jacques Rivette was a French film director and a key figure of the French New Wave movement. His films were known for their experimental and improvisational style, their focus on character-driven narratives, and their exploration of complex relationships and themes. Here are three characteristics that are common in many of his films:
Long Takes and Extended Scenes: Rivette was known for his use of long takes and extended scenes, which allowed his characters to develop and interact in natural and authentic ways. These extended scenes often had a sense of improvisation, giving the actors space to explore their characters and build a sense of authenticity.
Narrative Complexity: Rivette’s films often had complex narratives that involved intricate plotlines and a large cast of characters. His films were known for their slow, methodical pacing, with events unfolding gradually over time. This narrative complexity added a sense of depth and nuance to his films, creating a rich and immersive cinematic experience.
Focus on Performance and Character: Rivette’s films were known for their focus on performance and character, with his actors often given the space to explore their roles in depth. He often worked with the same actors multiple times, developing a sense of trust and collaboration that allowed for powerful and nuanced performances. This focus on character added a sense of psychological depth to his films, allowing his characters to feel fully realized and three-dimensional.
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Jacques Rivette Films
Jacques Rivette was a visionary filmmaker known for his experimental and innovative works that challenged traditional cinematic conventions. Here are three reasons why you should watch his films:
Rivette’s films are deeply intellectual and thought-provoking: Rivette’s films often deal with complex themes such as art, identity, and the nature of reality. His works are not just entertaining, but also intellectually stimulating, challenging the viewer to think deeply and engage with the ideas presented.
Rivette’s films are visually stunning: Rivette was a master of visual storytelling, and his films feature beautiful cinematography, intricate staging, and complex camera movements. His use of long takes and improvisation creates a sense of spontaneity and authenticity, immersing the viewer in the story and the characters.
Rivette’s films are deeply influential: Rivette was a key figure in the French New Wave, a movement that revolutionized the way films were made and perceived. His innovative approach to filmmaking influenced a whole generation of filmmakers and continues to inspire filmmakers to this day.
Overall, Jacques Rivette’s films are challenging, thought-provoking, and visually stunning works that reward careful attention and engagement. His innovative approach to filmmaking has had a lasting impact on the medium, and his films remain essential viewing for anyone interested in cinema as an art form.
Best Jacques Rivette Films – Wrapping Up
Here are some of the best Jacques Rivette films:
Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)
La Belle Noiseuse (1991)
Paris Belongs to Us (1961)
L’amour fou (1969)
Out 1 (1971)
The Gang of Four (1989)
Jeanne la Pucelle (1994)
Va savoir (2001)
Le Pont du Nord (1981)
These films showcase Rivette’s unique and innovative approach to cinema, which often involves complex, multi-layered narratives and a deep interest in the creative process.
They also demonstrate his ability to explore a wide range of themes, from the nature of storytelling to the struggles of young adulthood. Rivette was a true iconoclast of French cinema, and his films continue to inspire and challenge viewers to this day.
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