22 February 2021

Jacques Rivette’s Paris nous appartient | Paris Belongs to Us (1961)

Paris nous appartient is Rivette's first feature and is something of a strange curiosity, being shot through by suicide or references to it, paranoia and general fear that doesn't seem to have a cause. This is set in 1957, when McCarthyism was at its height. Philip Kaufman (Daniel Crohem) has escaped from paranoid, witch-hunting America and fears that Gérard (Giani Esposito) will now be killed as the Spanish refugee Juan, who died before the film, is thought by some to have been killed, by others that he killed himself. Everything is unstable, although there is nothing to prove the validity of the characters' fears, which may well be only in their heads.

Anne Goupil (Betty Schneider), the sister of Pierre (François Maistre), is the main character in this unfathomable film, and is a student of Shakespeare. She at first meets a young Spanish woman in a room across from her, who speaks of the strange death of her brother, although she mysteriously disappears. Pierre takes her to a party where Philip is drunk and angry with Terry (Françoise Prévost), calling her responsible for Juan's death.

The next day Anne goes to a rehearsal of Shakespeare's Pericles, and Gérard (who was at the party) is the producer. She makes a kind of audition, although later (when there's serious interest in the play) she's dropped. But she's not bothered because she's more interested in what Philip has to say about Gérard being in danger.

Gérard kills himself in the end, although Anne doesn't know why. The film lasts for 140 minutes, which some think is far too long. I'm not too sure because, even though this is opaque stuff, it's quite fascinating, and in a sense sums up a particular time.

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