When I was in London last week I had the chance to see Jacques Rivette's latest film Around a Small Mountain (36 vues du Pic Saint Loup 2009) at the London International Film Festival. It's nice to still have the ability to see a new film by Rivette, he's 81 years old after all. I've long had a peculiar affection for Rivette, even though I haven't seen all that many of his films. This is just my sixth. (The fact that he's written one of the best articles on Howard Hawks naturally makes me even more favourable towards him.)
Around a Small Mountain stars Jane Birkin and Serge Castellitti and is set at a circus. She's at the circus, he's just passing by, helping her when her car breaks down. She offer him free tickets for the show, he decides to go, and then he stays, trying, much as he did with her car, to fix everything that's wrong. It's very leisurely shot, and although it touches on themes such as death, guilt and betrayal, it's light on it's feet. It has a weird off-handedness to it, I was about to say that it has a liquid feel to it, if I was sure I know what I meant by that.
Rivette is the kind of filmmaker who is always playing games, not least with the audience, and the films often revolve around artists and actors, of some sort. The films are also rather mysterious, not to say enigmatic. This one is rather straightforward though, at least until the end, when it's trying to reach a closure which takes an unexpected form.
The most beautiful and most fully realised of the six films I've seen is La belle noiseuse (1991). It has the same leisurely pace and lingering shots as Around a Small Mountain, but it's much more interesting and poetic. It's just a painter painting a painting of a woman, and still the film is four hours long. It's just one of the greatest films I've ever seen, for its pure beauty. Céline and Julie vont en bateau (1974) is also a magnificent movie, but for very different reasons. But it's to complicated to discuss here and now. It's a movie I will be returning to. As is Rivette. The knowledge that there are so many films still out there that he's made, and I haven't seen, is a joy.