High-rated movies with very few views. Suggestions are welcome.
Duelle (une quarantaine)
The Queen of the Night battles the Queen of the Sun over a magical diamond that will allow the winner to remain on Earth, specifically in modern day Paris.
For me, simply one of The Truly Great Movies. A work that starts out as ordinary and slowly inundates us into first a movie world and then a fantasy world, all while using documentary technique to keep us centered in the streets of Paris. The battle for the Fate of Earth isn't above us—it's right in front of us. Considered lesser Rivette in some circles, but its adoration and attachment to noir and B-movies is what elevates this beyond anything else for me. After all, what is closer to reality than things that are supposed to remain hidden in the shadows?
I was honored and delighted that Viola director Matías Piñeiro chose this film to discuss on The Cinephiliacs.
Giant turtle forever.
GOD this movie is incredible! What a masterpiece! I love it. It's so utterly inventive in every way possible that we forget that this is once again one of Rivette's worlds of masochistic torture. The Queen of the Sun and the Queen of the Moon descend down to Earth and try to manipulate everyone possible to get what they want. And they succeed by manipulating the most innocent. Nicole Garcia as Elsa/Jeanne, the working class girl, dies simply because she fell in love. It's a dark, tragic work, but ultimately an enlightening one as well. Because it's a movie that might just be about cinema itself. It's a movie literally about form and style, about mis-en-scene, about the interplay between…
How to describe such a towering work on first viewing? This is composition, this is sound, this is lighting, this is color, this is movement. God bless Jacques Rivette. He understands that everything is NOT beautiful, and to think so would be naive and stupid. However, he does understand (and make clear) that everything is expressive. An object, a wall, a shadow, a table, a hallway. It's incredible how he can suck us into his dreamscape, yet never leave the reality of the streets of Paris. He shows us how truly abstract the world in front of us really is. I genuinely don't think there is any director who was more creative. I already thought the movie was a masterpiece…
To laud a film as having a tangible presence or atmosphere is often hyperbole, cinema is projected light, but the very fact that formal elements of cinema are given literal bodies by Rivette and made to parade the streets of Paris is what makes this film so delightful. Light is a manipulative force, not only to what we as the audience can see in frame, but also to what paths the characters take and direction the narrative is given. This is, quite literally, a film about cinema, though it's masked within genre ideals and a mystery that takes place in the city where the art-form evolved. Few directors could ever be so conscious of what it is that makes a film; Rivette was one of them and his love for cinema will be known for as long as there are eyes to see what he created.
Cinema as a battle between darkness and light, this abstract concept made tangible in the form of two battling goddesses, each trapped within an eternal duel for life (and in a way, death). Their attempts at manipulating 'mortals' transform them into walking, talking tropes, artificial recreations of cinema's lurid past, genre archetypes reconfigured to act as masks for these individuals true identity. This artificiality breeds a certain malleability in the storytelling, not just from Rivette, but from the 'goddesses' themselves (as their masks constantly change), a comment not only on what cinema reflects about us as a people, but about the way image, mise-en-scene and movement can create meaning and emotion without context or truth. What makes this even more…
You know, I went back and forth wondering if we should pair this with Green Snake (or Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain) for this week's George Sanders, or Noroît and a pirate movie. We went with the pirates. I think that may have been the wrong choice.
Beautiful goddesses of the sun and moon obsessed with 1930’s and 40’s fashion duel for the possession of a man and a lost diamond. A fantasy-noir containing many of Jacques Rivette’s motifs and devices: Playful and childlike female leads, the inquisitive ingénue, noir shadings, pervasive identity and gender switches, mirrors, and mysticism. Set in a hidden underworld of Paris where fate is determined by forces beyond the characters comprehension or control. Rivette’s camera seems to float just above the ground using the existing naturalism to establish a sense of fantasy in a Paris where the time always seems to be just after midnight.
"I believe you were lured into a trap. The story was only a pretext."
Such a self-aware line could serve for a synopsis of any Rivette masterpiece, a category to which Duelle belongs. The film is an enigmatic marvel, inviting viewers to move through its fantasy with joy. The whimsical and welcoming tone collides with a truly mystical design to result in a participatory puzzle unlike anything I've ever seen.
Ironically, it is through a reworking of noir tropes that Rivette finds a perfect aesthetic for his singular tales of deception and paranoia. While some may find the film's playful approach to revisiting noir and the genre's penchant for fate-driven stories of fantastical proportions more commonplace than his typical blending…
Briefly discussed with Scott Nye, Aaron West, and Martin Kessler on Criterion Cast podcast:
I ❤️ Juliet Berto
Of the three Rivette films I have now seen, this is by far the best. Entrancing and mysterious, yet always engaging.
This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Compares interestingly with Le Pont du Nord, my other recent Rivette viewing. While LPdN's mystery is a conspiracy that dwarfs and threatens to consume its characters -- the film's locations, too, always relating back to a larger, labyrinthine city map -- the mystery in Duelle feels self-contained (and this in spite of its supernatural, cosmic content), Duelle's locations correspondingly self-contained, atomized. Instead of the pleasure of conspiracy, Duelle offers pleasures of costume (how are Berto's and Ogier's goddesses not to this day style icons?? Well, maybe they are; I'd be the last to know) and staging.
Of course, the goddess characters are just as shadowy as the figures in a Rivette conspiracy (the Maxes in LPdN, for instance). "Shadowy" here…
Rivette channeling Tourneur and his elegant mise-en-scene in which shadows are no less expressive than the characters. Haunting, sublime and magical.
O real duelo não são entre as deusas, filhas, princesas, etc. O confronto real do filme existe pelo filme, da música contra a imagem, do conteúdo contra a forma e do antes contra o depois.
A ballet where the elements of cinema play themselves, lights and shadows colliding and repelling against each other inside a fantasy wonderland so entrancing I dreamt the film awake. R.I.P. Rivette.
My canon. In (approximate) order of favorite films, not necessarily of best action sequences.
Trying to keep a relatively open…