Duelle ★★★★★

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 light and shadow: a film about the nature of illusion. And so these gods of cinema create endless illusions, conspiracies, seductions, games of hide and seek, and merely because they wish to become mortal. The humans can't compete, perhaps because they know what it is to touch, feel, and live without power. "I was wrong to think I could battle the two of you as equals." Yet in the films final moments, suddenly the sound of the streets and the world outside return as though a miracle. And so Rivette has illustrated that "two and two no longer equal four, all walls collapse." not necessarily in the world of cinema, but in the world as it exists.

A side note: I was reading an interview with Straub taken after production of Class Relations and he tells us his direction to William Lubtchansky. "Light it the way you lit Duelle." There is a connection even greater than lighting, I think (though interestingly a year after Class Relations, Rivette would shoot Wuthering Heights with Renato Berta, Straub's go-to cameraman!)" in that both Duelle and Othon open and close with street noises, emphasizing our reality in contrast to the myths we have just seen. But in Othon, the Straub's use that to create a dialectic between the myths of Ancient Rome and the mid-20th Century. In Duelle, Rivette rather creates a dialectic between the 20th Century and the myth of the 20th century itself: the cinema.