Julien lives alone with his cat. He dreams of Marie, and a few minutes later, he sees her on the street and makes a date. He asks her to move in with him, and she does. Her boyfriend is ...
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Julien lives alone with his cat. He dreams of Marie, and a few minutes later, he sees her on the street and makes a date. He asks her to move in with him, and she does. Her boyfriend is dead, the rest of her past a mystery. Although they quickly seem to fall in love, she sometimes pulls away suddenly from Julien, is distant, and spends the night in a hotel. She also dreads something imminent and warns Julien that if he missteps, he will lose her and all memory of her. Julien responds by digging into her past: what explains her remodeling an upstairs garret room, her nightly dreams, her fears? What can Julien, now desperately in love, do when he learns why? Can either rescue the other? Written by
Pas de deux, Pas de quatre: A Phenomenal Ghost Story
Jacques Rivette is one of the most under appreciated French film directors in history - and one of the most creative. He seems to dwell in a space known only to cinema, a world as changing, transparent, enigmatic, and transient as the camera's interplay with scenes and actors. His works do not fit into the expected mold of cinematic storytelling: his mind is far too fertile to follow roads previously taken. In 'Histoire de Marie et Julien' he suspends time (two and a half hours of it) to focus on the possibilities of the living and the dead and the planes of ambiguity incited by dreams. The story is less important than the questions it raises and the impact is powerful - if you just stay with him to the last frame.
Julien (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) is an antique clock restorer, living alone with his cat 'Nevermore', a man whose seemingly dull life is touched by his role as a blackmailer to a Madame X (Anne Brochet), a strangely beautiful woman with dark secrets contained in a doll, some documents, and a letter - all somehow in the hands of Julien. Julien meets Marie (Emmanuelle Béart), an ethereally beautiful woman who appears to be both present and not present, depending on the moment. Julien first dreams of his encounter with Marie (as does she) and then they actually meet. In no time Marie is moving into Julien's large and musty home, surrounded by clocks and other elements suggesting time. They have a passionate love life and fall in love. Julien shares his blackmailing project with Marie and Marie is the one who is 'the other woman' in delivering parcels to Madame X in return for cash installments. Madame X's dark secrets include the suicide of her sister Adrienne (Bettina Kee) who appears to Marie in what seems to be an established relationship of some sort. Marie's duplicitous nature becomes more apparent.
To tell more of this wondrous tale would destroy the slow unraveling of this mysterious love story: best it be seen by the viewers. All of the actors are extraordinarily fine. Rivette spends much of the movie with silences allowing the camera and actors to peruse the atmosphere, encouraging his characters to just interact with the clocks, the cat, the rooms, the parks, the mystery of that netherland of life after death. It is breathtakingly beautiful.
The DVD adds poignant interviews with both Rivette and Béart and for once the featurettes add tremendously to understanding this difficult film. Rivette shares with us that he initially wanted to make this film years ago with Leslie Caron and Albert Finney, but that because he wanted the story of the film to grow into telling itself during the filming, he could find no financial backers. Having just viewed the film it would be difficult to imagine the same story with a finer cast than we have here. An unforgettable experience. In French with English subtitles. Grady Harp
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