Cast & Crew
While attending a party on the Left Bank in Paris, student Anne Goupil overhears a discussion of the mysterious suicide of Juan, a young Spaniard. Later she meets Gérard Lenz, a theatrical director, and Philip Kaufman, an American victim of McCarthyism. Philip tells her that Juan died because he had learned the secret of a worldwide conspiracy; Gérard also knows the secret and will be the next victim. Hoping to save Gérard's life by remaining near him, Anne takes a part in a play he is directing. Her further efforts to unravel the mystery lead her to Terry, the former mistress of all three men. Terry admits that she learned the secret from Philip and confided it to both Juan and Gérard. Anne fails to save Gérard, and after Gérard's suicide, Philip is revealed as a paranoiac who, suffering from an old war wound, invented the story of the worldwide organization. Anne realizes that the deaths of Juan and Gérard are attributable not to any conspiracy, but rather to the motivations of their own lives.
Jean Marie Robain
Monique Le Poirier
Paris Belongs to Us
Rivette favored the long form, with some of his films running well over three hours and Out 1 (1971), his sprawling, multi-character study in acting and the theatrical process, clocks in at almost thirteen hours. Although his work shared some of the characteristics which defined the work of his contemporaries, including a background in film criticism, the use of notable French actors (among them Jean-Claude Brialy, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Michel Piccoli) and a raw, handmade scripting and shooting style, his work existed outside the jump cuts of Godard and the literary melancholy of Truffaut's lush adaptations. There was no one quite like Rivette.
Paris Belongs to Us was his first feature and arrived almost five years after his short Le coup de berger (1956), a comedy which he scripted with fellow critic Chabrol and his soon-to-be cinematographer Charles L. Bitsch. Paris was a hotbed of intellectual discussion and production, a city where aspiring artists lived and breathed film, literature, theatre and criticism. The French New Wave was on the cusp of taking world cinema by storm, with Truffaut, Godard and Left Bank filmmakers like Resnais and Varda working with diligence, passion and speed to shoot while the celluloid was hot. Rivette took his time.
The film's plot is not simple, nor is it exactly complex. Perhaps "vague" is the descriptive best suited, though I prefer film historian Richard Neupert's use of "casual," to describe both the story and the filmmaking style.
At times, the plot feels nonexistent, as the film picks up with a young girl fairly new to Paris and follows her as she falls into rehearsals for a play, stumbles upon an odd plot to murder artists and tries--halfheartedly, almost like an after-thought--to get to the bottom of things. There's a strong emphasis on theatrical rehearsals, with one of the main characters--a theater director trying to launch his adaptation of Pericles--struggling with noncommittal actors, financial woes, and a missing musical score which becomes a McGuffin of sorts and drifts in and out of the story like a specter.
Rivette shot in the streets, in cramped apartments, on rooftops and around fountains, but he keeps the Paris of our Hollywood fantasies concealed, instead favoring the anonymous street corner, the undecorated apartment, the tree line of an unnamed park. And yet, the city, nearly devoid of life, continues to creep in with a Twilight Zone-esque feeling of dread and despair.
In his insightful interview on Criterion's release of the film, Neupert notes that Rivette's scripting process sprang from a loose improvisational style that was written down by a script girl in real time and then rehashed and discovered while rehearsing. This gives the film its meandering, "casual" style but made the editing process a living hell.
The first viewing isn't an easy one, but once its style and pace have been accepted, the film invites a second visit. Its photography has a lived-in, beautiful quality that speaks to the artist finding his voice with the camera. One of the first shots--a floating camera lingering across balconies before moving through a window and settling on our young protagonist in her apartment--reminded me of a particular shot in the opening of Wings of Desire (1987). I began to ponder that as the camera takes on the angel's perspective as it coasts through Berlin, here it lingers in streets and dark rooms, but with an eerie and unsettling presence that lends the film a sense of dread and despair.
As his career evolved, Rivette let the takes run longer, allowing the camera to capture actors enmeshed in process. As his running times grew, so did his treatment of the artistic process itself, with La belle noiseuse, a dazzling meditation on art, life and inspiration, arriving to great acclaim in 1991.
With Paris Belongs to Us, Rivette captured Paris in a way that still stands out among his contemporaries. Everyone imagines the city where she lives as her city. It's a collage of one's memories, experiences and ambitions, woven into the tapestry of those who came before in search of something similar, of those who continue to search and of those who will come, as long as the streets beckon wandering souls. Yours is just a moment among millions in the story of a place. The beginning of the film quotes Péguy, the poet who claimed that Paris belonged to no one. Neither did Rivette.
By Thomas Davant
Paris Belongs to Us
Opened in Paris in June 1960 as Paris nous appartient; running time: 140 min. Also known as Paris Is Ours.
Released in United States 1960
Released in United States 1996
Jacques Rivette's feature directorial debut.
The shorter 120 minute version was distributed in the French provinces.
Began shooting in 1957.
The film took a long time to complete because money kept running out, until finally Chabrol and Truffaut, because of their recent found success, helped Rivette get his completion money.
Released in United States 1960
Released in United States 1960 (Premiered in Paris late 1960.)
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in Nwe York City (Anthology Film Archives) as part of program "Rivettians - The Films of Jacques Rivette" November 15 - December 15, 1996.)