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With: Emmanuelle Beart, Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Anne Brochet
Written by: Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette
Directed by: Jacques Rivette
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 150
Date: 09/10/2003

The Story of Marie and Julien (2003)

4 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This latest film by French master filmmaker Jacques Rivette neverreceived a theatrical release in America, possibly due to the poor wordof mouth that began to rumble among those who had seen it. However,whatever the skittish distributors or bored reviewers were afraid ofjust isn't here. The Story of Marie and Julien is one of Rivette's moststraightforward and intriguing works, and one of his most successfulnarratives.

Most of the story centers around three characters. A clocksmith, Julien (Jerzy Radziwilowicz), is blackmailing a mysterious woman called Madam X (Anne Brochet) for unknown reasons. At the same time, Julien reconnects with a beautiful woman, Marie (Emmanuelle Beart, La Belle Noiseuse) he met once at a party. The two fall in love and she moves into his huge, creaky, rambling house. Rivette follows them through their daily routines, fixing clocks, eating, sleeping, making love, etc. -- while things get increasingly weird. Marie experiences strange, distant moments during which she stares into space or murmurs unusual verses.

I wish I could discuss the merits of the entire film without giving away the ending, but most of the pleasure of seeing this film comes from watching it unwind. Needless to say, Rivette handles his film with a classic mastery, moving with a surefooted grace and patience through this romantic, slightly tense landscape. It's interesting to note that Rivette was an early defender of Hitchcock in the 1950s. He had attempted a mainstream thriller once before, Secret Defense, with less satisfying results, whereas The Story of Marie and Julien -- which bears several Hitchcockian trademarks, including the much-discussed "MacGuffin" -- succeeds. It may even be a good entry point for first-time viewers unfamiliar with Rivette's serene style.

DVD Details: Koch Lorber's 2005 DVD comes with a 15-minute on-camera interview with the lovely Ms. Beart and a 40-minute on-camera interview with Rivette, as well as the original French trailer and trailers for several other Koch Lorber releases.

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