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With: Bulle Ogier, Pascale Ogier, Pierre Clémenti, Jean-François Stévenin
Written by: Bulle Ogier, Pascale Ogier, Suzanne Schiffman, Jacques Rivette, Jérôme Prieur
Directed by: Jacques Rivette
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 129
Date: 10/07/1981

Le Pont du Nord (1981)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Paris Belongs to No One

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jacques Rivette's Le Pont du Nord is a minor work in the career of a great filmmaker, one of the seminal members of the French New Wave. It features a woman, Marie (Bulle Ogier), who is recently released from prison and returns to Paris, but does not wish to go indoors, at all, not even a train or a car. She has a minor collision with a motorcycle rider, Baptiste (Pascale Ogier, Bulle's daughter), and from then on the two women are inseparable. Marie wishes to meet her lover, Julien (Pierre Clémenti), who is in the middle of some kind of mysterious deal involving a briefcase. A man (Jean-François Stévenin) occasionally appears to be following them. Baptiste is a kind of conspiracy theorist, and believes that people are parts of a secret spy organization.

At some point, Rivette's best movies (Celine and Julie Go Boating, La Belle Noiseuse, etc.) take off and become meditative experiences, allowing viewers to get lost and ponder the meaning of life, but Le Pont du Nord never really takes off. The mystery plot keeps weighing things down; Rivette alludes to plot twists and things that demand to be uncovered, even though we know they will not be. Moreover, the claustrophobia theme constantly weighs things down; we keep wondering where Marie will sleep, or when she will eventually give up and go inside. These thoughts more or less keep the viewer pinned down, rather than allowing him or her to go exploring.

But of course, Rivette is, like I said, one of the great filmmakers, and it's a pure pleasure watching the way he composes and sustains shots here. I'm glad I saw it. Kino Lorber has released the movie on Blu-ray, and it's a bit of a shame that, as of now, this is the only Rivette film currently available in high-def in America. It's not a particularly good place for newcomers to start, but hopefully, viewers can keep and open mind and remember that this is only a taste of greater things to come. The disc includes a 14-minute visual essay, a 12-minute image essay (consisting of stills), and a 14-page liner notes booklet.

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