Director: Jacques Rivette
Year Released: 1971
Numbing, punishing 'ode' to post-'68 France by master masturbator Jacques Rivette is one of the longest films ever made (though divided into eight 'episodes') and, unfortunately, an exercise in tedium. It starts out dubiously, with two theatre troupes rehearsing two different plays - Seven Against Thebes and Prometheus Bound - by crawling, rolling around the floor and making faces for hours (oh, acting programs, how you revel in the inane!) before shifting focus slightly to two conspiracy nuts in search of a 'secret society': Colin (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a hustler who pretends he's deaf and Frédérique (Juliet Berto), a thief. What other filmmakers would probably find trivial, Rivette revels in and lingers on to the point where scenes ended and I wasn't entirely sure what was being discussed or why - to compound matters, the editing can be a bit jarring, with this mammoth picture jumping wildly from 'storyline' to 'storyline,' 'character' to 'character.' Unlike Fassbinder's equally daunting Berlin Alexanderplatz, it lacks a strong core collection of constantly evolving (and unbelievably fascinating) individuals: had I not taken notes, I would have easily gotten lost as to who the marginal figures are. Some are convinced that its extreme length and defiantly obtuse nature make it a masterpiece, but for me this movie gives the game away when a character in the final episode says, "The thing is a big joke, this ... this fondness for plots, bizarre connections." Well played, Monsieur Rivette.