James R. Russo on Jacques Rivette

“Rivette’s film is multifaceted in its cinematic re-education of viewers. Céline and Julie Go Boating presents its audience with a vision of what is cinematically possible, filtered through a study of the rigidity of the forms of the past. This begins with issues of film length and respect for the audience. Rivette rejects the notion of the democratic principle whereby filmmakers are encouraged to continue making rehashes of the same ideologically nonsensical fluff, due to a history of filmgoers’ paying their money to see such films. The tradition of rigid adherence to the ninety-minute to two-hour time frame, enforced by the laws of free-market capitalism, is exploded by Rivette. As a maker of films of epic duration, he refuses to confine himself to these arbitrary lengths, or to the even more arbitrary, if unspoken, rules about demands on subject matter and mise-en-scène. Instead, Rivette extends the lengths of his films to a point beyond necessity, where it is understood that the film’s length, in and of itself, is a statement about the system the director works in and rebels against.

Rivette furthers this impression by seemingly wasting the first twenty minutes of Céline and Julie Go Boating extending the opening chase beyond any narrative obligation. He has thus expressed his belief in the ideal cinema as one of ordeal: namely, a cinema that challenges its viewers to break through mainstream, middlebrow notions of narrative and cinematic technique, into a wider view of acceptable filmic topics and methods. Céline and Julie works off this premise, challenging its viewers with the relatively sparse narrative in its opening sequences in order to prepare them for the breakthrough of the film’s second half, in which the pleasures of storytelling are superbly-at times, whimsically-explored.”

— James R. Russo (via)