Va savoir (2001)

6 06 2008

My first Rivette experience and I liked it a great deal. There’s more than enough elements to turn me off, such as the abundance of dialogue and the self-consciously “high-brow” attitude, but I think that Rivette rises above all of that. In a way, it is actually not completely unlike Assayas’ Late August, Early September. They share the same intellectual, coffee-talk type of characters who seem to never have to work. Again though, Rivette is above this and fleshes his characters out in spite of their over-talkative nature, not because of it.

Camille, an itinerant actress, and her theater director boyfriend, Ugo reach a rough patch in their relationship – artistically and romantically. Their tour stops in Paris, where Camille lived with her one-time lover, Pierre. She goes by for a visit only to find that he has moved on to Sonia. Ugo, on the other hand, is starting new relationships, as opposed to revisiting old ones. While searching for a lost play by Goldoni, he meets the much younger Dominique, whose half-brother is spending time with Sonia but only to snatch her jewels.

The above description does create implications that the film is one of these “full circle” connection stories along the lines of Magnolia, Short Cuts, and so on. Thankfully, it is not. Instead, the drama derives from the surrounding of our two principle characters, Camille and Ugo. The film is light enough in tone (in a good way) that the connections are never dramatic revelations, but rather unobtrusive progressions in certain relationships. Needless to say, it is a joy to watch the film unfold not only because the characters are portrayed so honestly but also because they are realized perfectly. To avoid a gush-fest, I’ll just say that Jeanne Balibar is definitely one of the best performers working in France right now, and leave it at that.

The cinematography, one of my biggest concern with Rivette, is actually quite fantastic. It’s not revolutionary or anything, but it is very impressive and yet somehow subdued. The very formal camera work does evoke somewhat of an Antonioni feel, though of course there is far too much dialogue in this film to make a straightforward comparison. Perhaps one could say it’s a bit like a screwball comedy envisioned by Antonioni. In fact, yeah that sounds quite good. It points out the two greatest strengths in Rivette’s characterization: honest and truthful even if it means being a little silly.