||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2011)|
1 March 1928
|Occupation||Film director, Film critic, theatrical director|
|Influenced by||Honoré de Balzac, Jacques Becker, Lewis Carroll, Jean Cocteau, Louis Feuillade, Alfred Hitchcock, Henri Langlois, Kenji Mizoguchi, Jean Renoir, William Shakespeare|
Jacques Rivette (French: [ʒak ʁivɛt]; born 1 March 1928) is a French film director, screenwriter and film critic. His best-known films include Celine and Julie Go Boating, La Belle Noiseuse and the rare thirteen-hour Out 1.
He was a member of the French New Wave, a group that included François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Éric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, who all began their careers as film critics at Cahiers du Cinéma in the 1950s and gained international recognition as film directors in the 1960s (though Rivette perhaps had greater success and recognition as a filmmaker in the 1970s). As a film critic, he expressed his admiration for popular American cinema, especially genre directors such as Robert Aldrich, Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchcock and Frank Tashlin. As a film director, he is known for using extended running times and loose narratives to explore the symbiosis and clash between reality and imagination. His films often combine the paranoid and conspiratorial crime stories of films by Louis Feuillade and Fritz Lang with the more carefree characters of the films of Jean Renoir and Howard Hawks.
Film critic Raphaël Bassan has said that Rivette is "the only filmmaker of the ex-New Wave—along with Godard—who keeps making truly personal work on the level of film, while his colleagues from the early days have long rejoined the ranks of the qualité française [mainstream French films]" Francois Truffaut said that the French New Wave happened because of Rivette, and Marc Chevrie has called Rivette "vaguely legendary but largely unknown."
Early life and film criticism 
Jacques Rivette was born in Rouen to Andre Rivette and Andree Amiard, a family "where everyone is a pharmacist". He was educated at the Lycée Pierre Corneille and briefly studied literature at the city's university before dropping out to become a filmmaker. Inspired by Jean Cocteau's book on the making of La Belle et la Bête, Rivette made his first short film, Aux Quatre Coins, in 1949. He took the film to Paris in the hope of being accepted into the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques, but failed his examination. In Paris, Rivette began frequenting Henri Langlois's Cinémathèque Française, where he befriended Éric Rohmer, Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Luc Moullet and other members of the French New Wave. Rivette joined the Ciné-Club du Quartier Latin, and in 1950 began to write film criticism for the Gazette du Cinéma, a small film journal he co-founded with Rohmer and Godard. During this time, he made two more short films, Le Quadrille (produced by and starring Godard) in 1950 and Le Divertissement in 1952.
Rivette began to write for Cahiers du Cinéma in 1952 with several other young critics whom he had met at the Cinémathèque and under the guidance of editor-in-chief André Bazin. Rivette championed American directors of the 1940s and 1950s, specifically the work of Howard Hawks, John Ford, Nicholas Ray, Robert Aldrich and Fritz Lang, as well as international directors such as Roberto Rossellini and Kenji Mizoguchi. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Rivette's writing was sometimes at odds with the philosophies of Bazin, such as a dismissal of realism and formalism that Bazin had championed in his film theories. Later in life he would reject the notion of the auteur theory, stating that "there is no auteur in films and that a film is something which preexists in its own right. It is only interesting if you have this feeling that the film preexists and that you are trying to reach it, to discover it, taking precautions to avoid spoiling it or deforming it."
During this period Rivette also found work as an assistant for Jacques Becker on the film Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and for Jean Renoir on the film French Cancan. He also worked on the early short films of his friends Truffaut and Godard, often as camera operator. With financial support from Claude Chabrol and French film producer Pierre Braunberger, Rivette made the 35mm short film Le Coup du Berger (Fool's Mate). Written by Rivette, Chabrol and cinematographer Charles Bitsch, the film is about a young girl who receives a mink coat from her lover and must hide it from her husband, with spoken commentary by Rivette describing the action like moves from a chess game. Godard, Truffaut and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze appear in the film, which was distributed by Braunberger in 1957. The making of Le Coup du berger inspired such directors as Truffaut, Alain Resnais and Claude Chabrol to make their first feature films.
In June 1963, Rivette was made editor in chief of Cahiers du cinéma after Eric Rohmer resigned. Rohmer, always a political conservative, was increasingly at odds with his left-leaning contributors. Under Rivette's leadership, Cahiers changed from an apolitical film magazine to a Marxist magazine that examined the relationship between politics and modern culture. He remained in this position until April 1965, after which he would devote himself entirely to directing films and theatrical productions.
1958-1966: Early film career 
In the late fifties, Rivette began work on his feature film debut, Paris nous appartient (Paris belongs to us). After having a script rejected by Roberto Rossellini in 1957, Rivette and collaborator Jean Gruault revised their story based on Rossellini's criticisms and wrote a new film. Using borrowed equipment, a loan of 80,000 francs from Cahiers du Cinéma and short ends of film stock provided by Chabrol, the film was shot without sound in the summer of 1958, then post-synched and edited in 1959. Rivette could not find a distributor until 1961 and it was neither a commercial nor critical success. Despite being the first of his friends to begin work on a feature film, he was the last of the core members of the French New Wave (Chabrol, Truffaut, Godard and Rohmer) to have his feature film debut distributed. At the 1959 Cannes Film Festival Truffaut and Chabrol decided to use their newfound success to help Rivette finish Paris belongs to us.
The labyrinthine plot of Paris belongs to us' tells the story of Anne (Betty Schneider), a young Parisian student who, while rehearsing for a production of Shakespeare's Pericles, has to deal with the sudden death of the play's composer, a missing tape recording of the play's musical score, a secret society seeking world domination, an eccentric American journalist who may or may not be the one making the entire film up as it happens, the suicide of the play's producer and the mysterious death of her brother. Chabrol, Godard, Jacques Demy, and Rivette all appear in minor roles.
Rivette's second feature film was The Nun (La Religieuse), based on the novel by Denis Diderot. After directing a stage version in 1963, Rivette and collaborator Gruault worked on the script for three years, having to rewrite it three times in order to get approval by the French censors. Finally completed in 1966, the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. But because of the subject matter the French Ministry of Information blocked the films release for over a year on moral grounds. The publicity helped turn it into Rivette's only hit film. It is considered Rivette's most conventional and accessible film.
The Nun stars Anna Karina as Suzanne Simonin, young French woman forced into a convent by her cruel family. After causing a scandal by refusing to take her vows at the strict convent, she is physically and psychologically tortured by both the nuns and her family. She attempts to persevere and escape from the convent all while dealing with her hateful mother, the empathetic mother superior of the convent, a usually absent lawyer, a lesbian nun and a sympathetic (but lustful) monk.
1968-1981: Middle film career 
His next film was L'amour fou (Mad Love) in 1968. Frustrated with the conventions of filmmaking, Rivette wanted to create an improvisational atmosphere in the making of the film. He disposed of a script, shot list or specific direction and instead experimented with scenarios and bringing groups of actors together to create a pure film. The film has several layers, including a theatrical group rehearsing a production of Jean Racine's Andromaque (which would be filmed by a camera crew), a TV documentary crew that filmed the making of the film/ stage production, and a fictional story about the relationship between the stage director (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) and his wife and lead actress (Bulle Ogier). The film ends with an hour long argument between Kalfon and Ogier where they completely destroy their apartment and its contents. Shot in both 35mm and 16mm, the 252-minute film received positive reviews, but was released to the public as a much less praised 2-hour version. The experimentation of this film directly lead to Rivette's next, far more ambitious film.
Invigorated by his new film-making techniques, Rivette invited over forty actors (including Jean-Pierre Leaud, Juliet Berto, Michael Lonsdale and Bulle Ogier) to each develop an improvised character for a new film without interacting with each other or given a specific plot. He then developed a basic structure for what would become Out 1. In April and May 1971, Rivette shot over 30 hours of 16mm footage as his cast improvised a story involving conspiracy theories and theatrical rehearsals.
Out 1 stars Jean-Pierre Leaud as Colin, a Parisian con-artist who pretends to be a deaf-mute in order to hustle money. He begins to receive strange, anonymous messages which reference Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark and Honoré de Balzac's Histoire des Treize (The Thirteen). Colin becomes obsessed with these messages and begins to believe that a real life utopian secret society, like the one described in Balzac's short story, exists and is contacting him. Thinking the messages contain coded instructions, Colin is led to a boutique. There he meets Frederique (Juliet Berto), a young thief with a habit of stealing mail. Together Colin and Frederique use some stolen letters to track down who they believe to be the secret group Thirteen. This leads them to a house by the sea where two different groups of actors are separately rehearsing for productions of Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound and Aeschylus's Seven Against Thebes.
Out 1 was shown only once in its 12 hour 40 minute original version, at Le Havre in September 1971. It was originally intended to be shown on television in 12 parts, but Rivette was unable to find a distributor for the film, and with help from Suzanne Schiffman spent over a year editing the original down to a 260-minute version called Out 1:Spectre, released in 1974. At its best, the film has received rave reviews and become a cult film, occasionally being shown at film festivals and retrospectives throughout the years.
After abandoning an adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera, Rivette made his most critically regarded film, Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Céline and Julie Go Boating/Céline and Julie Lose Their Minds). Rivette met with actresses and real life friends Juliet Berto and Dominique Labourier to develop two characters that they would like to play, then developed a plot and script with collaborator Eduardo de Gregorio. Unlike his previous two films, Rivette did not utilize improvisation during the filming, stating that the plot was carefully constructed ahead of time. Although the two titular characters do "go boating" in the film, aller en bateau is also French slang meaning "to be caught up in fiction" or "to be taken for a ride". Shot in five weeks during the summer of 1973, the film won the Special Prize of the Jury at the Locarno International Film Festival in 1974 and was an Official Selection at the 1974 New York Film Festival. It was produced by Barbet Schroeder and distributed by Schroeder and Eric Rohmer's company Films du Losange. In 1998, Entertainment Weekly ranked the film 99 in a list of the 100 greatest films ever made and David Thomson called it "the most innovative film since Citizen Kane".
Filled with references to such literature and films as Alice in Wonderland, Jean Cocteau and Marcel Proust, Celine and Julie Go Boating begins when Julie (Dominique Labourier), a librarian interested in the occult, notices Celine (Juliet Berto), a cabaret magician, drop her scarf and other objects as she frantically walks through the park. Julie retrieves the objects for Celine and they become fast friends, possibly even mystically bound. Together they begin to visit a mysterious "House of Fiction" where exactly the same melodrama (based on two short stories by Henry James) play out every day, accumulating with the murder of a young girl named Madlyn by the bizarre Camille (Bulle Ogier). Eventually Celine and Julie decide to rescue Madlyn and adopt the little girl in modern day Paris. On a boat in the real world, Celine, Julie and Madlyn pass by a boat filled with now frozen characters from the House of Fiction. The film ends full circle (but reversed), with Celine noticing a frantic Julie dropping objects in the park and chases after her.
Rivette then conceived and obtained funding for a series of four films called Scènes de la vie parallèle. With each film revolving around two female characters, Part 1 was to be a love story, Part 2 a fantasy, Part 3 an adventure and Part 4 a musical comedy. Rivette said that his intention for the film series was "to invent a new approach to film acting, where speech, pared down to essential phrases, precise formulae, would play the role of poetic punctuation. Neither a return to silent cinema nor a pantomime, nor choreography: something else, where the movements of the bodies, their counterpoint and inscription in the space of the screen, will be the basis of mise-en-scene." Rivette once again collaborated with Eduardo de Gregorio on the screenplays.
Rivette filmed Parts 2 and 3 of the series in quick succession in 1975. In Duelle (a play on words roughly translated as Twhylight), the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) battles the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) over a magical diamond that will allow the winner to remain on earth, specifically modern day Paris. In Noroît (another word play roughly translated as Nor'west), the pirate Morag (Geraldine Chaplin), seeks revenge against the pirate Giulia (Bernadette Lafont) for killing her brother. Noroît premiered in London in 1976, but was never distributed. Both films received mediocre reviews and caused problems for Rivette with the producer's of the series. Rivette then began filming Part 1 of the series, a love story starring Albert Finney and Leslie Caron. A few days into shooting Rivette suffered a nervous breakdown, and production of the series was abandoned. However Rivette's 2003 film The Story of Marie and Julien was loosely based on what would have been Part 1.
Rivette finished the business deal for the Scènes de la vie parallèle series with the unrelated film Merry-Go-Round. Rivette received word that Maria Schneider wanted to make a film with him and actor Joe Dallesandro, and Rivette accepted. Shot in 1978, but unreleased until 1981, the film is a detective story about a missing sister and a missing inheritance. Like his last two films, it received mediocre reviews.
In 1980 Rivette decided to return to his more improvisational style and remake Out 1. Bulle Ogier, the only original cast member available for the project, and her daughter Pascale Ogier worked with Rivette on the characters as Rivette had done 10 years earlier to develop the film. Along with co-screenwriter Suzanne Schiffman, they made the 30-minute short film Paris s'en va as a kind of sketch for the eventual feature Le Pont du Nord, which was distributed in 1982. Le Pont du Nord, like Celine and Julie Go Boating, stars Bulle and Pascale Ogier as two women who randomly meet and investigate a strange and surreal mystery together involving a strange package and several characters all named Max.
1984- present: Later film career 
Rivette's difficulties in securing financial backing for his films in the late 1970s helped to lead him to eventually begin a business partnership with Pierre Grise productions. The company would serve as a chief distributor and financier for all of Rivette's films through his most recent film, 36 Views from the Pic Saint-Loup. Their first film together, Love on the Ground, released in 1984, was another film about a theatrical group and the blur between fiction and reality. Geraldine Chaplin and Jane Birkin star as two members of a theatrical troupe that are invited to appear in a new play that closely resembles the real life of its director, played by Jean-Pierre Kalfon, and the mysterious disappearance of his wife.
Wanting to take a break from his experimental and complex style, Rivette next adapted Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Based on the first part of the novel and set in 1930s southern France, Hurlevent stars three unknown actors who were, unlike the William Wyler and Luis Buñuel versions, the correct ages for the characters they portrayed: Fabienne Babe as Catherine, Lucas Belvaux as Roch (Heathcliff), and Oliver Cruveiller as Catherine's brother William. This was the first film in years where Rivette did not use his usual troupe of actors and technicians. It was released in 1985.
In 1988 Rivette received critical acclaim for his film La Bande des quatre (Gang of Four), a film about four drama students and an all girl school who are each told a moral story about a friend in danger by a strange visitor whom they all encounter separately. While this is going on, the friends develop a vague conspiracy theory involving their teacher (Bulle Ogier). The film was entered into the 39th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won an Honourable Mention.
This film directly led to La Belle Noiseuse (The Beautiful Troublemaker), Rivette's most acclaimed film of his later career. Loosely based on the Balzac short story The Unknown Masterpiece, the film depicts the relationship between a reclusive and uninspired painter Frenhofer (Michel Piccoli), his wife and former model Liz (Jane Birkin) and his new model Marianne (Emmanuelle Béart) who rekindles his artistic inspiration. Both Liz and Marianne's boyfriend grow jealous of the relationship between artist and muse, but Marianne's presence compels Frenhofer to restart his long abandoned magnum opus painting La Belle Noiseuse. The four hour film famously shows in real time the progress of the painting, one brush stroke at a time (provided in hand close up by French abstract painter Bernard Dufour). The film won Rivette the Grand Prix at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival and his only César Award nomination for Best Director.
Rivette then made two back to back films about the life of Joan of Arc, Joan the Maiden, Part 1: The Battles, and Joan the Maiden, Part 2: The Prisons. More interested in Joan as a French political hero on Earth than Joan as a mystical saint in heaven, Rivette's films greatly differed from previous well-known interpretations of Joan from Carl Theodor Dreyer, Robert Bresson and Otto Preminger. Both films starred Sandrine Bonnaire as Joan and were released in 1994.
The next fifteen years would be another active period of Rivette's career, with such internationally acclaimed films as Up, Down, Fragile (1995), Top Secret (1998), Va savoir (2001), The Story of Marie and Julien (2003), Ne touchez pas la hache (2007) and 36 Views from the Pic Saint-Loup (2009).
He recently received some attention for the comment: "Cameron isn't evil, he's not an asshole like Spielberg. He wants to be the new De Mille. Unfortunately, he can't direct his way out of a paper bag."
Themes and style 
Rivette's films progress in unconventional ways—often following multiple plots that can be romantic, mysterious, and comic all at once and employing extensive improvisation—and are often extremely long (Out 1 lasts 13 hours, although a 4½ hour version was later produced).
Feature Films 
|1961||Paris Belongs to Us||Paris nous appartient||140 minutes||filming began in 1958|
|1966||The Nun||La Religieuse||140 minutes||released in 1967|
|1968||Mad Love||L'amour fou||252 minutes|
|1971||Out 1: Don't Touch Me||Out 1: Noli me tangere||750 minutes||official alternate cut: Out 1: Spectre (1972; 260 minutes)|
|1974||Celine and Julie Go Boating||Céline et Julie vont en bateau||192 minutes|
|1976||Duelle||Duelle (une quarantaine)||121 minutes||Part 2: Scènes de la vie parallèle / Les Filles du Feu / Scenes of a Parallel Life / Girls of Fire|
|1976||Noroît||Noroît (une vengeance)||145 minutes||Part 3: Scènes de la vie parallèle / Les Filles du Feu / Scenes of a Parallel Life / Girls of Fire|
|1978||Merry-Go-Round||Merry-Go-Round||157 minutes||released in 1981|
|1981||The North Bridge||Le Pont du Nord||131 minutes|
|1984||Love on the Ground||L'amour par terre||170 minutes|
|1985||Wuthering Heights||Hurlevent||130 minutes|
|1988||The Gang of Four||La Bande des quatre||140 minutes|
|1991||The Beautiful Troublemaker||La Belle Noiseuse||240 minutes||official alternate cut: La Belle Noiseuse: Divertimento (1991; 120 minutes)|
|1994||Joan the Maiden, Part 1: The Battles||Jeanne la Pucelle I: Les Batailles||160 minutes||Part 1 of 2|
|1994||Joan the Maiden, Part 2: The Prisons||Jeanne la Pucelle II: Les Prisons||176 minutes||Part 2 of 2|
|1995||Up, Down, Fragile||Haut bas fragile||169 minutes||Entered into the 19th Moscow International Film Festival.|
|1998||Top Secret||Secret défense||173 minutes|
|2001||Who Knows?||Va savoir||154 minutes||official alternate cut: Va savoir+ (2001; 225 minutes)|
|2003||The Story of Marie and Julien||Histoire de Marie et Julien||151 minutes||unofficially Part 1: Scènes de la vie parallèle / Les Filles du Feu / Scenes of a Parallel Life / Girls of Fire|
|2007||The Duchess of Langeais||Ne touchez pas la hache||137 minutes|
|2009||36 Views from the Pic Saint-Loup||36 vues du Pic Saint-Loup||84 minutes|
Short films and television work 
|1949||At the Four Corners||Aux quatre coins||20 minutes||lost|
|1950||The Quadrille||Le Quadrille||40 minutes||lost|
|1952||The Diversion||Le Divertissement||40 minutes|
|1956||Fool's Mate||Le Coup du berger||28 minutes|
|1967||Jean Renoir, The Master, Parts 1-3||Jean Renoir, le patron||261 minutes||episodes from the TV series Cinéastes de notre temps|
|1981||Paris Goes Away||Paris s'en va||25 minutes||Short film made as a rehearsal for Le Pont du Nord|
|1995||One of Ninon's Adventures||"Paris" Segment||1 minute||part of the omnibus film Lumiere and Company|
Alternative versions of his films 
In order to increase circulation, Rivette edited shorter versions of several of his films with distended running times. The shorter cuts of "Out 1" (called "Spectre") and "La Belle noiseuse" (called "Divertimento") were pieced together from alternate takes. The short film "Paris s'en va" is a collection of re-edited footage from "Le Pont du Nord", during which we hear a narrator read the rules for a popular board game. "Paris s'en va" was made for the 1984 portmanteau film "Paris Seen By... 20 Years Later" though it was not included in the final film. Rivette edited a much longer cut of Va Savoir (called Va Savoir+) soon after its original release, though it is unclear if versions of this cut still exist. Similarly, shorter versions exist of "L'Amour fou", "L'Amour par terre" (127 minutes), and "Jeanne la pucelle", but it is currently unclear how much of a role Rivette played in creating these alternate cuts.
Home Video Availability 
Due to the rare nature of Rivette's works, many DVDs (such as the Region 1 Facets release of Jeanne la pucelle, and every DVD release globally of Va savoir) are of these alternate, shorter edits of his films. The complete version of his two-part film Jeanne la Pucelle was finally released by Artificial Eye on Region 2 DVD in the UK in 2009. New Yorker Films has announced an upcoming Blu-ray of Celine and Julie Go Boating will be released in 2012. The German company absolut MEDIEN has announced they will release the complete Out 1: Don't Touch Me with Spectre onto DVD in 2012.
- Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 2. The H. W. Wilson Company. 1988. 895-902.
- Morrey, Douglas and Smith, Alison. Jacques Rivette. Manchester University Press. 2009. p. 1.
- "Lycée Pierre Corneille de Rouen - History". Lgcorneille-lyc.spip.ac-rouen.fr. 1944-04-19. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- Morrey & Smith, pp. 12-13.
- Truffaut, François. The Films in My Life. New York: De Capo press. 1994. ISBN 0-306-80599-5. pp. 321.
- Saul Austerlitz (2003-01-24). "Jacques Rivette". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- Truffaut. pp. 320.
- Truffaut. pp. 323.
- Thomson, David. The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. Alfred A. Knopf. 2010. 827.
- Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Jacques Rivette: Texts and Interviews. BFI Publishing. 1983.
- "Berlinale: 1989 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 9 March 2011.
- "List of Most Famous Director on Director Insults". WorstPreviews.com. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- "Some Came Running: "Girls," circa 1974". Somecamerunning.typepad.com. 2012-04-20. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- Scott, A. O. "NY Times.com: Jacques Rivette". nytimes.com. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
- "19th Moscow International Film Festival (1995)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
- "Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)". Newyorkerfilms.com. Retrieved 2012-07-15.
- "absolut MEDIEN - Out 1 − Noli me tangere". Absolutmedien.de. Retrieved 2012-07-15.
Further reading 
- Jonathan Rosenbaum, ed. (1977) Jacques Rivette: Texts and Interviews; trans. by Amy Gateff and Tom Milne. London: BFI Publishing
- Hélène Frappat: Jacques Rivette, secret compris, Paris: Cahiers du Cinéma, 2001
- De Pascale, Goffredo, ed. (2003) Jacques Rivette, Milano: Il Castoro
- Douglas Morrey, Alison Smith: Jacques Rivette (French Film Directors), Manchester University Press, 2010.
- Mary Wiles: Jacques Rivette (Contemporary Film Directors), University of Illinois Press, 2012.
- Jacques Rivette at the Internet Movie Database
- jacques-rivette.com- a website devoted to Rivette's film and journalism careers
- Biography on newwavefilm.com
- sensesofcinema.com Great Directors article
- Jonathan Rosenbaum: Jacques Rivette [chapter from FILM: THE FRONT LINE 1983]
- (French) Edition de « De l'abjection » (1961) par Jacques Rivette, sur le site d'analyse L'oBservatoire (simple appareil).