French actress Camille (Jeanne Balibar) has returned to Paris after three years to appear in an Italian play written and directed by her lover Ugo (Sergio Castellitto). Old passion is reignited when Camille contacts her ex-boyfriend Pierre (Jacques Bonaffe), who is now married to ballet teacher Sonia (Marianne Basler). While Ugo is searching for a lost manuscript by 18th century Italian playwright Goldoni he meets sexy student Do (Helene De Fougerroles) who offers to help him. Do's possessive half-brother Arthur (Bruno Todeschini) is a disreputable character seeking an affair with Sonia.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
At 154 minutes Va Savior clocks in as one of Jacques Rivette's shorter films. The last of his features to receive a commercial release here, La Belle Noiseuse (1991), ran 239 minutes and the Gallic veteran likes to keep his audience for three hours as a rule. At 74, Rivette may be one the elder statesman of cinema but, like Robert Altman, he has the energy, skill and a love of the form that puts most filmmakers half his age to shame. Filmed in a Paris so intimate it seems like a cosy little village in the countryside, Va Savior gives us half a dozen wonderful characters whose coupling, uncoupling and potential coupling provides a delightful and hugely entertaining jaunt around the topics of love, life and art. The play Camille and Ugo are appearing in is Pirandello's As You Desire Me - an apt description of what happens over the course of two and a half witty, intelligent and supremely performed hours. Va Savior has the touch of a master who may not have anything left to prove but still wants to impress. He does that with the help of a superb ensemble cast and a sense of humour that's never far from the surface even when the emitional temperature hots up. The title translates as Who Knows? Indeed. Rivette and his players know that exploring the unanswerable is where the fun and riches lie. Anyone who treasures precisely tuned direction and meaningful dialogue will agree.
Review by Jake Wilson:
Few things could give me more pleasure than the appearance of a new Jacques Rivette film (especially since most of them don't get released in Australia). Admittedly, by Rivette's standards Va Savoir is relatively conventional - a polite bourgeois art movie, letting us spend time with attractive members of the cultured middle-class. Yet alongside the elegance there's a subtle craziness at work, a vertigo that springs from the impossible lightness of Rivette's storytelling, like a gossamer bridge spun over a void. Here as elsewhere, Rivette operates by a kind of narrative rule-of-thumb, using a couple of alluring objects (a manuscript, a ring) as counters to keep the plot going. Beyond this, it's hard to say what, if anything, the film is 'about.' Love, acting, jealousy? Yes, but I'd argue that Va Savoir's secret theme is (very simply) bodily gesture. On the one hand, the amply stylised motions of dance or theatre; on the other, the small-scale caresses and feints that mark out the ever-shifting relationships between lovers, ex-lovers, rivals, siblings. Above all, the film takes shape around the bodily idiolect of Jeanne Balibar - her graceful fidgeting, her trick of wrapping her arms round her bony shoulders, her clownish pouts and telegraphed astonishment. Freely adapting the techniques of Hollywood, Rivette intentionally treats Balibar as a glamorous movie star, rather than locking her into a solidly conceived fiction. Indeed, as a screen personality Balibar shares something with the classic heroines of Hollywood screwball comedies, such as Carole Lombard or Claudette Colbert. Like them, she effortlessly conveys both physical elan and weary sophistication - a kind of practical amusement at her own femininity. Rivette shows his cinephile colours most overtly in a wordless scene where Balibar escapes from a locked room; the staging has a magic lack of fuss, as if to reinvent the adventure film from scratch. It sums up one side of the art this great director has been refining for forty years: a marvellous yet wholly down-to-earth game, making the simplest actions seem part of the essence of cinema.
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VA SAVOIR (PG)
CAST: Jeanne Balibar, Sergio Castellitto, Marianne Basler, Jacques Bonnaffé, Hélène de Fougerolles
PRODUCER: Pierre Grise
DIRECTOR: Jacques Rivette
SCRIPT: Jacques Rivette, Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Luigi Pirandello (play)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: William Lubtchansky
EDITOR: Nicole Lubtchansky
MUSIC: not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Manu de Chauvigny
RUNNING TIME: 154 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 18, 2002 (Sydney/Melbourne; other states to follow)