Unfettered film fans in Los Angeles (and there is rumored to be a few of those flitting about) have the AFI Film Festival running through Sunday to occupy their schedules. But as retrospectives go, it’s hard to beat the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York, which is featuring an unbeatable one indeed, The Complete Jacques Rivette, which begins tomorrow night and runs through December 31. News like this may do little for those stuck in places other than New York and unable to attend fabulous events such as these, although there are a few Rivette films available on Netflix, including Gang of Four (1988), La Belle Noiseuse (1991), Secret Defense (1998), The Story of Marie and Julien (2003), Va Savoir (2000) and Wuthering Heights (1985). The availability of these titles will make you thankful for Netflix all over again, but the MOMI retrospective includes all of them PLUS lots of stuff still unavailable on DVD. If I were able to spend this holiday season in Astoria, New York, here are the tickets I’d buy:
Céline and Julie Go Boating(1974) (which is available on a region 2 PAL DVD.
Saturday, November 11, 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 12, 4:30 p.m.
Jean Renoir, The Boss (1967) Made for the series Les Cinéastes de notre temps, Rivette’s documentary portrait of the great director includes a conversation between Renoir and actor Michel Simon, who discuss The Rules of the Game.
Sunday, November 19, 2:00 p.m.
Up/Down/Fragile (1995) Rivette’s whimsical homage to MGM musicals.
Friday, November 24, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 25, 6:30 p.m.
L'Amour Fou (1968), which will be introduced by Chicago Reader film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum. “You emerge from it changed,” Rosenbaum once wrote of the film. “It’s a life experience as much as a film experience.”
Sunday, December 3, 4:30 p.m.
And if that’s not Rivette to keep you riveted, The House Next Door comes through again with a link to this wild 1998 interview with Rivette, conducted by Frederic Bonnaud and translated by Film Comment’s Kent Jones, in which the cranky elder statesman of les politiques des auteurs holds forth on various movies, directors and actors, particularly Sandrine Bonnaire in the director’s 1998 Secret Defense. The interview is structured as commentary on various film titles, and I can’t resist giving you just a taste:
On The Night of the Hunter: “The most seductive one-shot in the history of movies. What can you say? It's the greatest amateur film ever made.”
On Vincente Minnelli: “He was meticulous with the sets, the spaces, the light...but how much did he work with the actors? I loved Some Came Running (1958) when it came out, just like everybody else, but when I saw it again ten years ago I was taken aback: three great actors and they're working in a void, with no one watching them or listening to them from behind the camera.”
On Bunuel and That Obscure Object of Desire: “More than those of any other filmmaker, Buñuel's films gain the most on re-viewing. Not only do they not wear thin, they become increasingly mysterious, stronger and more precise… François and I saw El when it came out and we loved it. We were really struck by its Hitchcockian side, although Buñuel's obsessions and Hitchcock's obsessions were definitely not the same. But they both had the balls to make films out of the obsessions that they carried around with them every day of their lives.”
On Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me: “The craziest film in the history of cinema. I have no idea what happened, I have no idea what I saw, all I know is that I left the theater floating six feet above the ground.”
On Paul Verhoeven, Starship Troopers and Showgirls: Starship Troopers doesn't mock the American military or the clichés of war - that's just something Verhoeven says in interviews to appear politically correct. In fact, he loves clichés, and there's a comic strip side to Verhoeven, very close to Lichtenstein. And his bugs are wonderful and very funny, so much better than Spielberg's dinosaurs… But I prefer Showgirls (1995), one of the great American films of the last few years. It's Verhoeven's best American film and his most personal… Like every Verhoeven film, it's very unpleasant: it's about surviving in a world populated by assholes, and that's his philosophy. Of all the recent American films that were set in Las Vegas, Showgirls was the only one that was real - take my word for it, I who have never set foot in the place!”
Wait till you hear what he has to say about James Cameron and John Woo (not to mention Kate Winslet and Stanley Kubrick). The comments column for Matt Seitz’s post on this Rivette interview is well worth checking out, particularly Matt’s response to Rivette’s characterization of Kubrick. After reading the piece, you may feel like adding a comment of your own. Feel free to do so either there or below.
(Keith Uhlich has more on the retrospective from The House Next Door.)