Rare Jacques Rivette comes to the Film Center this week



Bulle and Pascale Ogier play the game of Paris in Le Pont du Nord
  • Bulle and Pascale Ogier play the game of Paris in Le Pont du Nord
Last summer the Gene Siskel Film Center presented a new print of Celine and Julie Go Boating, perhaps the most beloved movie by French director Jacques Rivette. This week the Siskel will present one of Rivette's lesser-known films, Le Pont du Nord (1981), also from a new print. If you're unfamiliar with Rivette—likely the most challenging of all the French New Wave directors—this may be a good place to start. Reader emeritus Jonathan Rosenbaum argued as much in the early 80s, calling the film "a quixotic fairy tale" that hearkens back to the conspiratorial plots of Rivette's earlier films while advancing a lighter, even fairy-tale tone. Pont du Nord, he wrote, "leads from such enchanted moments as Baptiste (Pascale Ogier) putting her capsized motorbike out of its misery—cutting a wire to stop its motor the way that a cowboy shoots his wounded horse . . . ending up in such fantasy realms as Baptiste's weird, 'naturalistic confrontations with a spider's web spun out of a fiberglass sprayer and [a] children's slide perceived as a dragon (which, incidentally exhales fire)." (This quote comes from a chapter of Rosenbaum's Film: The Front Line, which is reprinted on his website.)

Conspiracy and fantasy are constant elements in Rivette's films, which advance a cryptic logic that's intentionally difficult to crack. The director constructed Pont du Nord like a game, laying out a set of rules for the production—for example, he decided the film would be shot entirely outdoors—and filling it with all sorts of tantalizing parallels—like casting real-life mother and daughter Bulle and Pascale Ogier in the lead roles. The film's most frequently discussed detail is a map of Paris made to resemble a game board a la Chutes and Ladders. It's a Rivettean image of the world transformed.

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