PARIS – French New Wave filmmaker Jacques Rivette died Friday at the age of 87. He was, like many of his New Wave collaborators, a film critic first and foremost, working at the eminent Cahiers du Cinéma. He A.D.’d with the likes of Jean Renoir and landed in the director’s seat in the sixties, an obviously tumultuous time in France that inspired many a filmmaker and a writer. Notable films by Rivette include, PARIS NOUS APPARTIENT, SUZANNE SIMONIN, LA RELIGIEUSE DE DIDEROT and L’AMOUR FOU. Other films that must be mentioned include LA BELLE NOISEUSE (1991) and NE TOUCHEZ PAS LA HACHE. He thus described cinema during an interview with French magazine Libération: “Film is an organic thing. It’s an organism like any body. Bodies are more or less harmonious, but what’s important is that they work. But this I mean, that they be autonomous, living, with their flaws and, ultimately, their ailments.” Like many, if not all of his nouvelle vague companions Rivette was an ardent fan of Hollywood cinema, particularly films by John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock and Nicholas Ray.
My favorite quote from Rivette is this one: “I’d like cinema to be an adventure for those who make it and, later, for those who’ll watch it.”
According to French filmmaker and screenwriter Pascal Bonitzer (he’s Agathe Bonitzer’s father) Rivette “was a very intuitive director.” He pushed Bonitzer to write a screenplay while the film was being shot. It gave the screenwriter an opportunity to be confronted to the actors, to the locations. According to Bonitzer, “Rivette did not want the texts to sink in too much with the actors. He created tension and danger on set, but it always remained funny because he was so charming. He talked very little about the past, the past did not interest him. He was all about the present and the next film to come.”
It’s amazing how closely linked cinephilia and filmmaking are in France. If you managed to study the entire history of French cinephilia you would clench in your fist every thread of every story that makes up the extraordinary adventure that is French filmmaking. And Jacques Rivette played a leading role in this.