The Duchess of Langeais (Ne touchez pas la hache) (Rivette, 2008)


Jacque Rivette’s riveting power play between a French general (Guillaume Depardieu) and a Duchess (Jeanne Balibar) reveals a true mastery of the film medium, playing on facial expressions, passing glances, and sudden outbursts of emotion to portray a singular vision of love lost. The film deconstructs ideas of heroism, “prince charming”, and romantic expectation, while boldly painting a picture of human interaction at its most expressive and doubt-ridden. Their secret courtship evolves like a call and response number, each side noticing the other with increasing interest only to be anchored by the restraint of tradition and social cues. Yet both characters’ slow and debilitating fall from grace occurs in almost isolation, physically separated by a sordid stream of communication (or lack thereof) achieved through notes, kidnappings, and gossip. Most impressively, Guillaume Depardieu’s beautifully physical performance encapsulates a resentful guilt that personifies the disease of uneasiness and mistrust between lovers, no better represented than in Rivette’s final pan away from his tortured hero onto a cold, endless, silent ocean.

Blu-ray DVD: Terminator 2: Judgement Day

“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. On top of which the actress is awful, unwatchable, the most slovenly girl to appear on the screen in a long, long time. That’s why it’s been such a success with young girls, especially inhibited, slightly plump American girls who see the film over and over as if they were on a pilgrimage: they recognize themselves in her, and dream of falling into the arms of the gorgeous Leonardo.”

– Jacques Rivette on Titanic, during an interview found at Senses of Cinema

Quotes like these always get me riled up, not because I think Rivette is wrong (everyone is entitled to an opinion), but because the statement itself seems to resonate with purposeful and abrasive hyperbole uttered simply to make the interviewee feel superior. I definitely get the De Mille reference (Cameron can be a visual blowhard), but the “can’t direct himself out of a paper bag” line doesn’t add up in my book. Cameron is one of the few directors who can wonderfully balance epic action sequences and meaningful character development (see Terminator, Aliens, and T2), something few Hollywood directors are able to achieve. I even went back and watched T2 tonight just to make sure I wasn’t crazy (the film holds up as one of the best action films of all time). Even Titanic has its great moments as a doomed love story and brutal disaster film. Is Rivette only speaking about Titanic with these remarks, or Cameron’s filmography as a whole? And just for the record, why is Spielberg an asshole? Anyone out there able/willing to clarify, because this interview in particular reads as something akin to instinctual blabbering. And Jacques, Kate Winslet wants an apology.