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The Story of Marie and Julien

Jacques Rivette loves enigmas and conspiracies. The narratives of most of his films utilise one or more of these devices to propel the action, to produce some sense of wonderment and mystery about what is occurring between his characters. In The Story of Marie and Julien he starts his story slap bang in the middle of one such enigmatic moment. Julien dreams of Marie and no sooner having done so she re-appears. But Julien is blackmailing Madame X and Madame X’s sister has written an incriminating letter. Julien’s love for Marie becomes ever more physically passionate. (The love scenes advance from perfunctory, Marie staring straight at the ceiling, to very hot and sweaty indeed with little power games being played to add spice.) And in the meantime we are getting clues as to who the real Marie is and where this relationship might end.

While steeped in the history of the cinema, Rivette has one method of filming, the slow, steady, elegant, tracking shot and the medium length view. If a character has to walk across a room or to the end of the street, Rivette shows it all. In Marie and Julien he applies himself to the cinema’s great passions, stories of love and death, of ghosts, of vampires, of coincidences and mysterious conspiracies. He doesn’t bother filling you in with back story or character briefings. His films last long enough so that all may be revealed in the telling. But in this telling tale he leaves enough open to allow endless, joyful, speculation about the infinite possibilities of love.