Paris nous appartient (1961)

“Paris belongs to no-one”

‘Paris nous appartient’, directed by Jacques Rivette in 1961, is a French thriller set in the bohemian communities of Paris in the 1950s. Betty Schnieder plays Anne, a student who uncovers a plot to murder left-wing immigrants. She learns that Gérard Lenz, a theatrical director played by Giani Esposito is being targeted so she joins his theatre company and finds herself rehearsing to play a part in a low budget production of Shakespeare’s ‘Pericles’. The film works on parallel lines following the conspiracy and the production of the play, with neither leading where the audience expects. The conspiracy is, in many ways, a shaggy dog story, a prototype for Rivette’s later movie ‘Celine and Julie Go Boating’, whilst the play that is being rehearsed becomes a bizarre meditation on the rehearsal spaces and the conditions the actors are in. It’s a movie all about Paris and atmosphere, the characters drift from location to location, another example of the city being subverted as they climb on roofs or rehearse in hidden outside places. This all contributes to a sense of menace and unreality, entirely suited to the conspiracy narrative. In many ways this film is a forerunner not only of the New Wave movies of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, but also of the American post-Watergate strand of movies that included ‘Three Days of the Condor’, ‘The Parallax View’ and ‘All the President’s Men’. Rivette’s movie is intangible and enigmatic, at times frustrating, but its elliptical nature is entirely suited to the story he is telling, about a conspiracy that may, or may not., exist, and a Paris the is equally untouchable.

Would I recommend it? If you like ‘Celine and Julie Go Boating’, or the 1970s conspiracy thrillers, then this is an interesting counterpart. Watch in a double bill with ‘The Parallax View’

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