Paris Belongs to Us
Paris nous appartient
1961, 141 min., B&W, Blu-ray projection source, new restoration
One of the original critics-turned-filmmakers who helped jump-start the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette began shooting his debut feature in 1958, well before that cinema revolution officially kicked off with “The 400 Blows” and “Breathless.” Ultimately released in 1961, the rich and mysterious “Paris Belongs to Us” offers some of the radical flavor that would define the movement, with a particularly Rivettian twist. The film follows a young literature student (Betty Schneider) who befriends the members of a loose-knit group of twentysomethings in Paris, united by the apparent suicide of an acquaintance. Suffused with a lingering post–World War II disillusionment (and already evincing the playfulness and fascination with theatrical performance and conspiracy that would become hallmarks for the director), “Paris Belongs to Us” marked the provocative start to a brilliant directorial career.
“Jacques Rivette made his first feature with little money and great difficulty between 1958 and 1960,” says The New Yorker’s Richard Brody of “Paris Belongs to Us.” “Its plot reflects his struggles, and its tone blends the paranoid tension of American film noir with the austere lyricism of modern theatre. Rivette’s tightly wound images turn the ornate architecture of Paris into a labyrinth of intimate entanglements and apocalyptic menace.” The Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum adds: “Though more amateurish than the other celebrated first features of the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette’s troubled and troubling 1960 account of Parisians in the late 50s remains the most intellectually and philosophically mature, and one of the most beautiful. The specter of world-wide conspiracy and impending apocalypse haunts the characters. Few films have more effectively captured a period and milieu; Rivette evokes bohemian paranoia and sleepless nights in tiny one-room flats, along with the fragrant, youthful idealism conveyed by the film's title.”