Secret Défense – Jacques Rivette

Secret Defense Poster

Life is often about the shifting between what we know about reality, and the movie we spin out of those facts.

I’ve written before on how movies certainly have clout over the decisions we make in life. Start with the simple decision of what movies you wish to watch; that choice has certainly been influenced by previous films. Then think of how those films have shaped you, or your idea of loving. How crucial a decision?

So when you go see a film by a French director, one whose stories usually center around the French film notion of love and its caprices, and you are told that it is based on Vertigo, one of the most compelling films about films, you have to wonder how the two will clash: one is a narrative rooted in a traditional realism (people, love, etc) , the other is a purely filmic narrative construction with no rooting in real-life. You have to ask yourself: will there be dancing? Will there be the sublime feeling of longing in love wrapped around the sublime feeling of longing a movie-life? And if it is a failure, will it be a double tragedy of real-life and constructed-life both letting us down?

No, this is not a failure. It’s not successful in the sense where it is rewarding and enriching, but it does reward and it does enrich some.

Jarmusch lingers, thus flattens, because it corresponds with his sense of humour: deeply self-aware. Van Sant does so because Tarr does. And Tarr does because he contemplates a damage that is real, beyond the story. But when Rivette flattens, it is to enhance the artifice, to breathe life into a story that is inescapably a movie.

So yes, we do have a murder here, yes we do have a twin replacing the murdered Vertigo-like, and we do have vindictive motives and further murders. But only as incidental details of a life. Incidentally, details that are movie-like. The real anchors here are: the family of servants who 20 years later still work at the family manor, the insisting ex-lover/friend whom our main character repeatedly turns down, the routine of a job, the mourning of a dead sister, the sexual affairs with secretaries, …

And there is a painfully long sequence where we see our character travel from A to B. Hum.

Oh, that Rivette. I wish I could run into him on the train one day. Maybe one day, as I step back and forth between the routine of my daily commute and the excitement of my movie-life.

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Categories: Notes

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