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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • French PCM Mono
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with Richard Neupert, author of A History of the French New Wave Cinema
  • Jacques Rivette’s 1956 short film Le coup du berger, featuring cameos by fellow French New Wave directors Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and François Truffaut

Paris Belongs to Us

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Jacques Rivette
1961 | 141 Minutes | Licensor: MK2

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #802
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: March 8, 2016
Review Date: March 18, 2016

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SYNOPSIS

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 while also 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.

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Jacques Rivette finally appears in the Criterion Collection with Paris Belongs to Us, his debut film, coming to Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a new 2K restoration, scanned from the original camera negative.

It looks really good, the digital transfer itself looking pretty spectacular itself. Very filmic in look it renders the film’s grain cleanly and naturally without any noticeable artifacts, and delivers the sharp details, textures, and depth one would hope from the format. Contrast is pleasantly balanced, presenting cleanly rendered gray levels that blend smoothly and naturally while also delivering inky black levels.

The print has also been wonderfully cleaned up. Damage isn’t too big a concern, limited to some fine scratches but having said that there are times where it looks like the environment interfered and one can easily see, at times, dirt or hairs on the lens (pretty much all of chapter 6 for example) and they can sit there throughout the whole scene. There is also a sequence where English is spoken and the French subtitles have been burned in interestingly enough but I doubt these could have been removed as they are fairly large and take up a good section of the screen. Otherwise the print is in spectacular shape, and combined with the sharp transfer it’s a spectacular looking presentation.

9/10

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AUDIO

The French audio, delivered in lossless mono PCM, sounds fine enough, with clear dialogue and adequate music, but it’s a product of its age, lacking fidelity and range. But it sounds fairly clean and doesn’t present any noticeable issues.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

For their first Rivette title I was a little disappointed by the quantity of supplements they provided. I would have expected an extensive collection of material on the director and his work, but that’s not what we get surprisingly, so I’m hoping Criterion is saving up the material for other releases.

Still, despite this initial let down the material we do get is very strong. We first get an excellent interview with film scholar Richard Neupert who talks about the Rivette’s early career, this film, and how it set the basis for his work in terms of style and common themes. It’s only 25-minutes long but Neupert is a surprisingly energetic speaker who keeps the entire segment engaging, really laying out the groundwork for appreciating and understanding Rivette’s work. On this film he does actually do a fairly good job in deciphering the story, something most newcomers will surely appreciate, and he does openly address what does make the film so frustrating on initial viewings, but explains how this also adds to the appeal, at least to him. This is sadly the only real scholarly supplement (not counting the included insert) but it’s a really strong one and should prove invaluable to everyone coming to Rivette for the first time.

Criterion then includes a short film by Rivette, his 1956 film Le coup de berger, which runs 29-minutes. This was a pleasantly fun little film, Rivette’s style and sense of humour clearly showing through, as it follows a married woman carrying on an affair with another man. Her lover ends up getting her a fairly elaborate gift (a fur coat) but she’s unsure how to hide this gift from her husband. The two then come up with a fairly convoluted scheme and, unsurprisingly, things don’t really work out. I kind of saw where it was going but the punchline to the whole thing was still fairly funny (if a little mean spirited). It unfortunately hasn’t been restored, and the audio is a bit of a mess, but I’m still glad they included it.

The release then comes with an insert featuring an essay by Luc Sante, who writes about Rivette and the film, nicely accompanying Neupert’s feature and further helping in deciphering the film.

It took a long time for Criterion to release a Rivette film so I’m sort of surprised there wasn’t more of a “wow” in this release in the way of supplements. At the very least, though, the material we do get is very good and the release does work as a decent primer to the director’s work.

5/10

CLOSING

We get a stunning looking presentation for the film and, despite the fact the supplements are (surprisingly) slim, the release does offer a fairly solid introduction to the work of Jacques Rivette. For that, and the presentation, I give this release a fairly enthusiastic recommendation.


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