Lynch, Rivette, and the interpretation of their films

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Awesome Welles
Joined: Fri Apr 27, 2007 6:02 am
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#1 Post by Awesome Welles » Mon Sep 03, 2007 10:44 am

I recently watched Celine and Julie go Boating. Whilst I enjoyed it very much, I feel there are many ways of interpreting the film and yet I really don't want to. I don't want to think about the film I don't want to rewatch it so I can analyse it. I feel this way about David Lynch films. With Lynch I feel there is no definite explanation and so I allow myself to experience the film, I try not to let my mind wander into the analysis of images or words or events, I watch the film and how I feel at the moment I watch it and how I feel when the credits roll are they way I measure the film rather than to say it was a well put together story, good dialogue, shooting style etc.

I don't know if this is how anyone else prefers to view films (of Lynch, Rivette et al), bearing in mind this is my first Rivette film I wonder whether anyone else feels this way about certain films or of Rivette/Lynch or anyone else?

I know some people can't stand to not understand a film and become very frustrated but watching and rewatching Lynch's films I am certain that there is nothing to 'get'. I don't think he constructs his films with any particular analytical end in mind. He is incredibly aware of psychological interpretations and plays with them this leads me to believe that they are not to be interpreted.

I am not familiar with any of Rivette's other work, is his other work similar to Celine and Julie? I have a copy of Paris nous appertient at my library it seems like a good next step, any other advisable steps into his work?

David Ehrenstein
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#2 Post by David Ehrenstein » Mon Sep 03, 2007 12:25 pm

Rivette's films are quite open-ended in terms of "meaning" as its conventionally understood. Celine et Julie vont en bateau is the most obviously playful of his works -- being a complete flat-out comedy.

The title by the way is a pun in that vont en bateau means to "send-up" or satirize something -- which the film surely does in terms of the Victorian mystery that the heroines find themselves exploring. And then at the end they literally go boating.

Don't forget the film has an alternate English title: Phantom Ladies Over Paris.

Lynch is quite simple a very late surrealist. Like Blue Velvet, Wild at Heartand Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire is a kind of waking dream -- and should be understood as such.

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Michael Kerpan
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#3 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 03, 2007 1:44 pm

With both Rivette (and his Japanese disciple, seemingly -- Kiyoshi Kurosawa) I prefer to drift along with what I'm shown (and hear) -- rather than trying to figure the films out (if that is possible -- which I suspect it is not).

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Awesome Welles
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#4 Post by Awesome Welles » Mon Sep 03, 2007 3:45 pm

Thanks for your comments. I became aware of the double meaning of the title of 'Go Boating' after I had seen the film. Once they went boating I was wondering what other significance it had as it did seem like there was more to it. Thankfully at least some of the word puns were not lost in the translation due to the great subtitling by the BFI (clover/clever).

I know what you mean Michael it is very difficult to ignore your analytical senses at times. I had this trouble with Inland Empire at first, but after a while let it wash over me.

I'm not too familiar with Kiyoshi Kurosawa's work, any recommendations for a starting point?

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Michael Kerpan
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#5 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Sep 03, 2007 4:39 pm

FSimeoni wrote:I know what you mean Michael it is very difficult to ignore your analytical senses at times. I had this trouble with Inland Empire at first, but after a while let it wash over me.
My devotion to screen captures these days might be due to my discomfort with attempting to reduce my thoughts about films to words.
I'm not too familiar with Kiyoshi Kurosawa's work, any recommendations for a starting point?
His early "Cure" is generally recommended as a starting point -- but I have avoided this because it seems to violent. I would say that "Charisma" and "Bright Future" might give you a good feel for how he tends to work.

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Tommaso
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#6 Post by Tommaso » Mon Sep 03, 2007 4:48 pm

"Celine and Julie" is certainly one of Rivette's most famous works, and like its two follow-ups (wrong word), "Duelle" and "Noroit", it defies 'definite' interpretations. But most of his later works do not pose these interpretative difficulties, I think, and are certainly not comparable with what Lynch does in this respect (when I first saw "Mulholland Drive", I was very much reminded of "Celine and Julie", though). I tend to view Rivette more and more as a disciple of Renoir in a way, in their common obsession with theatricality, and with transforming the seemingly real into something 'fantastic'. What Rivette shares with Lynch, though, is a sense of how to move characters around, how to 'organize' the mise en scene in such a way that the images themselves become enchantments. I guess if you like "Celine and Julie", the two films I mentioned should appeal very much to you, if you can live with the unsubbed French dvds of them. Otherwise, "The story of Marie and Julien" would be my next recommendation (the third film of the cycle started with "Duelle", but made thirty years later).

As to Lynch: Isn't is perhaps too easy to call Lynch "simply a very late surrealist"? His films might enduce dream-like states, but the moniker 'surrealism' always carries the feeling for me that it is not (much) more than just a game, and thus need not interpreted at all. I see no sense in interpreting Lynch till the films are dead, but neither would I opt for the contrary, as that seems to me an all too easy way out. Simple dream-like states and playfulness cannot account for the deep sense of uneasiness that his films often produce, and that I do not have with, say, Dulac, Man Ray, Clair's "Entracte" or even "Chien Andalou".

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#7 Post by David Ehrenstein » Mon Sep 03, 2007 6:33 pm

Well to be it's more than just a game. Especially as Lynch deals with sexuality as dread -- a major surrealist obsession.

I also find he has many things in common with that most signal of American surrealists, Joseph Cornell.

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david hare
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#8 Post by david hare » Mon Sep 03, 2007 9:14 pm

Certainly Cornell's Rose Hobart would make a very attractive double with either Inland Empire or Mulholland Dr but I do think the "surrealist" moniker for him is a shade too prescriptive.

For one thing, I find his movies formally like assemblages, much like his boxes. Even Rose which functions partly through exclusion really works as a cumulative meditation on the actress in motion. And some of his other works, including my favorites Carousel Animal Opera and Jack's Dream have a distinctly linear or circular descriptive "narrative. Carousel, which I just love to death is a powerfully moving work celebrating the connectedness of all life. Carsten has remarked elsewhere about Cornell, and I entirely agree, his movies are outstanding for their "purity" and the absolute simplicity of their subjects and expression.

Far from Lynch and Jacques, much as I love them.

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Steven H
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#9 Post by Steven H » Mon Sep 03, 2007 10:09 pm

They (Lynch, Cornell, Svankmajer) all have that "through the looking glass" feel, where a dreamlike assemblage of artifacts from "real life" become monstrous and strange (Paprika is a good, recent, example of this, though I wasn't terribly fond of it.) Rivette seems less purposefully surreal, and more self-conscious of how cinema is decidedly unreal on its own, through editing and staging. When I think of Celine and Julie, it feels to me like a Resnais made ghost film with a sense of humor. His work is not really in any time or place, and also isn't exceedingly macabre like so many surrealists.

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justeleblanc
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#10 Post by justeleblanc » Mon Sep 03, 2007 11:05 pm

Actually, I would recommend LA BELLE NOISEUSE next. In some respects, it's a very different side to Rivette, but I think you'll find the juxtoposition of both films will be something to behold.

Another follower of Rivette's is Lars von Trier. Besides the more generic similarities of using film as an essay about the creative process, or the chronic casting of females leads in "woman-child" roles, both oeuvres have striking similar effects on me, mostly involving a natural high and level of obsession rarely experienced.

Strange off topic question, but does anyone know anything about Rivette's personal life? Preferably his love life?

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Tommaso
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#11 Post by Tommaso » Tue Sep 04, 2007 6:05 am

Steven H wrote:They (Lynch, Cornell, Svankmajer) all have that "through the looking glass" feel, where a dreamlike assemblage of artifacts from "real life" become monstrous and strange
Very well said, but don't forget the Quay Brothers in that list. Their films have such a unique way of making visible what is going on in their characters' minds or in their dreams, of completely transforming reality so that it shows what it really IS, that I'm always amazed when I see it. The images in "Benjamenta" are very close in places to what Lynch did in "Eraserhead".
justeleblanc wrote:Strange off topic question, but does anyone know anything about Rivette's personal life? Preferably his love life?
There's very little known about Rivette, apart from that famous nervous breakdown he underwent in the late 70s. He seems to be such a reticent, almost humble man whenever I see him in an interview, and this aura of quietness around him seems to add to his mystique, without ever appearing as something 'contrived'. No idea about his love life, then, but he is one of the very best directors of women (and almost all of his films centre around female characters), so I guess that he knows a lot about them. But here again there's a lot of reticence: "Marie and Julien" is his first film ever to contain a sex scene, and he was 75 when he made that film. Admittedly, the earlier "La belle noiseuse" is one of the greatest explorations of eroticism I ever saw, though.

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