36 vues du Pic Saint Loup (Around a Small Mountain)

Time Out New York Project: Issue #732, October 8-14, 2009

[Author’s Note: This was an online-only capsule for Time Out’s 2009 New York Film Festival coverage.]

French New Wave staple Jacques Rivette’s shortest feature clocks in at 84 minutes, something of a surprise given the director’s penchant for lengthy, improv-heavy capriccios like Out 1 and La belle noiseuse. The film opens with a wordless sequence between Kate (Jane Birkin) and Vittorio (Sergio Castellitto): She’s a mysterious Parisian who’s just had a breakdown; he’s the Italian knight who rides (in growling sports car) to her rescue. It eventually comes out that Kate is returning to the one-ring traveling circus she abandoned many years before and Vittorio ingratiates himself with the troupe to discover the reasons why. Due to Rivette’s failing health, it’s been hinted that this deceptively lighthearted lark will be his last. The film does indeed have about it an air of summation, or at least of farewell, as if it were the bittersweet encore at a closing night performance. Rivette’s cinema—with its obsessive interest in actors and naturally occurring prosceniums—has always been indebted to the theater. Around a Small Mountain is his way of giving thanks and paying tribute before the curtain finally falls.—KU