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Jacques Rivette, Master of the French New Wave, Dies at 87

Jacques Rivette, Master of the French New Wave, Dies at 87

Jacques Rivette, the Cahiers du Cinema critic and director of “The Nun” (1966), “L’amour fou” (1969), “Celine and Julie Go Boating” (1974), Cannes Grand Prix winner “La belle noiseuse” (1991), and other classics of the French cinema — more than 20 features in all — died Friday morning at home in Paris. He had Alzheimer’s disease, the New York Times reported his producer Martine Marignac as saying, while the French culture minister, on Twitter, called today one of “profound sadness.” He was 87.  

Along with Cahiers colleagues Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Eric Rohmer, Rivette reinvented both film and film criticism in the 1950s, 1960s, and beyond. Truffaut may have been correct that the French New Wave began “thanks to Rivette” — his 1961 film “Paris Belongs to Us,” inspired by Italian neorealist Roberto Rossellini, was shot in 1958, after Chabrol’s “Le Beau Serge” but before Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows” or Godard’s “Breathless”  — yet Rivette has remained the least studied of the New Wave filmmakers, at least in the United States.

From the 13-hour “Out 1,” the 1971 “magnum opus” that reappeared on American shores last year, to his penultimate film, the sumptuous “The Duchess of Langeais” (2007), Rivette nonetheless forged a career of remarkable longevity, consistency, and artistic independence, examining the pervasive, inexplicable recesses of both the human experience and its reflections in the cinema. With a heightened sense of stagecraft and theatricality, Rivette treated a vast range of subjects — he adapted Diderot (“The Nun”) and Brontë (“Wuthering Heights,” 1985), made mysteries (“Le Pont du Nord,” 1981) and comedies (“Va Savoir,” 2001) — but his commitment to seeing the world through the art form’s eyes never wavered.

Rivette remembered his Cahiers days to French film critic Serge Daney in the interview below. Read Dave Kehr’s New York Times obit here.

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Right you MDL. Varda comes from a very different tradition, not from the Cinematheque-Cahiers scene that produced the New Wave, although she certainly provided a model for them.


It’s nice that he lived long enough to see Out 1 rescued from obscurity.

Craig Keller

Varda didn’t make the first New Wave film in LA POINTE-COURTE. Rohmer and Rivette did in PRÉSENTATION and AUX QUATRE COINS. Of course she is one of the last standing and is just as important. So are Moullet and Rozier.


My favorite Rivette film is La Belle Noiseuse. Worth seeking out. Long, yes, but rewarding. I watched it when it came out in 1991 and a few thousand films later it is still a film I remember well.

Agnes is considered more of a Left Bank filmmaker along with Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Marguerite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet. But certainly of that same era.


Cleo from 5 to 7 begs to differ.


Agnes is impossible to forget, but she was not a member of the New Wave. In fact, she came before it.


At first I thought Jean Luc Godard was the last filmmaker standing from the French New Wave now that Rivette is gone, but then I remembered that Agnes Varda is very much alive and as influential as her male peers who are mentioned in this article. Don’t forget Agnes!

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