Jacques Rivette, Master of the French New Wave, Dies 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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