« Schoolgirl Report Volume #13: Don't Forget Love during Sex | Main | Coffee Break »

February 13, 2015

Le Pont du Nord

pont du nord poster.jpg

Jacques Rivette - 1981
Kino Lorber BD Region A

Possibly the kind of coincidence that Jacques Rivette might have found amusing, but I saw Le Pont du Nord on the day I first read about the restrictions of filming movie scenes involving guns in Paris. It's not only because there is some shooting in Rivette's film, but also the reasoning behind this new rule is in response to some of the so-called terrorist activity in Paris. How this connects to Rivette is that his film, shot in the Fall of 1980, was in part a response to what goes going in Paris at that time. One of the characters collects newspaper clippings related to some of the high profile and violent news of the time. Those who follow recent French cinema will probably recognize the name Mesrine. Additionally, the character played by Bulle Ogier, while not providing details, hints at being part of a group that robbed a bank ostensibly as a political act. The events that were a year old at the time of the film's initial release still have some contemporary relevance.


Two women meet on a Paris street. Marie has just been released from prison. Baptiste rides around in her motorbike until a chance encounter of the two women causes an accident, leaving the damaged motorbike behind. Marie is claustrophobic to the point where she orders two croissants from the doorway of a bakery, and keeps the door open in a phone booth when she makes a call. She is attempting to reunite with a man named Julien who says he will be ready for her in three days. Baptiste essentially acts as Marie's shadow, following her around before becoming a traveling companion as such. Marie's claustrophobia is so strong that the two sleep the first night on an outdoor bench. Although budgetary were the original impetus, Marie's condition provides an explanation for why the entire film is made up of exterior shots, shot in 16mm using available light.

Unlike Cahiers du Cinema cohorts Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, Rivette was not known for making obvious references to other movies. The exception would be in this film. Baptiste convinces Maria that they can sleep inside an all night movie theater, appealing to Marie's needs to be in open spaces as the current film in question is The Big Country. Leaving the theater the next morning, we see that the new film is La Prisonniere.

Baptiste discovers that Julien is carrying a map of Paris. A second map is found, with Paris divided into a spiral of gridded spaces. Marie explains how the spaces relate to an old game, and the significance of some of the spaces. Marie and Baptiste may or may not be moving in a deliberate direction, based on the maps and their interactions with the mystery men that appear on their journey.

The blu ray includes a booklet containing Jacques Rivette's "director's statement", which raises more questions. French film critic, Jean Narboni, also has his "Six Questions". While certain narrative questions remain unclear, there is a visual essay that breaks down the locations in Paris where Le Pont du Nord was filmed, adding insight to where Rivette was playing with the geography of the city he seemed to know intimately.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 13, 2015 07:08 AM