Jacques Rivette's exciting and delightful romantic comedy finds the French New Wave giant on familiar territory. Namely: theater as life, life as theater, and the junction where both fold together in an expansive universe ... more »of cinematic space and time. The director of such remarkably modernist classics as Celine and Julie Go Boating and La Belle Noiseuse here takes on a story of romantically entangled Parisian actors mounting a production of Luigi Pirandello's play As You Desire Me. As lovers hop in and out of ever-shifting relationships, the production comes together and opens to mixed success. The dynamics on and off the stage, between real life and theater, begin to fuse as Rivette breaks the narrative into disjointed pieces and lifts them to a higher plane of passionate resonance. An enjoyable ride and a tremendous accomplishment from a master filmmaker. --Tom Keogh« less
Marianna S. (Angeloudi) from HOLIDAY, FL Reviewed on 6/8/2013...
This is a lengthy French movie about an actress in a touring theatre company who returns to Paris after 3 years to perform an Italian play, in Italian. She reconnects with her former lover, Pierre, who has moved on to a new relationship with Sonia. Rated PG-13 for some very brief nudity (a shower scene). Too long to show in my French classes, and too esoteric to interest my high school students. The English title is "Who Knows?" Perhaps should be renamed "Who Cares?"
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At last! The best movie of 2001.
darragh o'donoghue | 11/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Va Savoir' opens with a voice in the darkness asking for lights to be turned on a stage, and the entire film can be seen as a play or a celebration of play, of acting, role-playng, creating, stories, plots. the two lead characters are actors, and in their forking narratives, bring everyone they come in contact with into their theatrical orbit. Camille is the French lead actress with an Italian touring company who are performing Pirandello's 'As You Desire Me' (the story of the amnesiac mistress of a writer who treats her like one of his creations, filmed by Hollywood with Garbo (another Camille) and Stroheim) in Paris to general indifference. During her hours off, she seeks the lover she dumped three years previously, a sheepish philosophy professsor now living with a domineering ballet teacher. her co-star and company director Ugo, whose precise relation to Camille we don't learn until near the end, spends his days searching for an unpublished, possibly apocryphal play by his 18th century compatriot Goldoni. this paper chase leads him to the beautiful student Do, whose mother's library may hold the key, and who is instantly smitten by the older man. her brother is used to pilfering valuable books to fund his gambling habit. these two plots, intercut with apparent crudeness early on, begin to interweave to comical, romantic and magical effect, distending its mysteries and crime narrative, collapsing into a farce of dizzyingly shifting relationships and a vertiginous mock duel. 'Va Savoir' creates an enchanted world that looks superficially like ours, but operates on completely alien principles.Jacques Rivette is one of cinema's great fabulists, but he doesn't depend for his fantasy on special effects or the literally supernatural. Every scene, even the long excerpts from the play, are filmed with plausibility and an air-brushed realism. It is in plot development that Rivette's fantasy lies. having begun the film with rehearsals for a drama, Rivette proliferates confusions between reality and illusion. there isn't a single sequence in the entire film that doesn't have characters walking down corridors, streets or paths, or walking into rooms, but these everyday events are transformed, corridors become labyrinths or secret passageways, rooms become magic chambers or dungeons, rooftops the plains of undiscovered planets. People dreaming becoming creating authors, mirrors portals to another dimension. The emphasis is on characters seeking to affirm their identity, but continually transforming, metamorphosing, renegotiating. Allusions abound, as often distracting the viewer as enlightening the theme.'Va Savoir' plays like 'Celine and Julie go boating' (Rivette's most famous film) updated, with the theatre as haunted house, caretakers Camille and Ugo releasing all kinds of ghosts from the past. it is also similar to Bergman movies like 'the Face' or 'Fanny and alexander', their plot-displaced climaxes extended over an entire film. If Rivette has decided to charm his audience rather than challenge it, it is somehow appropriate that in this age of infantile, no-attention-span cinema, the most adventurous, enjoyable and youthful film in years is made by a 73 year old."
A smart comic gem
Jeremy Heilman | Brooklyn, NY USA | 10/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Va Savoir (Who Knows?) the newest film by Jacques Rivette, one of the pioneers of the French New Wave, opened this year's New York Film Festival to great effect. A delightfully small comedy that follows the lives of six people in modern day Paris, this is the sort of film that is laden with subtleties of character and action that might be missed if it were viewed amidst a quagmire of several other films. The film begins on a stage as, Camille, an actress (Jeanne Balibar) talks to an empty crowd about her anxieties. She feels afraid of the world, and lacks will to go on. Soon, we find that the reason is her disenchantment with her current lover/director, Ugo. We find that she has returned to Paris, her home, for the first time in three years, and has left behind an ex named Pierre (who is still humorously working on the same thesis three years later). Pierre is currently married to Sonia, a dance instructor, that is being courted by Arthur, the half-brother of Do, a student whom happens to be helping Ugo search for a lost manuscript. There is a great deal of interplay in the film between the characters before we discover their relationships to each other, and that is the film's most tedious aspect. There is a willing suspension of disbelief required to accept that these relationships all flow into each other the way that they do, and the film takes its time in establishing them. Once it does establish who is who, however, the film absolutely takes off. The film is a comedy, but rarely relies on outright gags for laughs. The majority of the humor lies in the shifting motivations of the characters. For example, in one early scene, Camille, who feels embarrassed for the way her partner Ugo acted during the previous night's dinner, goes to apologize to her hostess, Sonia. Sonia, however, due to her own marital difficulties, naturally assumes that Camille has come to apologize for the behavior of her husband, Pierre. When Camille begins to apologize, Sonia starts making excuses for Pierre's actions (which actually left Camille once again enamored with him). Camille decides to alter her strategy here though, so she can better make a play at Pierre. The subtleties of the contradictions in their actions are what we derive our pleasure from. This might sound terribly convoluted, but on screen it plays out simply and humorously.As the characters continue to flip-flop the object of their affection, nearly every scene takes on such lightly comic dimensions. Never do we feel that their decisions don't make sense, though, as Rivette has composed a script that allows us to always justify and understand each character's impetus. By essentially limiting his cast to six members, he allows us, over the film's two and a half hour running time, to grow to know each of them intimately. During the run of the play, each of the characters comes to watch the play. We see a key scene from the production as each of them is affected by it differently, and viewing the play causes each to, once again, alter the way they see the other characters. In Rivette's film, art doesn't imitate life, but rather inspires it. The film's take on art, like its take on relationships, is more mature and realistic than we see in most films. Much to my delight, in Va Savoir, the characters actually think before they act, which is much rarer than one would suspect in films."
"... as many pregnant pauses as bon mots"
Bob Carpenter | New York, NY | 09/30/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Although billed as a romantic comedy, Jacques Rivettes' relatively terse 1990 film "Va Savoir" ("Who Knows?") focuses on the priority of obsession over romance. At a few critical junctures, the tension breaks and we are allowed a nervous laugh before it resumes. I found the whole drama oddly compelling. This is much the same reaction as I had to "The Venus Beauty Institute". And "Va Savoir" is every bit as pointless. Its two and a half hour running time allows for as many pregnant pauses as bon mots. I neither liked nor understood any of the characters, who were alternatively morose and manic. Their introversion evokes the claustrophobic feeling of the staged play within a play, Luigi Pirandello's "As You Desire Me". The plot involves an actress Camille (Jeanne Balibar), who is returning to her native Paris after three years in the Italian theatre company directed by her Italian lover Ugo (Sergio Castellitto). She becomes re-acquainted with her previous lover in Paris, a Heidegger-obsessed professor of philosophy (Jacques Bonaffe), who is living in their former apartment with an ex-con ballet-teaching feng-shui practicing lover Sonia (Marianne Basler). Meanwhile, Ugo seeks out a manuscript to a lost play, crossing the path of a literature student/ingenue Do (Helene de Fougerolles), in one of the the most photogenic libraries encountered since "A Name of the Rose". Do's mysterious, ladies man of a brother Arthur (Bruno Todeschini) becomes involved shortly thereafter. The rest of the movie sees the various characters face off alone (yes, they're all deeply conflicted, even with themselves), one on one, or in groups. All the loose ends are summarily tied up or discarded in a grand finale on stage, a contrivance on a par with the Marx Brothers' "Coconuts". (Note: I watched this with English subtitles and I speak neither French nor Italian.)"
Here comes another litmus test in film viewing...
inframan | the lower depths | 12/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is without doubt a very challenging movie to watch. To watch intelligently, with concentration, attention & focus. It is the very antithesis of American TV fodder & most Hollywood product. No quickly identifiable yuk-yuk archetypes: you know, the NERD, the BABE, the HUNK, etc etc.
Not even a single reference, subtle or otherwise, to The Honeymooners or I Love Lucy or Casablanca. No (gratuitous) use or mention of IPods or CellPhones. Good grief. How are people supposed to IDENTIFY?
Sorry gang. This one might even demand that one be a bit familiar with Pirandello or Ingmar Bergman (I'll bet Woody would give his eye-teeth to have made this) to say nothing of some fundamental understanding of the basic underpinnings of Western Culture (well, they did used to teach these things in better colleges not that long ago).
But that's the whole problem. It's a cerebral movie, as are most of the best French films going back about 80 years or so. It does take patience & focus to appreciate. And that's why I love it. It ain't fast food. It's not instant gratification. I don't mind watching it in segments. Even going back & replaying scenes.
It's almost like Reading A Good Book!
I look forward to watching this film another half dozen times, at least. The way I do all the best movies, from Top Hat to Children of Paradise to Woman of the Year to Seven Samurai. Or the way I listen to Beethoven, Bach, Mozart & Mozart. Or reading Murakami or Saramago or Banville.
I guess you could say this is a film for grown-ups. Which could be a marketing problem for its distributors."
Come tu mi vuoi
kaioatey | Awatovi, AZ | 06/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found this movie thoroughly enjoyable. The story line is simple and, in some way, rather unimportant - Camille, a well-known Parisian actress, is returning from Rome to act in front of her home audience in a play directed by her new lover Ugo. The play is Pirandello's Come Tu Mi Vuoi, a classical work (written for his lover Martha Abba) about a woman pinned between the yin and yang forces of reality and illusion. Throughout the film Rivette switches his camera between the play and Camille and Ugo's "reality" as if to ask us who are the real Camille and Ugo. What do they really want? What makes them tick? Can I, the spectator, enter their scriptless universe? Rivette (and his excellent actors) show us that delicateness can be robust and inventive, that desire for another can never be fulfilled and yet that the fulfillment does not really matter, because in the process of the struggle to achieve it we become alive and creative. What matters is style; style is substance. We are also treated to a brilliant depiction of the incestuous relationship between the Italians and the French and there is a delicious succession of nuances, hints and plays with the national stereotypes that brought many a smile to my face. I can see why some - those used to Hollywood cliches with their happy endings and oh so predictable plots - might not find the movie to be that hot. Well, that's just too bad...."