Paris nous appartient is Jacques Rivette’s first film, and of the very first French New Wave films. It came out after Claude Chabrol’s early films, and the debuts of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. Rivette had started his before either of them, however.
It’s an odd, almost film noir, set-up. A Spanish activist, Juan, dies; a student, Ann, gets involved with her brother’s bohemian friends, including an American refugee from McCarthyism, Philip. A femme fatale, Terry, and theatre director Gerard are part of the group. Philip warns them that Gerard, who is directing Shakespeare’s Pericles, is in danger from the same forces that led to Juan’s suicide. The plot presages Rivette’s later work, which often has a conspiracy angle, although the central mystery in the film turns out to have no importance at all. Ann tries to find out how and why Juan died, but never quite gets there.
Paris nous appartient has a paranoid, almost apocalyptic feel to it, and while it isn’t quite as good as The 400 Blows or À Bout de Souffle, it was probably the most ambitious debut of the any of the French New Wave directors. As with most of early French New Wave films, it features cameos from the fellow Cahiers du Cinema writers and (soon-to-be) famous directors, like Jacques Demy, Chabrol and Godard, plus Rivette himself.
Paris nous appartient is as good of a place to start with Rivette as any. His work is sometimes overwhelming as there’s so much going on, but it’s a great movie, beautifully shot in back and white, and seems to be in a weird way a good account of France at the time. For fans of the French New Wave, in The 400 Blows, Antoine and his parents go to the movies to see Paris nous appartient—even though the real movie would not be out for two more years!
The disc includes a new commentary by Adrian Martin, a Jonathan Romney film introduction from the old BFI DVD, a Rivette short called Le Coupe du Berger, and a booklet with new and old writing on the film.