Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
March 5, 2016 by Dennis Amith
“Paris Belongs to Us” is a Jacques Rivette film that will no doubt make French cinema fans in the U.S. say, “About time!”. The French filmmaker’s debut film is mysterious take on a woman succumbing to disillusionment and conspiracy theories. Recommended!
Image courtesy of © 1961 Les Films du Carrosse. 2016 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802
YEAR OF FILM: 1961
DURATION: 141 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, black and white, 1:37:1 aspect ratio, French Monaural with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: March 8, 2016
Directed by Jacques Rivette
Written by Jacques Rivette, Jean Grault
Produced by Roland Nonin
Co-Producer: Claude Chabrol
Music by Philiippe Arthuys
Cinematography by Charles L. Bitsch
Edited by Denise de Casablanca
Jean-Claude Brialy as Jean-Marc
Betty Schneider as Anne Goupil
Biani Esposito as Gerard Lenz
Francoise Prevost as Terry Yordan
Daniel Crohem as Philip Kaufman
Francois Maistre as Pierre Goupil
One of the original critics turned filmmakers who helped jump-start the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette began shooting his debut feature in 1958, well before that cinema revolution officially kicked off with The 400 Blows and Breathless. Ultimately released in 1961, the rich and mysterious Paris Belongs to Us offers some of the radical flavor that would define the movement, with a particularly Rivettian twist. The film follows a young literature student (Betty Schneider) who befriends the members of a loose-knit group of twentysomethings in Paris, united by the apparent suicide of an acquaintance. Suffused with a lingering post–World War II disillusionment while also evincing the playfulness and fascination with theatrical performance and conspiracy that would become hallmarks for the director, Paris Belongs to Us marked the provocative start to a brilliant directorial career.
Filmmaker Jacques Rivette has numerous beloved films in his oeuvre.
From “Celine and Julie Go Boating”, “The Gang of Four”,”Va Savoir” and what many consider his masterpiece, “La belle noiseuse”.
But every filmmaker has a first film which many cineaste are curious to compare many of their films too. And for Rivette, his first film was rather fascinating because like other French New Wave filmmakers that wrote for “Cahiers du Cinema”, many of them went on to create masterpieces earlier in their careers.
With Rivette, of the 29-films he had made, it was his later films that people would strongly resonate with (a similar situation with filmmaker, Eric Rohmer).
The film which was created in 1957 but without a distributor, “Paris Belongs to Us” would not be released theatrically until 1961, and thus not becoming one of the first films of the French New Wave. Because of this, the film was deemed as old-fashioned because the setting of French cinema had changed within four years after the film was created.
Nevertheless, “Paris Belongs to Us” is a first film that is interesting because it was produced by Claude Chabrol and the film would feature cameos by Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Demy and also Rivette.
And now “Paris Belongs to Us” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection.
“Paris Belongs to Us” focuses on Paris’ bohemian underground and follows a university student, Anne Goupil (portrayed by Betty Schneider).
As she meets and has communications with people, many are talking as if there is a conspiracy that is happening with people they know and within society.
Everyone appears to be fatigued, paranoid and in some sort of disillusion with life begin to take its toll on Anne.
“Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” is presented in 1:37:1 black and white and in 1080p High Definition. The film looks absolutely beautiful on Blu-ray!
White and grays are well-contrast, black levels are nice and deep and the detail and sharpness is fantastic. I did not notice any issues with the picture quality with blurriness or any scratches or dust during my viewing of the film.
According to the Criterion Collection, “this new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution from the original camera negative on an ARRISCAN film scanner equipped with wet-gate processing. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.”
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for the lossless audio, “Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” is presented in French LPCM 1.0 without any buzzing or crackle.
According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35 mm magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and Izotope RX 4.
Subtitles are in English.
“Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” comes with the following special features:
- Richard Neupert – (24:48) Featuring a 2015 interview with Richard Neupert, professor of film studies at the University of Georgia and author of “A History of the French New Wave Cinema” discusses the themes and legacy of Jacques Rivette’s debut feature, “Paris Belongs to Us”.
- Le Coup Du Berger – (29:00) A 1956 short film by Jacques Rivette about an adulterous wife and her lover’s attempt to figure out how she will explain his gift of a mink coat to her husband. Featuring cameos by Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut.
“Paris Belongs to Us – The Criterion Collection #802” comes with a six-page foldout with the essay “Nothing Took Place But the Place” by Luc Sante.
For those watching “Paris Belongs to Us”, Jacques Rivette’s first film is no doubt a complex mystery film.
From the beginning, when we are introduced to the character of Anne, a student who is tired of studying, but no different from any other student going to college, the major difference are the characters she comes in contact with.
Her neighbor talks about the death of individuals and if her brother is Pierre. Her brother Pierre tells her about a party which Anne attends and everyone is wondering of why a young Spanish composer named Juan has committed suicide.
Everyone around seems depressed and bitter, from the drunken Philip Kaufman (an American journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, who has been exiled to France as a victim of blacklisting during the McCarthy era), we see Philip slapping the face of Terry Yordan, Juan’s lover and blaming her for his suicide.
We are then given a break of fresh air when Anne comes across an old classmate, Jean-Marc (portrayed by Jean-Claude Brialy), who has come to Paris for a career in theater and takes Anne to a barn for a production of Shakespeare’s “Pericles”.
Theater director Gerard Lenz has a difficult time because the entire cast never shows up at one time and so he uses Anne to fill in and she immediately becomes a member of a production when an actress doesn’t show up.
But as they need a guitar score, it becomes a search for why Juan really killed himself.
And then suddenly people that Anne knew begin to disappear and Anne gets caught up wondering why these individuals are disappearing. To the point it becomes an obsession for her.
The film is interesting in the fact that in ways, the film is a style of French New Wave in the fact that Rivette, like his other contemporaries, goes against traditional Hollywood cinema by not making certain situations obvious. Is this scene taking place in the present, the past, the future. Are these people sane or insane? Are these people good or bad?
One can simply chalk this film up to Anne getting involved with shady people and becomes to immersed by these people that she starts questioning life, motivations and eventually, driven to find out why certain people are gone? Is it by murder? Did they leave on their own accord? Why the hell does Anne care so much, when other people don’t?
Thrown in cameos by fellow writers/filmmakers Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and even Rivette makes an appearance in the film, there is no doubt that these men were in the cusp of making groundbreaking cinema. But because Godard, Chabrol, Truffaut and other contemporaries were able to explode into the cinema scene and were on fire, because of the lack of distribution, Rivette’s “Paris Belongs to Us” did not receive the same following.
It came out four years late and for Rivette, he may not be known worldwide as Godard or Truffaut but for those who follow French cinema, know very well of how magnificent of a filmmaker he truly is. And the fact that even in his reviews, unlike other writers who champion a filmmaker’s more popular films, Rivette never followed the pack, choosing to write and watch the more underappreciated films of other directors.
Similar to his taste in films, Rivette slowly caught on with cineaste and while a winner for the Sutherland Trophy for “Paris nous appartient” (1961) and “L’amour fou” (1969) at the British Film Awards and nominated for a Palme d’Or in 1966 for “La religieuse”, it wasn’t until 1989 where he would win the FIPRESCI Prize for “La bande des quatre” at the Berlin International Film Festival and 1991 until his film would win the Grand Prize of the Jury for “La belle noiseuse”.
And while there are cinema fans late to the game of discovering the films of Jacques Rivette, for cineaste, it has been a long time coming, but finally a Jacques Rivette film has been released by the Criterion Collection and one can hope for more releases in the very near future.
The Blu-ray release of “Paris Belongs to Us” looks very good with picture quality showcasing wonderful contrast and sharpness. Lossless monaural audio with no signs of crackling or hiss and you get two special features, which includes Rivette’s 1959 short film, “Le coup du berger”.
Overall, “Paris Belongs to Us” is a Jacques Rivette film that will no doubt make French cinema fans in the U.S. say, “About time!”. The French filmmaker’s debut film is mysterious take on a woman succumbing to disillusionment and conspiracy theories.
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