The Film (3.5/5)
Jacque Rivette started shooting his feature film debut Paris Belong to Us in 1958 just as the French New Wave was beginning, but like many filmmakers working under budgetary constraints it took him a good number of years to complete the project. He would finish in 1961 a good few years after his contemporaries made the world aware of the new film movement coming out of France.
The film stars Betty Schneider as Anne. Anne is a young college student, new to the Parisian scene, and without friends. One night her brother Pierre escorts her to a party he is attending that is populated by theater friends of his, who are is a melancholy mood over the recent death of one of their actors and friends Juan. Juan, it appears from the surface had committed suicide while the troupe was planning to stage a version of Shakespeare's Pericles. A number of the group cannot believe that Juan would have committed suicide including director Gerard (Giani Espositio). Since they are in the midst of getting their production off the ground they don't take the time to investigate into it themselves, and so Anne begins to look into the circumstances around Juan's death. What she finds ends up taking her into a larger conspiracy than she could have anticipated.
Paris Belongs to Us is an interesting first film from Rivette. The film delves into deeply conspiratorial territory with a very paranoia driven atmosphere. The film shares a certain impulsive energy that many of the early French New Wave pictures seemed to have. At times this feels like Rivette playing with the conventions of film as a form and seeing what works during his first go around. At other times it seems like his extended running time is working against him. Paris Belongs to Us runs 2 hours and 20 minutes, and that gives Rivette plenty of time to experiment with both narrative and visuals. Of course, this same freedom leaves Rivette with a film that is too long, and without focus.
While films like Breathless (Godard), The 400 Blows (Truffaut), and Le Beau Serge (Chabrol) seemed to work better at setting up their respective makers careers, Paris Belongs to Us ends up being an interesting prototype for the type of film of that Rivette would go on to do in the 70's and beyond. It's not entirely a successful film. The film is much too long, and some of the performances are lacking, but overall it's a solid entry, and one that shows a director working to find his way.
Paris Belongs to Us is presented by Criterion is a very solid 1:37:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The Blu-ray looks quite nice with excellent detail, balanced contrast, and a healthy grain structure. There are some minor instances of damage that could not be removed by Criterion, but they are minor and do not detract from the viewing experience.
The audio is presented with an LPCM 1.0 mono track in French. The track is quite decent with dialogue and score coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues with the sound.
There are 2 primary extras on the disc, a 25 minute on camera interview with French New Wave expert Richard Neupert. We also get an early Rivette's short film Le Coup du Berger that runs about 26 minutes, and is notable for being co-written with Claude Chabrol. There are also liner notes by Luc Sante.
Paris Belongs to Us does not reach the lofty heights of his later Out 1 and Celine and Julie Go Boating, but as far as experimental first features go it is quite a solid turn. The Blu-ray from Criterion looks and sounds quite nice, and there are a fair few decent extras sure to please fans. RECOMMENDED.