Saturday, January 30, 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016 12:03 am by M. in , ,    No comments

"He was the more lucid , the most inventive , the most free of the Nouvelle Vague director". (Gilles Jacob,  film critic and ex-president of the Cannes Film Festival)
The French cinema in particular, and the world cinema in general, mourn the loss of the film director Jacques Rivette (1928-2016). He truly one of the most idiosyncratic figures born in the Nouvelle Vague and his career contains memorable titles like Paris Nous Appartient (1961), La Religieuse  (1966), Céline et Julie vont en bateau (1974), La Belle Noiseuse (1991), Jeanne La Pucelle (1994), Haut, Bas, Fragil (1995), Va Savoir (2001)... and of course, Hurlevent in 1985. It was a very particular adaptation of the first chapters of the Emily Brontë novel transposed to the South of France (les Cévennes) and heavily influenced by the Georges Bataille's reading of Wuthering Heights in La littérature et le mal (1957).

In 2003, Senses of Cinema interviewed Jacques Rivette who had plenty to say about his vision of the Wuthering Heights story:
Valérie Hazette: The main topic I would like to explore with you concerns the episodes of the novel that are difficult to translate into images, and their oneiric equivalents in the first, middle and last scenes of Hurlevent. According to what Pascal Bonitzer said in a filmed interview [see the Rivette DVD collector pack released by ARTE in the Autumn 2002], the first scene was inspired by Bataille. While leafing through the critical publications for Emily Brontë’s novel, he came across a book by Georges Bataille, The Tears of Eros
JR: Well, it is not a book but an article, a very long article, which he collected later in a book called – I think – Literature and Evil (La Littérature et le Mal). Pascal knows Bataille far better than I do, since he was the subject of his PhD thesis. As for me, a long time ago, I merely skimmed through this article by Bataille. The truth is that I am not very familiar with it.
VH: So there was this article, but also an illustration, apparently a reproduction of a painting by Poussin…
JR: No, it was not exactly an illustration. It all started – and it has been stated in a number of interviews, so you must have heard about it – it all started when I had no plans to shoot an adaptation of Wuthering Heights, or anything else, for that matter. It was after…
VH: …the Balthus exhibition?
JR: It was after Love on the Ground (1984). I had just finished the editing – it was probably at the end of 1983 or at the start of 1984. I believe it was at the start of 1984 that the Balthus exhibition took place in Beaubourg.
So I went to this exhibition. Seeing as he’s a bit of an eccentric and all that, I am very fond of Balthus. So I went to the exhibition which was actually superb. I already knew the drawings produced by Balthus for the book that the Gallimard editions had intended to publish at the beginning of the 1930s – around 1932 or 1933, I think. These drawings, by the way, were more or less contemporary with Buñuel’s first desire to film the novel … I believe he had already written the screenplay…
VH: Which he only shot 20 years later …
JR: Yes, but still, his screenplay was written at the time in question. So it was in the air for this little group, and Buñuel, Balthus and so on knew each other. They used to gravitate around the Surrealists, while retaining their independence. And then, although I had already seen some reproductions of the drawings, the Balthus exhibition of Beaubourg featured a small, separate room – a kind of tablier, as one says in old French – where they actually displayed all the Balthus originals – the ink as well as the pencil ones, the final drawings as well as the sketches.
And I was struck by the fact that Balthus enormously simplified the costumes and stripped away the imagery trappings which are so much foregrounded in the Wyler movie. I wondered why nobody had ever made a movie in which Catherine and Heathcliff were the age they actually are in the novel. Because in the Wyler movie they are 30 and in the Buñuel movie 30 or 40.
Therefore they are adults, and it does not mean anything. Well, it does mean something, but something completely different. So I felt like making a movie with some very young actors. I started with this idea in mind and made the first adaptation – well, maybe not the first one because there are adaptations that I have never seen – in which they are their age.
It was a novel that I had read, like everyone else, when I was 18 or 19 in its classic French translation, the famous translation called Les Hauts de Hurle-Vent by Frédéric Delebecque – which is quite a good translation. It is a free translation, a kind of adaptation for the French language, which, as far as I know, is pretty faithful. The only criticism that I might pass, very quickly, on the translation of Monsieur Delebecque is that everybody uses the “vous” form while, theoretically, between Catherine and Heathcliff…
VH: Maybe because there is never any “thou” in the novel…
JR: Of course. Still, I don’t know which Emily Brontë would have chosen. Because, on the one hand, when she writes the novel in 1840 or so, the “you” is very strong above all, maybe, in a Protestant environment. On the other hand, I really find that the “tu” form comes more naturally. In English, I am not sure…
The important thing is that it was quite a good translation. In fact, I had gone through it and tried to establish a few comparisons with the English text. And of course, when we prepared the movie, I bought the English text and compared. But then, I deliberately decided not to re-read it.
So I started with this idea in mind, and talked first to my producer, Martine Marignac, with whom I had already made North Bridge (1980) and Love on the Ground, and then to Pascal and Suzanne Schiffman, with whom I had worked on Love on the Ground too. (Love on the Ground was the first movie I had made with Pascal; Suzanne, I had known for years and years.)
But I had decided not to re-read it: I asked Pascal to summarise it for me. I only wanted to have the outline of the story and of the characters, that’s all. And from the start, I told him: “Only the first part”, because I knew about the second part. I had a very strong memory of the Wyler movie – because I hate it – and of the Buñuel movie because, as you know, I find it very beautiful. The characters are 40, but still, the movie remains very, very powerful. 


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