The films of the great French director Jacques Rivette, who died earlier this year of complications related to Alzheimer’s, have long suffered from spotty distribution in the United States. His most widely revered film, the freewheeling Celine And Julie Go Boating, has never had as much as a DVD release in this country, and much of his best work has either never been released here or is long out of print. There’s something bittersweet to the fact that it’s only in the last couple of years that Americans have started to get wider access to the films of one of the most important figures to come out of the French New Wave, a master fascinated with performance and paranoia.
Just last year, the mammoth Out 1, once one of the Holy Grails of cinephilia, had its first run in U.S. theaters. (It’s currently on Netflix, a fact that was unimaginable just a few years ago.) A few months after Rivette’s death, Criterion put out the first American release of his 1961 debut, Paris Belongs To Us. And now, Variety is reporting that Cohen Media Group, another major player in arthouse imports, has struck a deal to bring 10 of his feature films and three of his early shorts (including some that were once presumed lost) to U.S. screens starting next spring.
The best known of these is 1991’s La Belle Noiseuse, a very loose Balzac adaptation (as was seemingly half of Rivette’s oeuvre) that proved to be the only sizeable Stateside success of the director’s career, which Cohen has acquired along with the companion film Divertimento, cut from alternate takes of the same scenes. (Rivette did a similar thing with Spectre, an abbreviated version of Out 1 that’s radically different in tone.) Some of the films Cohen will be distributing have been widely available before, including the two parts of Joan The Maid (1994); 1989’s Gang Of Four, which is one of the ideal entry points into his work; Secret Defense (1998); and The Story Of Marie And Julien (2003), the best of Rivette’s later films.
But the rest are movies that the curious have usually had to go to great lengths to see, including such key works as his adaptation of Wuthering Heights (1985) and the musical Up, Down, Fragile (1995). Cohen has also acquired Rivette’s recently restored early shorts Aux Quatre Coins (1949), La Quadrille (1950, long considered lost and briefly discussed here), and La Divertissement (1952).
The films will be released theatrically starting in the spring of 2017. Gang Of Four will be the first to be distributed.