Le Pont du Nord (1981)

Rivette’s quaint adventure featuring two women—one an ex-con, the other a vagabond—navigating the streets of Paris is a freewheeling if also meandering look at how crime is a game of chance and consequence.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review #2,145

Dir. Jacques Rivette
1981 | France | Adventure/Crime/Drama | 129 mins | 1.37:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be PG13 for some mature themes

Cast: Bulle Ogier, Pascale Ogier, Pierre Clementi
Plot: Marie gets out of prison – and can no longer stand to live between four walls. Baptiste comes from somewhere else, or so she says, and intends to live by her own rules. They seem to be united by some indefinable bond, and soon they set off on a bizarre quest that neither can understand.
Awards: –
Source: Les Films du Losange

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: General Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Believe it or not, this is my first ever Jacques Rivette.  Le Pont du Nord is probably not the best place to begin with the filmmaker, but the opportunity came for me to see it on MUBI. 

I kinda like the freshness of Rivette’s filmmaking here, though my unfamiliarity with his work makes it difficult for me to place the film in any context. 

It’s an interesting picture, beautifully shot in the streets of Paris.  It almost feels like a touristy type of film as we follow two women who become acquainted by fate after a few uncanny chance encounters over a short period. 

One is an ex-con, who has just been released from prison; the other is a much younger vagabond, seemingly without a home or job. 

They—Marie and Baptiste respectively—are fascinatingly played by real-life mother and daughter Bulle Ogier and Pascale Ogier. 

Rivette’s quaint adventure sets them up to do a lot of walking and talking in picturesque settings, but the spectre of crime is always looming over their heads, with the mysterious antics of Marie’s lover, a key supporting character, pushing them deeper into an abyss that they can’t seem to see coming right at them. 

Le Pont du Nord’s light, freewheeling style feels novel enough but it doesn’t last as the narrative meanders, perhaps intentionally on Rivette’s part as he explores how crime is a game of chance and consequence, where murky pasts can’t be exorcised and the characters stuck in some kind of psychological and physiological stasis. 

There’s a fantastic use of Piazzolla’s iconic ‘Libertango’ early on with Baptiste on a motorcycle as she locks eyes with the various lion statues around Paris.  It’s a tad disappointing that Rivette couldn’t pull off something similarly transcendent-like later in the film.

Grade: B-



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