This type of (usually) French movie isn’t all that easy to review. The idea is basically that you get to spend some time with people who are much wittier and more charming and interesting than the degenerates you associate with. It works pretty much every time, in the right hands, and you wind up thinking that maybe you should move to France. These people would never elect a gilded sack of sawdust like GW as their head of state. And they have cool trains. Then you remember that you speak maybe 100 words of French, most of which are numbers and that, in France people bring animals into restaurants and they have Turkish showers.
Usually I go to Eric Rohmer for this kind of stuff, and I still think Rohmer at his best (see An Autumn Tale) is better than Va Savoir, which is sometimes a little slow. Va Savoir is also slightly more story-driven than most of the Rohmer films I’ve seen, but the story is still so little a factor that you could miss twenty minutes of the film and it wouldn’t compromise your enjoyment of the rest of the rest at all. It’s pretty uniform, with people falling for other people, then going back to the ones they started with and lots of talking. Lots of talking.
It’s also sort of a traditional, theatrical comedy in that all of these quirky characters do fairly outrageous things, like steal a treasured piece of jewelry, or lock the woman they love in a closet, intending to keep her there, but in the end, all at once, everyone winds up happy and all is forgotten. Maybe that’s why so much of the film is centered on a struggling theater production. But again, all of that is secondary. Really what you’re doing is watching and listening to these people, especially the women, who are the stronger presences. Not in a Charlie’s Angels kind of way either. The women are just more interesting characters than the men. Apparently, that’s Rivette’s M.O. He said something like, “the whole history of cinema has been men photographing women,” but he’s interested in more than just photographing them. Each is a well developed, or at least interesting character.
There’s only one novel part, and that’s when two men agree to duel to the death, which is much less dramatic than it sounds. The man who gets to choose the place and the weapons chooses vodka on a high scaffolding. They are to keep drinking until one falls. I think that’s what I’d pick too.
I know it sounds like there isn’t much to this film, which is what makes it hard to review. Really, there isn’t a fuck of a lot to it. It’s not Rashomon. But it is good. I saw it on some critics’ top ten lists for 2001 and have no quarrel with that.
But just because the film is simple in some ways doesn’t mean it isn’t an achievement. Look at it this way; when Americans try to make this sort of film-one where interesting people stand around talking–they always come up short. Take The Anniversary Party. It’s not bad, but it’s not really up to French standards. Slacker is kind of the same deal. Good, but it isn’t as good as Va Savoir.
Barely any. The trailer, I think. When you review DVD’s you come to appreciate parsimony in this department.
* Film, Overal:- 8
* DVD Extras: 8
* Story: 9
* Acting: 7
* Direction: 1
* Rewatchability: 6
Special Ruthless Ratings:
* Number of times movie was paused to do something else: I went to the bathroom once, but I just left the door open and let the movie play
* Number of times you wished you had taken that screenwriting class: I couldn’t write this, regardless of what classes I took
* Number of times you imagined the director snickering to them self: none, but I think he probably went “au hau hau” a couple of times