Masters Of Cinema #62 - Le Pont Du Nord - Blu-ray Review

Pop culture, the occult, a bizarre paranoia and cynicism combine in Jacques Rivette's very odd Le Pond Du Nord, a film which feels like the cinematic forebearer of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, itself a work connected to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. Eventually finding a map of Paris divided into game squares, replete with traps they must avoid, protagonists Marie and Baptiste (Bulle and Pascale Ogier, real life Mother and Daughter) find themselves caught in some sort of real word game, where 'the Max's' of the world are after them.

The main problem with Rivette's compulsive look at life-as-a-dangerous-game is that the discovery of the map and the entrance into interesting territory, doesn't arrive until eighty minutes in, a long time to wait when the preamble has been filled by Baptiste doing not very much on a motorbike and Marie meandering around in search of Julien (Pierre Clémenti). The opening to Le Pont Du Nord is so low key, so devoid of interest, that it leaves the second section with a real catch-up job.

The little things that you notice in the opening half do make a difference, and certainly add something to Rivette's overall craft, it's just a shame they happen in isolation of a narrative. The helicopter noise that plays over the opening titles shows up again and again, building this strange air of surveillance that feels more Truman Show than anything else. The fact that the narrative is located in 'October or November' too seems to suggest a timeless nature to Rivette's clear comments on control and surveillance, whilst Baptiste's insistence to rip out the eyes of posters looking at her re-asserts just how concerned Le Pont Du Nord is about the voyeur from above.

Notably, this concern is reversed for Baptiste, as she progresses towards superiority. Stuck on the ground, she nevertheless spies the loftier Marie and Julien, using a tourist telescope to spot them on a rooftop. At a similar point she pilfers a pair of headphones from a street display, wearing them throughout. Rivette though allows her to keep her little game with them - we never hear a bar of the music she listens to, nor, as far as I can recall, a bar throughout the film. Music is the reserve of Baptiste, safe from our prying eyes.

Though there are some problems for her along the way (notably her very strange capture in a man-made spider-web), she eventually emerges the main challenger to the authority controlling Le Pont Du Nord's world, engaging hand-to-hand with Max (Jean-François Stévenin) as the familiar chopper hovers overhead. The acting accolades though belong to Bulle Ogier, whose subtle paranoia (she doesn't want to be inside anywhere or anything) builds more believably than her off-screen daughter's.

Rivette shoots Paris between the grime of something like La Haine and the superfluous postcard view of numerous Rom-Coms. There's something clinical about even the frequent building sites of the final third, but they never hold the threat of Mathieu Kassovitz's 1990s film. A focus on developing that angle more could perhaps have lead to Rivette's opening segment holding much more sway, whereas, as it is, it feels like an anonymous gentle tour on the back of Baptiste's bike.

Founded in 2004, The Masters of Cinema Series is an independent, carefully curated, UK-based Blu-ray and DVD label, now consisting of over 150 films. Films are presented in their original aspect ratio (OAR), in meticulous transfers created from recent restorations and / or the most pristine film elements available.

Le Pont Du Nord is released in the UK on Monday 29th July 2013

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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