Who's In It: Jane Birkin, Sergio Castellitto, Andre Marcon, Jacques Bonnaffe, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Tintin Orsoni, Mikael Gaspar
The Basics: Be aware that when you decide to drive around the French countryside alone in your convertible sports car and you wind up randomly helping sad, chic ladies of a certain age with engine trouble, the consequences may be that you are then mysteriously pulled into their sparsely attended conceptual clown performances put on by their tiny traveling Metaphor Circus. After that it'll be time for a gentle probing of their melancholy regrets and you'll get to help transform their spirits from downcast and grieving to reawakened and alive again while acting like a Deadhead as you follow the troupe around to other bucolic French villages. Weirdly enough, you'll be really glad you made that aimless trip.
What's The Deal: Legendary French New Wave pioneer Jacques Rivette's regular visits with theater people--in Va savoir and Celine and Julie Go Boating, among others--are usually about a week long. (Just kidding, but only sort of; he makes some seriously lengthy movies.) This one, though, is under 90 minutes and, when it's over, you'll wish you could spend more time hanging out in the middle of France putting on the circus with them, if for no other reason than it's the Leastest Show on Earth. These are the kind of painted-face half-clowns who, after the performance, softly grill audience members with questions like, "Why did you laugh? You were the only one who did." And then they sit there and wait for you to stammer out an answer. To me, this seems like a really good time.
They Named The Most Expensive Purse In the World After Her So You Know Something's Up: Do you like Charlotte Gainsbourg? Of course you do. Everyone does. Well then check out her mom because that's where at least half of her whatever-it-is came from. Jane Birkin, one of the coolest ladies to emerge from the 1960s and not look ridiculous in hindsight, carries herself in this movie as though she's already broken down in a major way before her car follows suit in the opening shot. She's the opposite of the breezy summer countryside where she lingers but still manages to haltingly step through her anxiety and grief with a stoic stylishness.
What It All Means, Sort Of: One great quality of Jacques Rivette's movies is how they reveal more to you when you see them again. And while this one feels small and maybe even slight, it keeps giving if you return to it--even the characters on screen repeat themselves and, at 90 minutes, it's not like sitting through his 13-hour movie Out 1 so you can deal. It revisits ideas he's laid out before about life as a performance (ie: do it over and over until you get it right, find your way out, free the girl, etc.) and, whether he intended it or not, it arrives with added poignancy since it may well be his last film. Start with this one and move backwards if you've never seen his films. But do see them.