271) The Story of Marie and Julien (2003) Dir: Jacques Rivette Date Released (DVD): July 2005 Date Seen: August 28, 2009 Rating: 3.25/5
I think I only really understood what put me off about the impenetrable, disjointed pacing of The Story of Marie and Julien after watching an hour of Jacques Rivette's Celine and Julie Go Boating. I stopped watching Celine and Julie with a little more than two hours to go because it was all about the necessity of play and hence unconcerned with engaging me with any kind of narrative. Its characters don't have traditional story arcs because would defeat the purpose of their child-like need to constantly reinvent themselves through various games that they make up as they go.
While The Story of and Marie and Julien can be retrospectively considered to be more deliberate in its mounting tension, it does not feel much more purposeful. Julien (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) is not a traditional protagonist: his passionate fling with Julie is propelled forward not by his proclamations of love for her but by the fact that each successive scene he's in overthrows our understanding of what happened in the last one. In other words, Julien's story progresses without a sense of narrative continuity so that its herky-jerky tempo mimics his uneasy--to say the least--relationship with Marie (Emanuelle Beart).
This revelation makes the film more thoughtful in retrospect but no less grating while watching it. Because its rhythm defines its characters, Marie and Julien infrequently stalls because of its stop-and-go structure. The way Marie thwarts Julien's need to have order in everything he does, as represented by his obsessive certainty that he can fix the various clocks he works on throughout the film, is ingrained in the story itself. That abruptness makes certain recurring images, like Marie's mysterious blue room and their bouts of role-playing sex, captivating because of the urgency with which they're presented but also fundamentally frustrating.