Resplendent from first frame to last, Jacques Rivette’s Va savoir! (the director’s 19th feature in a career that began precisely 40 years ago) is the jewel in his crown, a film that in its high artistic quality, subtle complexity and sublime mise-en-scene resembles Renoir’s Rules of the Game and Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, landmark films with which it also shares some thematic similarities. This superbly acted ensemble piece, which chronicles the fables and foibles of an Italian theatrical company performing in Paris, focusing on the leading actress and her lover-director, was the most fluently stagedoand most enjoyableofilm to be shown in Cannes this year.
Most of the action is set in the theatre, where the touring company performs, with elaborate scenes from Pirandello’s As You Desire Me presented on screen, back-stage in the dressing rooms and in the hotel where the leading lady and her director share a suite with adjacent rooms. Gradually, what is considered public space becomes private and vice versa. The theatrical production serves as both backdrop and revelation site for the complex, ever-changing and overlapping passions of each of the character’s secret desires. Indeed, seldom have the issues of whether life imitates art or art imitates life been given such a shrewdly elusive and astutely insinuating interpretation. France-Germany-Italy, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. dts stereo. 156 min.