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Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette

Garin Dowd Thames Valley University

This essay sets out from the premise that the films of Jacques Rivette
merit sustained reconsideration in the framework provided by Deleuzes
Cinema 2: The Time-Image. In particular it explores the concepts of the
powers of the false and fabulation as ways of engaging with Rivettes
cinematic oeuvre, with a particular focus on his Paris-set films. On this
basis the article seeks to add to the readings undertaken by Deleuze
himself and, in the light of Rivettes cine-thinking, to examine in tandem
both films to which Deleuze directly responded, such as Le Pont du nord,
and later post-Deleuze renegotiations of the city such as Secret dfense.

Keywords: Powers of the false, fabulation, the virtual, bifurcation, urban

space, the time-image
In his early study of Nietzsche Deleuze asserts: our highest thoughts take
falsehood into account; moreover, they never stop turning falsehood
into a higher power, an affirmative and artistic power that is brought
into effect, verified and becomes true in the work of art (Deleuze 1983:
105). The second of Deleuzes two volumes devoted to cinema returns
to the theme of the powers of the false first introduced in Nietzsche
and Philosophy. In Cinema 2: The Time-Image the emergence of the
powers of the false is seen as symptomatic of the broader transformation
which Deleuze associates with the break with the movement-image that
is with the precepts and modus operandi, not to mention the
conceptual support-structure, of sensory-motor-driven or organic
cinematographic presentation. What this emergence seeks to displace
is a cinematographic model dependent on a certain stance vis--vis
representation, verisimilitude and realism. The space of a sensory-motor
situation, Cinema 2 informs us, is a setting which is already specified
and presupposes an action which discloses it, or prompts a reaction
which adapts to or modifies it (Deleuze 1989: 7). Organised as it is by a
vector of transcendence guaranteed to consolidate good form, organic
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cinematographic presentation secretes what Deleuze calls chronological

time. In chronological time, overseen by the sensory-motor situation,
interventions which jar with the narrative presupposed by that situation
are only capable of being viewed as contingently abnormal (Deleuze
1989: 128). Organic cinema presupposes the independence of its object,
and hence presupposes a discernibility of the real and the imaginary
(Deleuze 1989: 7). By contrast, the cinema which Deleuze identifies
as crystalline adopts strategies of representation which see it, like the
nouveau roman, offer up descriptions which replace its own object. The
object is erased but another reality is powerfully brought out in the act
of constructing through speech or vision. In such a cinema the imaginary
and the real become indiscernible (Deleuze 1989: 7).
Pascal Bonitzer, now one of the film director Jacques Rivettes regular
collaborators as screenwriter, once recalled with amusement an article
on the latters Cline et Julie vont en bateau (1974) written under the
influence of Anti-Oedipus which was rejected by the editors of Cahiers
du cinma because it was out of step with the Althusserian turn which
the journal had taken in the early to mid 1970s (Bonitzer 1998: 50).
His anecdote serves as an introduction to the present study. For the
connection between the thought of Deleuze and the cinema of Rivette
has emerged with some hesitation.1 In the two volumes on cinema
written by Deleuze, while there is no doubting the importance for him
of Rivette, in his account of the adventures of the movement- and time-
images in the twentieth century Rivettes work occupies at first glance
a place more marginal than either that of Jean-Luc Godard or Alain
Resnais (see Deleuze 1985: 21314 and 1989: 1012, 19, 767, 194).2
Despite the fact that discussion of the work of Godard and Resnais
respectively is considerably more substantial than the space devoted
to Rivette, a detailed examination of the opening pages of the second
volume nonetheless reveals just how central Rivette is to the subsequent
elaboration of Deleuzes taxonomy.
The visionary aestheticism of Visconti, the emptied spaces of
Antonioni which have absorbed characters and actions (Deleuze
1989: 5), and the effacement of the distinction between the spectator
and the spectacle in Fellini are components emerging from the neo-
realist tradition all of which find themselves continued in Rivette.
The trajectory of Deleuzes argument here is marked by an important
and informative digression the discussion of Robbe-Grillet in which
Deleuze notes how the nouveau roman replaces its own object and
fabricates through indirect speech and vision (Deleuze 1989: 7). It is
to Robbe-Grillet that Deleuze will return in the key chapter as far the
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 187

present essay is concerned, The Powers of the False. Deleuze subscribes

to the view of Andr S. Labarthe that Lanne dernire Marienbad
(1961), to which Robbe-Grillet contributed the scenario, is the last
of the great neo-realist films. In this it forms for Deleuze the logical
link between the Italian neo-realist tradition and the French nouvelle
vague. As in Lanne dernire Marienbad, in Antonionis films, from
LEclisse (1962) onwards, the severance of character from territory
means that what we encounter is emptied space occupied or haunted
by emptied character. [T]his space refers back again to the lost gaze
of the being who is absent from the world as much as from himself
(Deleuze 1989: 9). The gaze is adrift and dislocated, thus creating an
optical drama lived by the character. In Robbe-Grillets novel Dans
le labyrinthe (1959) for example, in which an unnamed city is the
location for a soldier repeatedly to encounter a child as they circulate
in a quadrillage of identical streets, the oneiric space flattens out in
several self-reflexive devices such as the engraving generator, which is
itself the source of the characters in the city (Robbe-Grillet 1983: 17),
and the check tablecloth which in its gridding and interplay of chaos and
order becomes just one of the novels innumerable mises-en-abyme. On
this scene, in this place, objects come into prominence only through
their being covered, traced in their contours by an at once enveloping
and revealing substance. They are absences which are pulled back into
Being by means of being covered either by dust (if they are interior
objects) or snow (if they are exterior objects). In coming into the zone
of emergence the city and table are simultaneously and paradoxically
buried. In articulating what he sees as the common ground between neo-
realism and the nouvelle vague, for Deleuze there is in Rivette both a
consolidation of several innovations with which the fiction of Robbe-
Grillet is identified and a new set of departures. The two main film
directors identified by Deleuze at this juncture are Godard and Rivette.
Together with Jacques Tati they continue to create a cinema of optical
and sound situations, as opposed to the cinema of action, or sensory-
motor cinema.
Rivette is moreover identified by Deleuze as a filmmaker melded with
his terrain, an inheritor of Nerval a singer of Paris and its rustic streets
(Deleuze 1989: 11). It is not surprising to read this in the work of
the philosopher who so admired Edith Piaf.3 But Rivettes Paris is one
which is often emptied (and in this respect unlike that depicted in one
of Piafs songs La foule), as if its population were exhausted by the
actual characters, in the manner of Antonioni (Paris nous appartient,
La Bande des quatre), or it is the launch-pad for hallucination (Cline et
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Julie vont en bateau), experiments in reformulating and deconstructing

the traditional heterosexual couple (LAmour fou), or playful trans-
genre exercises (Haut bas fragile), all united in their common recourse
to a repertoire of fantasies, memories, or pseudo-memories . . . fable
and childrens games (Deleuze 1989: 10).4 The emptied terrain is
occupied by a visionary character which does not coincide with itself,
which, staring back at its emptied space, produces and perceives only
pure optical and sound situations. Thus Deleuze writes of Paris nous
appartient (1961) that the stroll culminates in a twilight fantasy where
the cityscape has no reality or connections other than those given by our
dream (Deleuze 1989: 11). In other films Rivette is shown to compound
the loss of circumscribed terrain by rendering unreliable the boundary
between spectator and spectacle, both poles inhabiting the mirage itself,
which in Duelle (1976) the exemplar for Deleuze takes the form of
the two women of the spectacle proceeding to eliminate all witnesses
to their cosmological conspiracy projecting an eternal mirage on to the
earth (Deleuze 1989: 11).5

I. The Powers of the False and Fabulation

The problem of the powers of the false is linked to the allied
questions also central to Deleuzes work more generally of population
and of territory (Deleuze 1987: 51). In particular, through their joint
implication in the presiding concept of the time-image, for Deleuze
both the notions of the powers of the false and of territory (itself
resonant with the concept of territorialisation not explicitly a concern
in the cinema books) pertain to a modern conception of time which he
describes as belonging to the specificity of the urban.6 For, although
the concept of the powers of the false has a specific function in Deleuzes
argument, it finds a complementary expression under the banner of
another Deleuzian concept (this time derived from Bergson rather than
Nietzsche) fabulation. To fabulate is essentially linked by Deleuze with
a political problem: the people are missing. The latter notion is on
the one hand historically specific (say, in the case of a postcolonial
filmmaker Senegalese director Ousmane Sembne, for instance), but on
the other, functions as a conceptual placeholder to identify traits in films
which, while less explicitly concerned with politics, experiment with
modes of address, enunciation and representation such that fabulation is
also concerned in both geopolitical and ontological terms with ground,
with territory, with foundation and, ultimately, with the effondrement
(ungrounding) advocated at the close of Difference and Repetition
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 189

(Deleuze 1994: 292). Writing of ontological repetition there, Deleuze

had suggested that:

Perhaps the highest object of art is to bring into play simultaneously all
these repetitions [physical, psychic, metaphysical, ontological], with their
differences in kind and rhythm, their respective displacements and disguises,
their divergences and decenterings, to embed them in one another and to
envelop one or the other in illusions the effect of which varies in each case.
(Deleuze 1994: 293)7

Fabulation, as the engine of the powers of the false, under certain

conditions, is an undertaking which confronts thought with its own
limit. In cinema it entails having a thought, thinking otherwise.
What we encounter is, in Stephen Zepkes words, a creative will of
cine-thought emerging in a new cinematic aesthetics (Zepke 2005:
105). Unlike the philosophical model of error, which will measure
transgressions in terms of their deviation from truth, considered as prior
and as standard, the powers of the false entail an alliance which does
not recognise truth or the truthfalsity distinction in the first place.
In the specific context of Cinema 2 fabulation is exemplified, inter alia,
by the work of Ousmane Sembne. This is why the griot is Sembnes
way of figuring in mise-en-abyme the role of the film director. In
foregrounding the griots function Sembne is able to show how stories
have either been silenced or their context heavily contaminated, and
how in this specifically postcolonial context it is necessary to create a
counter-memory, to speak for the absent, to falsify for those who will
remain absent, and for those who never were (Deleuze 1989: 222). The
cinema of Rivette of course, does not approach or embody fabulation
in the same way or to the same ends as does the work of Sembne.8
Nonetheless, in the conjunction of the theme of territory and the powers
of the false, his oeuvre is marked by a mode of fabulation. Rivettes first
full-length feature, Paris nous appartient, had already raised the question
of a population and a territory (and their relation) in its very title.
Later, Le Pont du nord (1981) articulates a conflict between very specific
geographical coordinates (in a northern part of Paris in the nineteenth
arrondissement around La Villette, then being massively redeveloped)
and their modulation in the films narrative within an imaginary global
Other Paris-set films which embrace the typical Rivettian combination
of plot and complot, in particular Secret dfense (1998) and Histoire
de Marie et Julien (2002), concern access to the hidden and buried
layers of intrigue, the unravelling of which serves less to resolve than
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to keep open a constitutive ambiguity. If, as Balint Kovcs observes in

an essay on Deleuze, the narrative principles of modern cinema consist
in making possible the realisation of virtually existing suprasensible
worlds (Kovcs 2000: 163), then Rivette is an important figure in this
According to Deleuze part of the specificity of the work of Rivette
is that it revisits the work of the pre-war French school (Grmillon,
Epstein, Vigo, LHerbier): I think expressionism conceives light in
relation to darkness, and their relation is one of struggle. In the pre-war
French school its quite different: theres no struggle, but alteration; not
only is light itself motion, but there are two alternating lights, solar and
lunar (Deleuze 1995: 49). In his essay published in Cahiers du cinma
on Rivettes film La Bande des quatre Deleuze develops this theme.
The essay is organised as a taxonomy featuring three circles roles
(theatre), attitudes and postures (life), and masks (conspiracy) which
are themselves enclosed in an encompassing circle. We are all rehearsing
parts of which we are as yet unaware (our roles). We slip into characters
which we do not master (our attitudes and postures). We serve a
conspiracy of which we are completely oblivious (our masks). This
is Rivettes vision of the world (Three Circles) (Deleuze 2006: 256).
Deleuze extrapolates from this to provide an account of Rivettes
entire oeuvre based on the ideas of modulation, transformation and
intersection: In a certain way, Rivette has never filmed anything else
but light and its lunar (Lucia) and solar (Constance) transformations.
Lucia and Constance are not persons, but forces (Deleuze 2006: 258).10
Through its interplay of two lights and two women, solar and lunar,
Duelle (the earlier film) had already in Deleuzes assessment marked
a return to concerns associated with the pre-war French school.11 The
struggle between characters associated with these lights is conducted in
a shifting terrain which disrupts any dialectical confrontation. In place
of dialectical opposition, Rivette presents a world marked by divergent
series which are endlessly tracing bifurcating paths (Deleuze 1993: 81),
or by cuts and interstices which might be said powerfully to exemplify
that aspect of modern cinema which for Deleuze is concerned, in Zepkes
words, with the interstice of images . . . Indiscernibly virtual and actual,
their actual individuation emerges from the virtual (Zepke 2005: 115).
In this respect there is a fundamental disagreement between the
approaches of Deleuze and of Jacques Rancire to cinematographic
modernism. In contrast to Deleuze, who views the sensory-motor schema
as producing effects of totalisation, narrative coherence and the solace
of good form, Rancire proposes that all cinema, and not just the
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 191

particular directors favoured by Deleuze, is founded upon what he

calls a thwarted fable. Accounts such as the one Deleuze provides
of Rivette would be examples of Deleuzes quest for a dramaturgy of
ontological restitution (Rancire 2006: 5) which Rancire finds to be
contradictory, based as it is on extracting from film narratives (such as
Hitchcocks Rear Window) allegories of the rupture with sensory-motor
schema (such as the immobility of Jeff/James Stewart). It is beyond
the scope of this essay to engage in this debate further than simply to
note that Rancire restores a dialectical imperative which Deleuze would
resist. For Rancire opsis (emergent and accidental visions) runs against
the grain of muthos (enabling narrative), and this is for Rancire the
thwarted fable (Rancire 2006) This is quite distinct from Deleuzes
bifurcating paths, wherein the act of fabulation is implicated in a
pervasive virtuality, even if both philosophers find in cinema an allegory
for a politics which features the idea of what Rancire describes as a
surging-forth from the shadows.

II. Bifurcation, Folding, Fabulation

In Jorge Luis-Borges renowned tale The Garden of Forking Paths
two competing impulses can be discerned: on the one hand there is a
disposition towards encompassment and synthesis, and on the other,
one towards divergence and bifurcation. Deleuzes brief reading of
Borges tale as put forward in The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque
(it is also referred to in Cinema 2), positions the text as a neo-baroque
reworking of the Baroque philosopher Leibnizs theory of possible
worlds (Deleuze 1993: 62). Deleuzes conceptualisation of what he calls
the neo-baroque, with its emphasis on folding, has the merit of what has
been described by one commentator as complicity with the world . . . a
thought of inflexion and fluidity, of a geometry regulated by rapports
more than by distances (le Dantec 1992: 140). In addition one of the
most notable aspects of Deleuzes concept of the fold is the specific model
of virtuality which it entails.12 Deleuze takes from Leibniz a theory of
virtuality which he returns from the brink of dogmatic closure to which
the author of the Monadology is committed. Reading Leibniz somewhat
against himself, Deleuzian virtuality, in the form of possible worlds, does
not, as it does in Leibniz, work in such a way as to shore up the actual,
the state of things. John Rajchmans succinct summary of the difference
between Leibnizs possible and Deleuzes virtual will serve our purposes
here: Virtuality is not the possibility of something that might be
realised; it is already real, and it does not stand in a representational
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or mimetic relation to what actualises it (Rajchman 1998: 125). In

Leibnizs Monadology each individual monad is the intellectual mirror
of the entirety of existence. Each, to a degree peculiar to it and dependent
on the force at its disposal (its position in a hierarchy of beings lends
the monad its force), is said to express the entire universe (Leibniz
1991: 25). In Leibnizs scheme the virtual designates that part of a
given monad which houses the unconscious expression of the universe. It
also includes under its jurisdiction worlds which are said to be possible.
However, in Leibniz any discordance between possible worlds is ruled
out by recourse to an overriding principle which declares that worlds
which are incompossible with pre-established Divine harmony only have
a contingent status. The virtual of possible worlds shores up the actual
of this world.
What is ruled out, however, in the neo-baroque (Deleuzian) version
of the possible world is the harmonic modulation of the fold by means
of which the subject (the Leibnizian monad) is formed. Instead of a
divergent world wherein the election was between the compossible and
the incompossible (with the compossible winning out in Leibniz), we
witness an inclusive disjunction, a bifurcation: the incompossible is not
simply rejected but becomes, instead, constitutive of the subject. In the
work of certain directors Rivette, Ral Ruiz and Werner Schroeter
most notably we encounter what amounts to an elaboration of a
thinking of incompossibility first formulated in Leibniz.
Fabulation, as Deleuze understands it, is another way of thinking
through the virtual once it is returned from the threshold to which
Leibniz takes it. Fabulation is a speech/enunciative act (conceived in
the most general terms) which can engender a people (it cannot realise
that people, but it can summon it forth in germinal or viral form).
(A)s Bergson was able to see, fabulation the fabulating function does
not consist in imagining or projecting an ego. Rather, it attains these
visions, it raises itself to these becomings and powers (Deleuze 1998:
3).13 Fabulation, then, summons a protean, virtual people which always
retains a germinal status and never acquires the status of Being. The
people as a collective is not actualised in a state of things but retains
a virtual status in the specific sense in which Deleuze understands
virtuality. This people is not prepared for, nothing pre-exists, no script
is written which will accommodate it to us. Fabulation is also free
indirect discourse wherein it will be impossible to disentangle the
contributing and constitutive voices one from the other. Rivettes work,
especially of the more emphatically experimental phase, is attuned to
this consequence of fabulating utterance. On the one hand this is
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 193

true in so far as collaborative collective utterance through Rivettes

frequent work on scenarios with his cast is made possible through the
circumstances of filming.14 The director as filmmaking subject is not a
unity but a multiplicity traversed by forces and vectors of becoming.
Writing of Blanchot in terms which equally apply to Rivette, Deleuze
refers to the presence to infinity of another thinker in the thinker, who
shatters every monologue of the thinking self (Deleuze 1989: 168).
In order to register the intensity of fabulation, rather than neutralise
it in the name of intentionality and the ego, Deleuze argues that what is
required is the intercesseur: Creations all about mediators . . . Whether
theyre real or imaginary, animate or inanimate, you have to form
your mediators. Its a series. If youre not in some series, even a
completely imaginary one, youre lost . . . youre always working in a
group, even when you seem to be on your own (Deleuze 1995: 125). The
mediators Rivette seeks out are on the one hand his intertextual points of
reference. These include references arising from direct adaptation. Out 1:
Noli me tangere (197071) is loosely derived from Balzacs LHistoire
des treize, Norot (1976) is based on Tourneurs The Revengers
Tragedy (1608), Hurlevent (1985) on the first few chapters of Bronts
Wuthering Heights, while La Belle noiseuse (1990) is adapted loosely
from Balzacs Le Chef-doeuvre inconnu. Other intertextual elements
are summoned in the shape of works of theatre, literature and film,
for example Racines Andromache in LAmour fou (1969), Henry
James The Other House and A Romance of Certain Old Clothes
in Cline et Julie, Pirandellos As You Desire Me in Va Savoir (2001),
Brisseaus film Un jeu brutal in La Bande des quatre (1989). In addition
mediation comes in the form of his collaborators: Bulle Ogier, Juliet
Berto, Jean-Pierre Laud, Pascal Bonitzer, et al. These mediators then
designate certain of the kinetic populations which traverse the Rivettian
oeuvre, equivalent to the mediators Deleuze describes as operative
in his own work: What mattered was not the points [. . . which. . . ]
functioned simply as temporary, transitory and evanescent points of
subjectivation but the collection of bifurcating, divergent and muddled
lines which constituted . . . a multiplicity and which passed between the
points, carrying them along without ever going from one to the other
(Deleuze and Parnet 1987: ix).15

III. Relation, Belonging and Non-derived Images

Deleuzes claim made at the mid-point (to date) in Rivettes
career that the director was the singer of Paris (Deleuze 1989: 11)
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in the tradition of Grard de Nerval has been upheld by his output.

From Paris nous appartient (1961) to Histoire de Marie et Julien (2003),
roughly half of Rivettes output is set (or partly set in the case of
Secret dfense) in Paris. What one might call the problem of Paris is
articulated in the paradox which Rivette takes from Charles Pguy and
which appears on screen in his first feature film: Paris belongs to us and
Paris belongs to no one. This for Deleuze is an essential characteristic
of the new type of character required by the cinema of the time-image:
It is because what happens to them does not belong to them and only
half-concerns them, because they know how to extract from the event
the part that cannot be reduced to what happens: that part of the
inexhaustible possibility that constitutes the unbearable, the intolerable,
the visionarys part (Deleuze 1989: 1920).
The question of belonging also gives rise to that of attribution. By
asking in his very first feature film the question which destabilises the
attribution of Paris, which disorients it, uncouples it, Rivette poses
the problem of both the dispossessed people and the dislocated city.
He poses in his own medium the question at the heart of Deleuzes
conception of the time-image: to whom is the image to be attributed?
Maurizio Grande, in his own Deleuzian analysis, has classified the
status of the image in Rivette in terms of images non-drives (Grande
1997: 297). The world, in Rivettes vision, becomes an enormous
hallucination, to which, or within which, a stable enunciative subject
and/or object cannot be appended or isolated. In his response to Norot
following its only theatrical screening in 1976, Jonathan Rosenbaum
points out how, like Duelle, it is structured on the successive elimination
of every character, developing towards a confrontation between a moon
ghost and a sun fairy (Rosenbaum 1983: 162). Thus the magic sweets
in Cline et Julie vont en bateau elicit the world of the family romance,
fabulation, the birth of a possible world. But we never simply accompany
these characters the better to return with them. For we will not return:
the drive causes the baseline to alter, to alter for all time and to always-
in-advance have altered. Film, character and scenario each take off on
a transversal trajectory which by definition rules out a return to the
point of departure. As Coureau explains, Le cinma de Rivette propose
bien une gographie faite dinstables et prcaires tentatives dinstallation
au sein de territoires (Rivettes cinema proposes a geography made
of unstable and precarious attempts at installation in the heart of
territories) (Coureau 1998: 51). In the words of Guattari, character and
terrain in Rivette would be examples of ontological threshold crossing:
I have crossed a threshold of consistency. Before the hold of this
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 195

block of sensation, this nucleus of partial subjectivation, everything was

dull, beyond it, I am no longer as I was before, I am swept away by
a becoming other, carried beyond my familiar existential Territories
(Guattari 1995: 93). Paris for Rivette is the occasion for and ground
of such a territorial fabulation.
This point can be illustrated by considering the status of urban
wandering in Le Pont du nord, the film which occupies the same position
in Rivettes career as Passion does for Godard: that of provisional
summary (Deleuze 1989: 10). The film appears at the end of those
annes Giscard Rivette so abhorred. What happens to the characters
of Le Pont du nord does not belong to them. The two central characters
(played by mother and daughter Bulle and Pascale Ogier) attempt to
unravel a labyrinthine thread inherited from Cervantes the coordinates
and vectors to which they respond deriving loosely from the trials of
Don Quixote. But the foray undertaken here is one into a world where
the so-called Maxes (a clandestine movement with unspecified political
motives) wreak havoc. The quest undertaken by the duo is dominated
not by the line leading from beginning of quest (a problem posed
to which the endeavours of the characters respond) to resolution of
difficulty (or failure to resolve it), but by a continuum of branchings,
graftings and bifurcations. For Lauren Sedofsky Out 1: Spectre (the
short version of the 12-hour-plus Out 1: Noli me tangere) had already
established this:

it proposes to the spectator a plural vision . . . thoroughly independent

cuttings of reality. To this extent Rivette participates in a contemporary
acceptance of phenomenological incompleteness. In Spectre he works actively
against all totalizing principles, including his own, thereby dissolving the plot
(understood as conspiracy and narrative). (Sedofsky 1974: 19)

The problem posed to the characters, as so often (and arguably

always) in Rivette is one of representation: the map which they use
to accompany, trace and establish their itinerary is the equivalent of
Mallarms throw of dice which cannot abolish chance. The problem
of representation is carried along by the film, inserting itself at each
moment. Thus, at one point, the protagonists are found suspended,
trapped in a labyrinth or spiders web of their own making. The film
unfolds, then, according to a neo-baroque logic of the event. Subject
and object are lost in the folds, the characters becoming nothing other
than these optical haloes that are drawn at the intersection of the radii
of curvature that fold the surface of images (Cache 1995: 3). Towards
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the end of the film a Max exchanges martial arts kicks with Baptiste
(Pascale Ogier).
Within a classic narrative denouement quest, evasion, confrontation
the presence of the antagonists in the same frame suggests the
convention of a conflict bringing to potential conclusion the problematic
posed by the film up to and including this point. But within this moment
of framing another frame intervenes. As the frame which accompanies
our viewing of the film is traversed by celluloid and is veering towards
resolution (i.e. the end of the film approaches), it is transgressed and
multiplied by the emergence of the crystalline effect of another frame
(a viewfinder). In the second frame, or in the partition of the moment,
the viewer sees, simultaneously, the Max and Baptiste engaged in combat
and one actor (playing a Max in the film) and another (Ogier) practising
the moves to be employed in that (simulated) sequence. Not one after
another, or even alongside one another: to what is at work here one
cannot respond now we see that it has been a film within a film all
along. The moment and the partition of that moment (the frame and
the deframing) are given contemporaneously and disjunctively. While
this rehearsal is not theatrical rehearsal a concern in several other films
by Rivette it nonetheless performs here a related function to theatrical
rehearsal, which, in the hands of Rivette, offers a paradoxical index
of what cinema cannot itself achieve: the inscription of the contingent
in every repetition. In the performances of Pirandello in Va Savoir, for
example, external contingencies determine elements of the performance
every night. The performance in the space behind the proscenium arch
differs depending on who is in the audience and visible to the actress.
Cinema screening, by contrast, is always repeated as the same. Mnils
claim that the theatre (including the idea of rehearsal in particular)
of Rivettian cinema exists only as a function of a strictly speaking
cinematographic project (Mnil 1998: 67) is all the more evident in
Le Pont du nord.
In ending with this conjoining of rehearsal and filming Le Pont du
nord operates a paradoxical closure and opening, script (plot) and
conspiracy (complot) given together in what Deleuze would call an
inclusive disjunction. For Deleuze this is an example of the crystal
image, made possible by the break with the modus operandi of classical
cinema: The crystal-image is, then, the point of indiscernibility of the
two distinct images, the actual and the virtual, while what we see in
the crystal is time itself, a bit of time in a pure state (Deleuze 1989:
82). As Youssef Ishaghpour writes of the ending: La fin du Le Pont
du nord est comme le chiffre du cinma de Rivette: La fiction donne
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 197

comme fiction devant la camra (The end of Le Pont du nord is like the
key to Rivettes cinema: Fiction given as fiction in front of the camera)
(Ishaghpour 1986: 211).
Within the space constructed in Rivettes films one is concerned less
with a spent time which can be exchanged and cancelled in favour
of closure and resolution than with dure itself. His films seem apt
illustrations of Deleuzes discussion:

The universe is made up of modifications, disturbances, changes of tension

and of energy, and nothing else. Bergson does indeed speak of a plurality
of rhythms of duration; but in this context he makes it clear in relation to
durations that are more or less slow or fast that each duration is an absolute,
and that each rhythm is itself a duration. (Deleuze 1988: 76)

This is borne out in La Bande des quatre which divides its scenes by
means of shots of metro trains serving as blocks of sonic and visual
affect. They intervene; they are between scenes, at once cutting across
and conjoining. Theirs is a trajectory separated from departure or
destination; they are intermediate states of dislocation and dis-locution.
As Deleuze writes, apropos Leibnizs Monadology, ultimately, despite
the conservative intentions of its author, it concerns a world of captures
rather than of closures (Deleuze 1993: 81). In the films of Rivette it
can be argued that one witnesses molecular conspiracy (capture) staged
as the subversion of a global encompassing molar conspiracy (closure).
Jonathan Rosenbaum attributes the Lang influence, with its strong theme
of conspiracy, which returns with considerable force in Secret dfense,
to the long-standing admiration inaugurated in Rivettes 1957 review
of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt for Cahiers du cinma (Rosenbaum
1983: 165). For some commentators this theme is synonymous with an
integral aspect of modernity. As Hlne Frappat points out however:
[L]a modernit consiste inventer des complots dou toute intention a
disparu (Modernity consists in inventing conspiracies from which all
intention has disappeared) (Frappat 2001: 213). It is the fact that in his
presentation of conspiracies, in Paris nous appartient and Le Pont du
nord for example, there seems to be both a lack of any intent on the
part of the conspirators as well as a lack of any human intentionality
to ground and sustain them, that makes Rivettes most pervasive genre
coordinate so lacking in anchorage. In place of this Rivette creates what
has been called a cosmological perspective on conspiracy. In seeming to
locate itself upon this genre coordinate Rivettes oeuvre indicates all the
more its slippage from all coordinates, including those imposed upon
it in the name of interpretation. In place of resolution or of Hegelian
198 Garin Dowd

sublation, what Rivette films is usually a crystalline moment, one of

coalescence and rapport; capture, provisional enclosure with the crystal
of time (just as the duo from Le Pont du nord are enclosed in the
spiders web).16 Thus the film-within-a-film sequence in Le Pont du
nord; thus the doubles which proliferate in many of the works but
especially in Duelle and La Bande des quatres, or even the double
painting and erasure which forms the axis of La Belle Noiseuse; thus also
the repetition, in the form of a reverse mirror image, in Cline et Julie
vont en bateau. The equivalent of the crystalline merger of the virtual
and the actual, in Rivette one is left in the throes of an inexhaustible
possibility incompossibility rather than a conclusion. This, arguably, is
the Hawksian side of Rivette.
If, then, the site to which either character or theme would be adhered
does not serve in fact to locate or consolidate either then both are
left adrift, dislocated and in abeyance. Which is why so many Rivette
protagonists are always en route (Baptiste in Le Pont du nord, circling
on a moped the statue of the lion in the place Denfert) and often found
at dawn, on the threshold of day and night, life and death.
It is this insistence, first on place the streets of Paris, and then on
characters-actors who cannot belong, that provides the shifting territory
of the fabulist. Paris for Rivette is a garden of bifurcating paths. The
scene in Secret dfense where Sandrine Bonnaires character crosses
Paris and journeys to the estate in the country by various modes of
public transport a particular fascination of the director comprises
three long takes. Antoine de Baecque in an otherwise quite acerbic
article representing a strong statement on the alleged irrelevance of this
manifestation of the Rivette system to contemporary French cinema,
writes eloquently of this scene: Time, then, dilates, the body see-saws
with deliberation, hastening from train to train, from speed to speed;
the world is ceaselessly sucked in by the fantastic and the irrational;
everything flows (liquids play an important role in the film) and nothing
can settle until death is achieved (de Baecque 1998: 71). The scene
reveals several aspects of Rivettes singular project. First there is a
concern with vectors, second with duration, Bergsonian dure, but third
it reminds us of Rivettes approach to his actors.
As a director Rivette is notable for the extent to which he has
attempted to theorise film acting. In an interview he refers to his attempts
to treat the text as material which plays a role exactly similar to
the other materials in the film: the actors faces, their gestures, the
photographic texture . . . the words carried by the images are not filmed
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 199

for their meaning but rather for their materiality, as events and not as
meanings (Rivette [1973] in Rosenbaum 1977: 52).
In interview with Serge Daney in the film Le Veilleur (directed by
Claire Denis), Rivette reveals what it is that fascinates him about actors
such as Jean-Pierre Laud. They manage, he argues, to act with their
entire bodies. This is why Rivette cannot restrict the actors body to
close-ups of the privileged part of the fragmented body, the face (as he
explains in the film). He needs to have the entire body, not the signifying,
metonymic fragment. Rivettes cinema requires a specific type of actor
as well as a new approach to them as co-creators. Bulle Ogier and Juliet
Berto created their own roles through part improvisation and writing in
films in which, as has been said of Out 1, good and bad acting ceased
to matter, what was at stake being behaviours Geraldine Chaplin
described to Jonathan Rosenbaum the rigours of working with Rivette
on Norot, while recently in an interview on the DVD release of Histoire
de Marie et Julien Emmanuelle Bart describes the particular challenges
working with him continues to present to actors. His approach has
counterparts in cinema and of course theatre. While the experimental
fervour of the post-1968 era which characterises his work in the 1970s
may no longer be in evidence, there remain, in films such as Haut bas
fragile (1995) and Va Savoir, in different ways and to different degrees,
elements deriving from the period. Sedofskys account retains its force:
Like Artaud, Rivette has created a non-theological space (Derrida)
which admits the tyranny of neither text nor auteur. It is a space in which
the actors grammar of gesture and voice may play creatively, without
impediment (Sedofsky 1974: 19).

IV. Secret dfense

Sandrine Bonnaires portrayal of detachment from the socius had already
been deployed to great effect in Agns Vardas Sans toit ni loi (1985)
and Claude Chabrols La Crmonie (1995) when Rivette developed
her character for Secret dfense. Her character Sylvie is only partly
participatory in the world of human exchange, interacting with humans
only at the level of DNA as she conducts her research interaction
with the molecular DNA as opposed to molar human subjects (Deleuze
and Guattari 1988: 345). The only other interaction with anyone
outside her family takes place in commercial situations (or states of
transit), buying a ticket or a drink to steady her nerves en route
to Walser (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) at the estate. Sylvie exists only as
200 Garin Dowd

a force of intervention, refusing relation, and inhabits what Deleuze

calls vectorial as opposed to encompassing space (Deleuze 1985:
218). She perpetuates a question, sends a vector into the estate, and
threatens to unearth its buried secret. Indeed, as the scene from which
the film gets its title demonstrates (as Sylvie walks past the sealed room
where missiles are being constructed Walser jokingly whispers Secret
Dfense! Top Secret), we are reminded that the secret has a kind of
radioactivity: It is as if the past surfaces in itself but in the shape
of personalities which are independent, alienated, off-balance, in some
sense embryonic, strangely active fossils, radioactive, inexplicable in the
present where they surface, and all the more harmful and autonomous.
Not recollections but hallucination (Deleuze 1989: 113).
At work in her Parisian laboratory Sylvie is attempting to find a
cure for cancer. The cure however must kill the cancerous cells, as
the scene in which she observes the promising results of an experiment
makes clear. Likewise, in her view and that of her brother, to cure
the malaise that stalks and unsettles their present requires the death
of Walser, their fathers former associate. The photograph uncovered
by Sylvies brother sets Sylvie off on a path leading towards Walser,
as assassin of their father and supplanter of the latter both in their
mothers affections and in the role of company head. However, as
she sets off on this trajectory, the contact which takes place with him
initiates another path, incompossible with the first: Walser as avenging
the suicide of the younger sister after the sexual abuse suffered at the
hands of the murdered father. Time, here, is off its hinges: the original
and suspended sorority is repeated in the two local sisters, both of
whom sleep with Walser. But the murdering Walsers role is accidentally
now occupied by Sylvie; beginning with the intention of revenge, she
replicates Walsers own earlier murderous act, but misdirects her own
vector of intervention: as Sylvie holds a gun to Walser not believing his
account, Walsers young lover intervenes only to be accidentally shot
as she struggles to defend him. The two surviving sisters eventually
confront each other, the local woman deliberately shooting Sylvie in
what she regards as revenge for her own sisters death. The goal to which
each character is directed is vectorially disposed is to be reached by
means of a killing and yet in killing in each case one fails to reach
that goal. Each occasion, then, is a false death, comes about as the
result of a wrong move, one brought about by the intervention of the
incompossible, the impossible. What happens to Sylvie does not belong
to her.
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 201

Deleuze says of theatrical representation in Rivette that it is a mirror-

image but, precisely because it is constantly failing, is the seed of that
which does not manage to come to completion or to be reflected
(Deleuze 1989: 76). Theatricality in Secret dfense is somewhat distinct
from the literal theatrical doublings of Cline et Julie vont en bateau,
LAmour fou, or La Bande des quatre, and from the paintermodel
frontality of La Belle Noiseuse (which is a kind of bridge in this respect
taking us from the latter films to Secret dfense), but it is present in
the form of the stand-in at different levels: two sisters, Ludivine and
Vronique, are played by the same actor (Laure Marsac), Sylvie acts
in the place of her brother, Walser acts in a paternal role towards
Sylvie, Walser and Sylvies mother together play out a scenario extending
over 15 years, within which he plays the role of faithful lover. None
of these roles is allowed to be completed: each collapses in its own
failure to represent, to render actual the virtual. Only the breakdown in
artifice, the deconstruction of the plot, can identify the film as fabulation
(Sedofsky 1974: 19), or as Rivette himself says of the films up until and
including Cline et Julie vont en bateau: In each case there was a first
part where we assembled a story of a search, and a second part where
little by little we wiped it out (Rivette 1974: 23).
If Rivettes work attests to possible worlds in their bifurcation,
inclusive disjunction and becoming, and if in this respect it maintains
itself as generative locus of incompossible series without resolution, then
it is in this sense that his work provides an emblem of a people to
come, in Deleuzes sense. The people does not designate a collective
of individuals bound together in the imagined community of a nation.
Instead of being an imagined community, the people to come, progeny
of fabulation, is both the object and subject of a collective utterance.
For Jean-Franois Lyotard, in the megalopolis there is only transit,
transfer, translation and difference. It is not the house passing away,
like a mobile home or the shepherds hut, it is in passing that we
dwell (Lyotard 1991: 198). Paul Virilios neologism, trajectif, is helpful
here (Virilio 1996). That which is trajective is to be distinguished both
from the subjective and the objective. It collapses the binary distinction
between these terms. In many respects the work of Rivette obeys a
trajective logic: it does not have a centre, because within any posited
centre we encounter a series of doubles (Paris and its doubles).17
This imposition of a labyrinthine imperative deprives his films of fixed
coordinates, those which permit the identification and differentiation
of subject and object. The viewer, once deprived of these coordinates,
202 Garin Dowd

is presented instead with a collection of vectors and trajectories in a

cinematographic dislocation.18
The films of Jacques Rivette respond to the distinct velocity of
the contemporary world, to its altered density. He and Virilio might
agree is one of those who have invented a system of divergence, of
decoy, at the threshold of dubious consistencies and subject positions
(Virilio 1996: 25). In Deleuzian terms, to adapt Claire Colebrook,
from the thought of the constitution of this or that space from this
or that desire, one can think space as such in its infinite divergence: a
thousand plateaus (Colebrook 2005: 205). The work of Rivette has,
for more than half a century, generated many molecular populations.
Through the medium of a cinema predominantly located in the city, the
space of the people, but also of the state and of the state apparatuses,
Rivette has continuously invented collective assemblages of the type
advocated by Deleuze, for whom The utterance is the product of an
assemblage which is always collective, which brings into play within us
and outside us populations, multiplicities, territories, becomings, affects,
events (Deleuze and Parnet 1987: 51).
The practical political impact of a cine-thinking such as that of Rivette
is not to be measured in the light of any discernible transformations
which it manages to effectuate through influence upon a mass of people
as such. Rather it is to be measured in the extent to which it stages
levels of becoming (Deleuze 1998: 1) and trajective possibilities which
do not belong to a molar model of liberation (arguably still the case
with Rancire in his notion of the division of the sensible), but which,
rather, function at a molecular level and engage with the socius at that
level. Such lines of flight are dramatised in a filmic space which is also
that of thought itself, as Deleuze says in Dialogues cinematic thought,
cinematic relation. In detecting the forces of resistance which can make
power bend, the virtual is an opening for this combat, for this struggle of
thought and of language against that which, in thought and in language,
is at the same time power and servitude (Parente 1998: 564). Deleuzes
description of Le Pont du nord focuses on one side of Rivette the molar
conspiracy which distributes roles and situations in a malevolent game
of snakes and ladders (Deleuze 1989: 214) whereas in Secret dfense,
with global power structures occluded under the false immunity named
in the films title, at a molecular level another conspiracy a collision
of love or hatred (Deleuze and Parnet 1987: 52) is at work. It is the
role of such an aesthetic problematisation of the contemporary to be, in
Deleuzes and in Nietzsches terms, untimely that is, a critique of the
Paris and its Doubles: Deleuze/Rivette 203

present world. For Rivette, it is apparent, as it is for Deleuze, that Time

out of joint is the time of the city and nothing else (Deleuze 1998: 28).

1. Considering that Deleuze devoted an essay to the director, Anglophone
commentary on Deleuzes writings on cinema has to date been relatively silent
with regard to Rivette. In a French context, perhaps not surprisingly, there have
been more frequent critical conjunctions (see for example Chauderlot 2001,
Coreau 1998 and Mnil 1998).
2. Deleuzes 1989 Cahiers essay on Rivettes La Bande des quatre (1988) provides
confirmation of the importance of the director to his understanding of cinema
(see Deleuze 2006).
3. The admiration is emphasised in Labcdaire de Gilles Deleuze.
4. Of course several of these films were made after the completion of Deleuzes
5. Rivette had the cast watch Mark Robsons Val Lewton-produced The Seventh
Victim (1944), a film concerning the elimination of traitors and witnesses in a
narrative about devil worship in Manhattans East Village.
6. See Alliez (1996b: preface by Deleuze) on conducts of time, with Kant, for
example, as the first philosopher of cities (Alliez 1996a: 231) and Stengers
(1997: 177212) on the clock and the development of urban time.
7. At the end of the paragraph (Deleuze 1994: 294) Deleuze indicates the extent
to which his thinking about this matter was already turning towards cinema
(Lanne dernire Marienbad in particular).
8. Deleuzes emphasis on other aspects of Rivette is such that he is not mentioned
in the Powers of the False chapter.
9. On conspiracy see Watts (2005).
10. The essay revisits concepts developed in Cinema 2 which was written before
La bande des quatre was released. The attitude of the body is like a time-
image, the one which puts the before and after in the body, the series of
time; but the gest is already a different time-image, the order or organisation
of time, the simultaneity of its peaks, the coexistence of its sheets (Deleuze
1989: 195). Rivette there is one of the directors discussed in the context of
the Brechtian idea of the gest [as] the development of attitudes themselves . . . a
direct theatricalisation of bodies . . . independently of any role (Deleuze 1989:
192). The film takes further the ideas developed in the films Deleuze does discuss,
namely Lamour par terre and Lamour fou (Deleuze 1989: 1934).
11. Duelle is a film which subsequent relative inaccessibility has rendered more
peripheral in Rivette commentary than Deleuze might have imagined at the time
he was writing. The fate of Norot and Merry Go Round rendered them even less
accessible (until its release on DVD in 2006, Norot had only received isolated
festival screenings since its completion in 1976).
12. Deleuzes theory of virtuality traverses much of his work. The crucial distinction
between the virtual and the possible however appears in Deleuze (1988:
13. Utopia isnt the right concept: its more a question of a fabulation (Deleuze
1995: 174). He goes on to reiterate the assertion that we ought to take up
Bergsons concept and make it political. Zepke suggests that the artistic power
204 Garin Dowd

of the false marks Deleuzes creation of the indiscernibility of Bergson and

Nietzsche (Zepke 2005: 106).
14. The collaborators multiply in Haut bas fragile with seven individuals listed.
15. On kinetic populations see Deleuze (1994: 2167).
16. For Deleuze, Eisenstein is cinemas Hegel (Raessens 1997: 270).
17. Paris and its doubles is one of the three titles which appear at the start of Out 1:
Spectre, the four-hour refashioning of Rivettes 12-hour Out 1: Noli me tangere.
18. See Benot Goetz (2002).

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Paris nous appartient/Paris Belongs to us, directed by Jacques Rivette. France:
Claude Chabrol-AJYM, Franois Truffaut-Les Films du Carrosse, 1961.
LAmour fou, directed by Jacques Rivette. France: Cocinor-Marceau, Sogexportfilm-
Georges de Beauregard, 1969.
Out 1: Noli me tangere, directed by Jacques Rivette. France: Sunchild Productions,
Out 1: Spectre, directed by Jacques Rivette. France: Sunchild Productions, 1974.
Cline et Julie vont en bateau, directed by Jacques Rivette. France: Les Films du
Losange, 1974.
Duelle, directed by Jacques Rivette. France: Sunchild Productions, 1976.
Norot, directed by Jacques Rivette. France: Sunchild Productions, INA, Productions
Jacques Roitfield, 1976.
Le Pont du nord, directed by Jacques Rivette. France: Les Films du Losange,
Margaret Menegoz, Lyric International, La Ccilia, 1980.
La Bande des quatre, directed by Jacques Rivette. France: Pierre Grise Productions,
Limbo Film, La Sept, 1989.
Secret dfense, directed by Jacques Rivette. France/Switzerland/Italy: Pierre Grise
Productions, La SEPT cinma, T & G Film AG, Alia Films, 1998.
Va Savoir, directed by Jacques Rivette. France/Italy/Germany: Pierre Grise
Productions, 2001
Histoire de Marie et Julien, directed by Jacques Rivette. France/Italy: Pierre Grise
Productions, 2003.

DOI: 10.3366/E1750224109000580