New romantic

Movie: Va Savoir (Who Knows?)

Our Rating: 4.00

At age 73, director Jacques Rivette, a member of the French New Wave, is known for dramatic films that explore the conceit the theater presents: As human beings we perform both on and off stage, usually playing our assigned roles but sometimes miraculously revealing our true selves. With "Va Savoir (Who Knows?)", he uses such a metaphor to offer a substantive shrug-of-the-shoulders comedy about the age-old battle of the sexes and the need for love.

The film centers on three men and three women whose lives converge during the run of a play in Paris. Camille (Jeanne Balibar) has returned after a three-year hiatus to perform in Pirandello's "Come Tu Mi Vuoi" (As You Desire Me), along with her co-star/director/boyfriend, Ugo (Sergio Castellitto). When his production is not financially successful, Ugo searches for another play in hopes of saving his troupe. More serious, though, is the unraveling relationship with Camille. She is at loose ends over a past affair with Pierre (Jacques Bonnaffe), a mad philosophy professor who now lives with Sonia (Marianne Basler), a woman with dark secrets. Ugo meets a beautiful thesis student, Do (Helene de Fougerolles), and she assists in his search for a script. Do's half-brother Arthur (Bruno Todeschini), a gambler and thief, has designs on Sonia but is possessive of his sister. Driven to distraction, Camille visits her former lover, and all six characters begin to interact in a series of entanglements both comical and dramatic.

Rivette deftly entertains while intellectually posing conundrums and revealing the complexity of human desires. Sophisticated plot permutations depend not only on the marvelous ensemble cast but also on equivalences between what happens on and off the stage, even as Pirandello's play directly relates to situations involving the film's characters.

As for the fact that the usually serious Rivette could make a solid romantic comedy at such an advanced age ... well, who knew?


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