Ne touchez pas la hache (2007)

13 06 2008

Another solid effort from Rivette, but a step-down from Histoire de Marie et Julien, which remains my favorite. For what it’s worth, this is probably one of his more comedic outings and it is brilliantly disguised as a “prestigious” period piece sort of film. If anything, it’s probably a parody of that sub-genre as it reflects none of the usual tones of such films. Instead, this is very funny, “light” type of film that showcases Rivette’s talent as a filmmaker. In addition, it seems that he is beginning to shy away from the surrealistic touches of his earlier features. On the other hand, this is rather an inconsequential film. It never really explores any deep emotions like the best of Rivette’s films do. In other words, a holding pattern, but a very enjoyable one.

Armand de Montriveau arrives at a secluded Spanish colony, beaten and heartbroken. He attends a small Church service but can’t prevent himself from breaking down. Things begin to become clearer: he is searching for his lost love, Antoinette de Langeais. He finds her but things are different now. For example, she is now a nun. The two cannot partake in a conversation without the supervision of one of Antoinette’s Spanish-speaking superiors. Armand makes his intentions clear but Antoinette resists. The story backtracks five years to their initial meeting, which details the complications that seem to have always existed between the couple.

At a sparse (at least by Rivette’s standards) running time of 131 minutes, Don’t Touch the Axe is not only one of Rivette’s shortest feature length films but probably his most accessible as well. Of course, the diminished amount of time needed to invest helps a bit, but the very light comedic touches play perhaps the biggest role. For what its worth, this is also one of Rivette’s best looking films, though almost all of his films tend to look nice anyway. Combine some good-looking visuals with a few laughs and another great performance from the always wonderful Jeanne Balibar and you’ve got a very good movie.

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