The strangest by far of Jacques Rivette’s films (1976), and perhaps the last gasp of the modernist strain that infused his work from L’amour fou to Out 1 to Celine and Julie Go Boating, this is a violent and unsettling fusion of a female pirate adventure (filmed on some of the same locations used for The Vikings and inspired in part by Lang’s Moonfleet, but set in no particular place or period), mythological fantasy, Jacobean tragedy (with many lines borrowed from Tourneur’s Revenger’s Tragedy), experimental dance film (with live improvised music from a talented trio of musicians), and personal psychodrama. The eclectic cast includes Geraldine Chaplin, Bernadette Lafont, Kika Markham (Two English Girls), and a few members of Carolyn Carlson’s dance company. While the mise en scène and locations are often stunning, the film seems contrived to confound conventional emotional reactions of any sort. It’s a movie where the casual slitting of someone’s throat and the swishing sounds of Lafont’s leather pants are made to seem equally relevant — a world apart from Rivette’s more recent La belle noiseuse. Yet Rivette’s feeling for duration, immediacy, and moods of menace are fully present here, and days or weeks after you see this chilling conundrum of a movie, sounds and images may come back to haunt you. Rarely screened — the film never even had a commercial run in France — this monstrous work deserves to be seen as a uniquely disquieting experience. (JR)

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