Va Savoir

REVIEW by Willard Manus

The Chinese torture with water, the French do it with movies. VA SAVOIR, the latest effort by 73-year-old Jacques ("The Nun") Rivette, is 150 minutes of slowly unfolding and intersecting love triangles involving six of the most boring, unsexy and unsympathetic people imaginable. Additionally, the lead actress (Jeanne Balibar) is mannered to the point of ludicrousness. When not flashing inappropriate smirks, she jerks head and torso around, or flails at the air, as if fighting off unseen mosquitoes. The other actors don't fare much better, but perhaps their failings should be attributed to the script's mundane storyline, banal dialogue (delivered with typical Gallic pomposity) and Rivette's snail-like direction. Va Savoir bills itself as a romantic

comedy about three men and three women who become entangled in each other's lives during the brief run of a play in Paris. Trouble is, the romance is inadequate, the comedy nonexistent. About the only positive thing about the movie is its absence of music: the entire story unfolds without benefit of swooning violins or thrumming guitars underlining (and, most often, ruining) key emotional moments.

Rivette is known for putting works of theatre at the heart of his films; he's concerned with the conflict between "fictional" theatre and "real" life, get it? But he even botches this theme in Va Savoir. All the long--very long--excerpts he uses from Pirandello's As You Desire Me come off as hammy, stilted and ridiculous as a Benny Hill sketch--without Benny Hill's outrageous humor, alas.

Va Savoir translates as Who Knows? It's an apt question: who knows how or why this movie got made?