132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

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Emak-Bakia
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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#51 Post by Emak-Bakia » Wed Aug 14, 2013 9:33 am

Thanks for the response, Michael. If I’m understanding you correctly, are you stating that you find Rivette’s films to be most satisfying when you approach them with a more intuitive mindset rather than an analytical one?

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#52 Post by AlexHansen » Wed Aug 14, 2013 3:29 pm

Based on my only Rivette viewing (the Hulu offerings), I'd say going with the flow and letting it stew rather than actively trying to engage with it is probably my personal preferred approach. I suppose I'll find out once I finally get some more of his films under my belt (NORD ought to be devoured soonly; it is just sitting there on the shelf calling me).

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#53 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Aug 14, 2013 4:49 pm

Emak-Bakia wrote:Thanks for the response, Michael. If I’m understanding you correctly, are you stating that you find Rivette’s films to be most satisfying when you approach them with a more intuitive mindset rather than an analytical one?
As I have gotten older, I have begun to do this with MOST films, not just Rivette. But yes, it is definitely how I feel about Rivette. ;-}

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#54 Post by Emak-Bakia » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:17 pm

That’s an interesting change, Michael. My first viewing of Le Pont du Nord was, I think, very much as you and Alex have described. I watched it again last night and, boy, what a difference a few days makes! I think I was a bit in love with Baptiste with the first viewing and failed to notice a lot of other things going on in the film. With the second viewing, I was struck by just how dense the whole film is. It seems to me as if every action and line of dialogue and setting is carefully chosen and full of meaning. Rivette, though, is so subtle about introducing these ideas, that it never seems forced. It’s quite easy to just sit back and take pleasure in the entire experience.

Consider the opening scene, for example. Every gesture reveals new information about Baptiste and Marie. There’s the way Baptiste looks at her compass and then surveys her surroundings. The way she circles back on her scooter and curiously eyes up the man on the motorcycle (is this merely childish jealousy or does she sense that he is a Max?) There’s the way Marie rides into town in the back of a pickup truck and then refuses to enter any buildings. It’s all so mysterious and yet significant.

This introduction comes to an abrupt end, though, when the film cuts from Marie to a montage set to upbeat music of Baptiste riding around on her scooter, looking suspiciously at statues of lions. Rivette seems to constantly be releasing tension from the serious tone with these joyful moments, almost always centered around Baptiste. Each time she faces off with an enemy, be it eyes on a poster or a dragon, it’s hilarious.

This raises the question, though: does Rivette mean for viewers to be laughing at Baptiste? Her character, after all, is so out-of-this-world that it’s not unreasonable to wonder if the film is actually sci-fi and she’s a time-travelling knight from the middle ages! I think it’s important to consider the age difference of the two women (Marie being probably twice the age of Baptiste, and also Baptiste’s mother in real life.) Baptiste constantly claims to “know” things, while Marie, fresh out of prison and more hardened, seems less likely to accept such intuitive impulses. In my mind, the film constantly raises the question of whether Baptiste is naïve. Who’s right: Baptiste or Marie? Will Rivette even take a side?
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In the end, I’m not so sure that he does take sides or that it’s even important. One could point to Marie’s death as evidence that she made the wrong choices, but the film seems to be structured after “The Game of the Goose,” in which, Marie points out, “death means a new beginning.” Probably the most startling reality check in the film is when Baptiste shoots the stranger in the phone booth. This scene washes away any notion of Baptiste being whimsical and paints her as mentally deranged. But Rivette, as he does the entire film, releases the tension with the follow-up scene and makes one question the seriousness of the crimes that took place only moments before. The film closes with Baptiste receiving martial arts lessons from Max, she kicking with all her might and laughing, and he repeatedly complimenting her while giving her tips.
It’s all so dizzying (as you can probably tell from my scattershot rant) and fascinating. I feel like I could continue writing about this film for pages and maybe put all the pieces together eventually. I suspect, though, that to do so would be to take the mystery out of the film and deprive myself of the raw thrill of the experience that Michael and Alex are referencing. Reading the Serge Daney/Jean Narboni interview with Rivette in the invaluable booklet accompanying the Masters of Cinema release, it seems maybe even Rivette didn’t know what the film was about after completing it: “…I don’t even know what the film is yet – maybe I’ll never know, that’s what happens sometimes.”

I do want to thank Masters of Cinema for such a great release. I hope this one’s a big hit for them so they’ll release more Rivette. It seems to me like Le Pont du Nord could connect with the lucrative Wes Anderson/Richard Linklater fanbases. It’s arty, beautifully shot, full of pop music, has a youth-in-revolt protagonist and it’s funny! I only hope that type of crowd discovers this gem (I’ll do my best to spread the word!)

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#55 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 15, 2013 12:57 pm

Oh, I certainly do lots of thinking about Pont du Nord (and all of Rivette's other films) when (and after) watching them -- but I don't try to "interpret" them (which I see as trying to impose some sort of logical meaning). ;-}

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#56 Post by Emak-Bakia » Thu Aug 15, 2013 1:57 pm

And I agree! In the part where I wrote about taking the mystery out of the film, I meant to refer exclusively to trying to put all the pieces together (or "impose some sort of logical meaning," in your words.) Clearly, I've been thinking about the film a lot over the past couple days, and it's been very rewarding. This might be the greatest detective film I've ever seen!

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#57 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 15, 2013 2:32 pm

> This might be the greatest detective film I've ever seen!

Well, it's certainly my favorite one.

Usually I find that I can't fit all the pieces together in Rivette's films (sometimes too many pieces, some times too few, sometimes the pieces ddon't seem the right shape), but I never worry much.

It took me a while to warm uo to Celine and Julie (but eventually I did), yet it was love at first sight for Gang of Four and Pont du Nord (among quite a few others).

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#58 Post by Emak-Bakia » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:16 pm

Now I'm eager to watch more Rivette, and it's strangely appropriate that I will have to do a bit of sleuthing to watch most of his films.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#59 Post by warren oates » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:45 pm

I do think it's a mistake to imagine that because Rivette's films feature unconventional narratives or adhere to their own internal logic that there's no logic to them at all, or that they don't have to make any kind of sense. I screened Le Pont du Nord last night from the new MoC Blu and liked it, but not quite as much as some of the other Rivette films from the same period, especially Out 1 and Celine and Julie. I think, in part, because even according to its own rules, this one doesn't hold together as well. In a way, Le Pont du Nord is almost more like a Rivettean's Rivette, a pure exercise in style and play. Rivette himself seems to have adhered to a pretty strict set of almost Dogme-like constraints in the conception/production of the film and it's these making-of rules that seem to be in the driver's seat rather than any kind of narrative agenda this time. And I have to say that it's the achievement within this framework that I find most interesting and inspiring. To make a film about two characters, quickly, shooting on the streets with no lighting, with no interiors, etc. and to still have it be this fun and good and this precise a depiction of a time and place. Among many other things, Le Pont du Nord is like a city symphony documentary of a Paris in transition. I could have done with a little more mystery and less of the deadpan quixotic street fighting, but all in all, a good night in at the movies.
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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#60 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:49 pm

I wouldn't say there is "no logic" in Rivette's films in general, it is just that I don't _worry_ about logic when watching them (but do pay attention to what seem to be "patterns").

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#61 Post by Emak-Bakia » Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:49 pm

I agree with your first point, warren. Don’t mistake me – I’m not at all saying that Le Pont du Nord doesn’t make sense, because I feel quite the opposite. I like the way Michael described some of Rivette’s films as having too many pieces, because that’s how I feel about this particular one right now. Although I don’t understand how all those pieces fit in, they still all work together to create a very special mood that I can only describe as uniquely Rivettian (but I, once again, have to reiterate that this is the only Rivette I’ve seen.)

Also, good call on referring to Le Pont du Nord as a city symphony. I am a little puzzled, though, by your suggestion that the film should have had more mystery and less street fighting. Of course, I can't compare it to any other Rivettes, but are you talking about narrative mystery? And I've already written about how much I love Baptiste's street confrontations. I think it's precisely how serious she is about them that I find amusing.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#62 Post by Tommaso » Fri Aug 16, 2013 1:44 pm

It's indeed fascinating to regard this as a city symphony with an unusual structure. The more the film progresses, the more we see the 'other side' of Paris, where the tourists don't go and which up to that time was rarely depicted in films, either. Following the rules of that game, we see the ugly, modern or partly already decaying parts of the city.

But in general I find it fascinating how much the film is able to change your perception of the city (or ideally, also the town you live in yourself): what are normally only monuments (the lions at the beginning) can be imagined as 'guardians' or creatures possessing magical forces as soon as you play Rivette's game and adopt Baptiste's point-of-view. When Baptiste fights the 'dragon' near the end, there's a short cut-away to a crane tearing down an old building, and when I watched this, the crane also seemed strangely alive and similar to the 'dragon' to me. Of course this is only my totally subjective perception, but I guess the film playfully invites us to try out other modes of viewing our everyday reality. Not because they're better, but because they might be exciting. If you approach the film from this playful, or as Michael calls it, 'intuitive' perspective, it is enormously rewarding. Just don't look for too much 'meaning' that can be logically explained.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#63 Post by warren oates » Fri Aug 16, 2013 1:56 pm

On the sense/no sense angle -- this is not unlike some of the same stuff I've gotten into on the Upstream Color thread. It's more about my staking a claim that unconventional narrative filmmakers like Shane Carruth and Jacques Rivette are still, you now, making narrative films. And as such, they aren't just throwing images and associations at the screen as if we were watching a poetic experimental stream of their consciousness that we're just meant to let wash over us as we "go with the flow." However intuitive or allusive the meanings of some of their choices -- a few of them, no doubt, red herrings by design, by whim or by happenstance of production -- they are still making choices. And they are still telling stories. Le Pont du Nord may not be a conventional mystery or a puzzle film to be "solved," but that doesn't mean that a big part of Rivette's intention in creating it was not to get the audience engaged in learning from the film itself how one should watch it. Which is more or less what I mean when I say that the film has its own internal logic.

About the idea of "mystery" in this Rivette film and others -- really that's one of the reasons Rivette has been one of my favorite filmmakers since I first saw Celine and Julie Go Boating, a film in which engagement with a lowercase m "mystery" ultimately engenders the profound feeling of big uppercase M "Mystery." And this quality is also present in Paris Belongs to Us, Out 1 and even Gang of Four. I suppose Le Pont du Nord is the first film of Rivette's I've seen where the aspects of the mystery/conspiracy story function almost solely as a device/gag. He and his characters don't seem to be taking it all that seriously -- which is cool, just not what I expected or what I love most about some of his other work.

You know how you sometimes imagine what a film will be like before you see it? And it's often better or worse but almost always completely different, even with something fairly conventional? Well, that all goes double for Rivette. I guess with that image of Baptiste and Marie with the gameboard/map plus the talk of traps and trials in the streets of Paris, I had imagined I'd be seeing something like a no-budget combination of Celine and Julie meets Stalker, where a walk down a seemingly ordinary city block is fraught with peril (but only for those in the know). I'd still like to see that film someday. Maybe I'll have to make it myself.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#64 Post by Tommaso » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:46 pm

Yes, of course Rivette is still telling a story, but I'm not sure whether he would have wanted to define its meaning for himself or for the audience. I agree very much when you say the film has its own, internal logic, but perhaps that logic isn't 'rational' in the usual sense of the word. In this respect "Le Pont du Nord" is the film where Rivette is perhaps closest to the aesthetics of Cocteau (not so much in his films, apart from "Testament d'Orphée" or perhaps "Le sang d'un poete", but more in the sense of what Cocteau wrote about himself in his role as a 'poet'), even though the result is totally different from Cocteau's films.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#65 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:24 pm

warren oates wrote:I had imagined I'd be seeing something like a no-budget combination of Celine and Julie meets Stalker, where a walk down a seemingly ordinary city block is fraught with peril (but only for those in the know).
But that IS almost precisely the movie _I_ see in "Pont du Nord".
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For instance, where one character disappears -- and is found wrapped (and trapped) mysteriously in cobwebs.
I am astounded by Rivette's ability to make this film seem simultaneously light and yet unsettling and more than a bit frightening.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#66 Post by warren oates » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:30 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
warren oates wrote:I had imagined I'd be seeing something like a no-budget combination of Celine and Julie meets Stalker, where a walk down a seemingly ordinary city block is fraught with peril (but only for those in the know).
But that IS almost precisely the movie _I_ see in "Pont du Nord".
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For instance, where one character disappears -- and is found wrapped (and trapped) mysteriously in cobwebs.
Yeah, yeah. Like I said, though, in Le Pont du Nord, these are just ideas and devices and the film itself is not so serious about developing/exploring them very deeply or exploiting them to further ends. It's a brilliant, fun and funny sketch. But compared to the ways in which similar themes and ideas play out in other Rivette works, it's still a sketch. Or say, a watercolor compared to the oil painting of Celine and Julie. Or the massive atlarpiece of Out 1.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#67 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:40 pm

But I don't think that I would want to set "Out 1" up as any sort of benchmark -- it is a mangnificent one-of-a-kind marvel.

And I think Pont du Nord actually pulls off whatever it is doing _more_ successfully than Celine and Julie. Sorry, having loved (and re-watched) Pont du Nord for ages, I can not (and never will) agree it is a "sketch" (and that is with no prejudice to the value of "sketches"). You don't see much depth in PdN -- yet. Maybe some day you will (and then again, maybe not). ;-}

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#68 Post by Tommaso » Fri Aug 16, 2013 3:50 pm

As you know the film so well, Michael, do you have any information whether it was filmed from a worked-out script or whether it was largely improvised as Rivette apparently did in "Out1", with daily inputs from the actresses? I suspect the latter due to its free-form character, and that would underline its 'intuitive' qualities, but am not sure at all (sorry, I don't have the MoC yet, the booklet of which might shed some light on this question).

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#69 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:00 pm

My recollection is that they (Rivette, the Ogiers, Suzanne Schiffman et al) worked out the script jointly before shooting each scene. I haven't read the new booklet yet -- going on prior reading.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#70 Post by warren oates » Fri Aug 16, 2013 4:41 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:You don't see much depth in PdN -- yet. Maybe some day you will (and then again, maybe not). ;-}
Maybe it's a tone thing. Primarily to do with the character of Baptiste and how she seems to both set and command the tone for most of the film. In the other Rivettes I prefer, he does manage to strike a pretty idiosyncratic and delicate balance between a sense of play and mystery, between comedy and suspense, between narrative and digression. Here, for me, the ridiculous deadpan paranoia of Baptiste (and so of the film as a whole) is probably a large part of what keeps it feeling merely light.
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She's such a caricature that It's difficult for me to ever take Baptiste's concerns seriously, even when we find out she's kind of right. She commits a murder with less impact than it has in the silliest, most stylized Godard scenes. And the henchmen who hound her -- all those real and imagined Maxes -- are mostly as cartoonish as she is.
I know that the reference point -- or one of them -- is Don Quixote. I just don't think Rivette's Le Pont du Nord comes close to that novel's volatile mix of the ridiculous and the sublime. The thing that gets me about the Cervantes novel every time is the reality of the violence, of how DQ gets his friggin teeth kicked in. Literally. There are very real and painful consequences for the way he lives out his world view. And the ending of the book is staggering.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#71 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:05 am

Some kind soul has posted an illustrated guide to the locations seen in Pont du Nord:

http://www.thecinetourist.net/le-pont-d ... ified.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

It turns out that when my wife and I visited Paris in 2009, we accidentally hit a fair number of the film's locations.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#72 Post by dfzp » Sat Aug 17, 2013 6:26 am

Not to beat a dead horse here, but no one in this thread said that the film didn't have a point.
Also, Rivette doesn't intend Baptiste to be a caricature of anything and the
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murder
does have consequences (in a low-key manner). The film is actually, for all the comedy bits (pretty common in Rivette), not at all just a 'fun' ride. It's one of his darkest films, dealing with the shattered political idealism of "his generation", so to speak (Bulle Ogier), and the 'oblivious' younger one (Pascale).
Though I admit that the film may be too french (too parisian, even?) for most people to get the world Rivette is capturing here (the newspaper clippings are all real, a lot of the places seen in it relate directly to the disastrous Giscard d'Estaing government, etc). The heart of the film for me has always been the scene at the "lighthouse",
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the moment when Jean-François Stévenin says to Bulle Ogier, in german, "what we did in the old days wasn't wrong"
. The Don Quixote reference that Rivette has spoken of doesn't amount to anything more than a quick characterization.
On a different note, that Cine-Tourist website is great, I hadn't checked it in some time but I'm pleased to see that it has a forthcoming Céline et Julie special.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#73 Post by warren oates » Sat Aug 17, 2013 2:10 pm

Maybe nobody said the film didn't have a point exactly, but I do feel, with a number of filmmakers I gravitate toward -- say Rivette, Lynch, Carruth -- that sometimes their fans/supporters are a little too quick to shut down a discussion (or, g-d forbid, criticism) about specific directorial and storytelling choices under the false assumption that the works themselves are on such a refined or unique aesthetic plane that they must not be spoken of in such terms. "Because the films are poetry! Don't you get it? Let them flow over you!"

dfzp, about the politics and the historical context, it's not like I haven't done my homework. I read the MoC booklet and Jonathan Rosenbaum on the film and a couple of other scholars. All of that information is interesting. And as you say, I'm sure it played a little better to a first-run audience of Parisian intellectuals. But from my 2013 vantage point across the ocean, the scrapbook remains the scrapbook. It all feels like footnotes this time, telling us what the film wants to be about, rather than persuading us through the all-pervading atmosphere of suspicion in, say, Paris Belongs to Us or Out 1. With the notable exception of the evocative locations, the darkness in Le Pont du Nord feels like it's largely confined to the level of themes and ideas, like it never makes its way into living, moment to moment atmosphere of the whole.

I'm also not saying that comedy isn't a staple of Rivettean cinematic play. Just that, for me, the very specific tone of the very broad comedy in Le Pont du Nord undercuts that feeling of dread we all know Rivette also intended. Unlike, say, the way
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the entire haunted house melodrama plot plays out in Celine and Julie, where it's at once menacing and silly. Where the women make off in the end by rescuing the little girl from an imaginary (or is it?) dilemma and it feels both like a joyous prank and an authentic triumph more worthy than the finales of most Hollywood tales of heroism.
I don't hate this film or think it's a failure. For what it is, especially given the severe limitations of the production, it's pretty awesome. Just that for me personally, given the incredibly high standard Rivette himself has set with his other works, and also given the potential of what this might have been had Rivette taken some of the same ideas in a different direction, I can't help being disappointed.

One of the aspects of Rivette's ouevre that has always mattered most to me is the way in which, in a number of his films, he's able to re-mystify the mundane world. To make us believe, through the simplest of cinematic means, that there's a secret world out there, one that's just beneath the visible surface of everyday life. So forgive me if I feel like he hasn't quite pulled that off this time. I know Michael disagrees and I respect the strong counter arguments he and others have made.
Last edited by warren oates on Sat Aug 17, 2013 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#74 Post by dfzp » Sat Aug 17, 2013 4:11 pm

I wasn't attacking you or shutting down a discussion, on the contrary, though I apologize if I came off that way (my english isn't very good).
Having said that, I don't think Rivette's intended audience (for this film or all his others) are the "parisian intellectuals", and he's definitely not a "poetic" filmmaker. He's a materialistic filmmaker like Straub (for me, they've always been closely related).

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Re: 132 / BD 62 Le Pont du Nord

#75 Post by rrenault » Sat Aug 17, 2013 4:24 pm

Okay, but "parisian intellectuals" seems to be a rather nebulous terms. Who are "parisian intellectuals"? Are they Grandes Ecoles-educated engineers and lawyers who read Balzac and Baudelaire and then quote them at dinner parties on Avenue Mozart? If that's your definition of a Parisian intellectual then I agree Rivette's films are not directed at that audience, but if you're definition of a Parisian intellectual essentially implies someone like Jean-Luc Godard or Philippe Garrel then I would say that's very much the audience for which a film like Pont Du Nord is intended.

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