Paris Belongs to Us

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Paris Belongs to Us
Paris Belongs to Us poster.png
Film poster
Directed by Jacques Rivette
Produced by Claude Chabrol
Roland Nonin
Written by Jean Gruault
Jacques Rivette
Starring Betty Schneider
Giani Esposito
Françoise Prévost
Music by Philippe Arthuys
Cinematography Charles L. Bitsch
Edited by Denise de Casabianca
Release date
  • 13 December 1961 (1961-12-13)
Running time
141 minutes
Country France
Language French

Paris Belongs to Us (French: Paris nous appartient, sometimes translated as Paris Is Ours) is a 1961 French mystery film directed by Jacques Rivette. Set in Paris in 1957 and often referencing Shakespeare's play Pericles, the title is highly ironic because the characters are immigrants or alienated and do not feel that they belong at all.

The story centres on an essentially innocent young university student called Anne who through her older brother meets a group of friends haunted by mysterious tensions and fears that lead two of them to commit suicide. Among them is her opposite, a femme fatale called Terry who has had affairs with all the men. The source of the malaise affecting the group is never explained, leaving viewers to ponder how far it might be an amalgam of individual imbalances, general existentialist anxiety, or the more specific paranoia of the Cold War as the world faced the possibility of nuclear annihilation.[1][2][3]


The film opens with the literature student Anne, who is reading Shakespeare when she hears sounds of distress in the next room. There she finds a Spanish girl who says her brother has just been killed by dark forces. Anne then meets up with her own brother Pierre, who takes her to a party held by some of his friends.

Initially bored and knowing nobody, she gradually becomes fascinated by mysterious interactions around her. Juan, an anti-Franco refugee from Spain, has recently died from a knife wound, some think suicide. Philip, an unsteady American refugee from McCarthyism, gets drunk and slaps a smartly-dressed woman called Terry, accusing her of causing Juan's death by breaking up with him.

Next day Anne meets up with a friend who is an aspiring actor and he takes her to a rehearsal of Shakespeare's Pericles, the director of which proves to be Gérard, the host of last night's party. Since the actress for the part of Marina has not turned up, Anne is asked to read it and performs well. Afterwards she runs into Philip, who recounts long tales in veiled language about sinister interests that have destroyed Juan and may now get Gérard too.

From there on, Anne becomes determined to resolve the mystery that is obsessing the lives of these people and to save Gérard but in neither project does she succeed, for Gérard kills himself and by the end she is little wiser. It seems that the threat is not external but in the heads of the survivors.



Written in 1957, shot from July to November 1958, but not released until 13 December 1961, it was the critic Rivette's first full-length film as a director and one of the first works of the French New Wave.[4] Like his fellow Cahiers du cinéma critic Éric Rohmer, Rivette did not find popularity with his early films and, unlike many of the New Wave directors, he remained at Cahiers for most of the core New Wave era from 1958 to 1968, only completing two more full-length films in that time.

As a New Wave characteristic, the film includes cameos for fellow directors Claude Chabrol (who also co-produced the film), Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Demy and Rivette himself.


Film Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum liked the film: "Jacques Rivette’s troubled and troubling 1960 account of Parisians in the late 50s remains the most intellectually and philosophically mature, and one of the most beautiful.... Few films have more effectively captured a period and milieu; Rivette evokes bohemian paranoia and sleepless nights in tiny one-room flats, along with the fragrant, youthful idealism conveyed by the film’s title".[5]

Richard Brody of the New Yorker also reviewed the film positively: "Rivette’s tightly wound images turn the ornate architecture of Paris into a labyrinth of intimate entanglements and apocalyptic menace; he evokes the fearsome mysteries beneath the surface of life and the enticing illusions that its masterminds, whether human or divine, create."[6]

The critic Hamish Ford said of the film: "... for me at least, his debut feature is a perfect film in its way. If the first work of a long career should, at least in the oeuvre-charting rear-vision mirror, offer an appropriately characteristic or even perhaps idiosyncratic entry point into a distinct film-world, then Paris nous appartient is indeed a perfect 'first' Rivette in its combination of formal daring and conceptual elusiveness."[7]


  1. ^ Turner Classic Movies, retrieved 12 February 2018
  2. ^ Bradshaw, Peter, The Guardian, retrieved 12 February 2018
  3. ^ The New Yorker, retrieved 12 February 2018
  4. ^ "Paris Belongs to Us: Nothing Took Place but the Place". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Paris Belongs To Us | Jonathan Rosenbaum". Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Paris Belongs to Us - The New Yorker". The New Yorker. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  7. ^ Paris nous appartient by Hamish Ford at Senses of Cinema

Further reading

External links

  • Paris Belongs to Us on IMDb
  • [1] Criterion Collection essay by Luc Sante
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