Va Savoir aka Who Knows? (2001) – movie review

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Movie Review by Kris Griffiths

Starring: Jeanne Balibar, Sergio Castellitto, Marianne Basler, Jacques Bonnaffé

Director: Jacques Rivette

VA SAVOIR? (WHO KNOWS?) is the latest art-house offering from acclaimed director, Jacques Rivette. It is a long drawn out affair of interweaving romantic shenanigans between six characters. And when I say drawn out, I mean stretched like a rubber band that is about to snap and sting your fingers.

Camille (Jeanne Balibar) is a young Parisian actress who leaves Paris to find love and success in Turin. Pierre is a professor of philosophy and Camille’s ex-lover. Sonia is a feng-shui enthusiast and Pierre’s new fiancé. Arthur is a Parisian playboy and is having an affair with Sonia. Dominique is a beautiful librarian and Arthur’s half-sister. Ugo is the Italian actor Dominique falls in love with despite him being in a relationship with acting colleague, Camille. Thus the romantic merry-go-round spins… very, very slowly.

The film clocks in at an oppressive two hours and forty minutes. It is two hours too long. The sum of everything that is said in the film could have been compressed into three quarters of an hour. Slow movies can be somewhat alleviated by a nice soundtrack but this one is completely devoid of any music. Absolutely nothing happens in the first half: all six characters are introduced but nothing of dramatic interest. In the second half the pace picks up from a slow crawl to a steady stagger. The first moment of real conflict arrives just after the two hour mark when Pierre locks his old flame into a back room in his house, but just when you think that things might finally start to get interesting, Camille casually builds a staircase out of boxes and escapes through a window. Sighs all round.

Right at the death there is one solitary scene of humour. Suspecting Pierre of moving in on his Camille, Ugo challenges him to a duel – but no ordinary duel. They are to stand facing each other on the narrow gang-plank high above the theatre stage and drink a whole bottle of vodka each until one of them falls off and splats onto the stage below. It is an amusingly but confusingly wacky ending to a monotonous slog of a film. I’ve seen one or two people walk out halfway through a screening before, but at least half a dozen did a runner from this one.

1 out of 6 stars