Review: Around a Small Mountain DVD

STUDIO: Cinema Guild | DIRECTOR: Jacques Rivette | CAST: Jane Birkin, Sergio
Castellitto, André Marcon, Jacques Bonaffé
3/8/11 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
commentary by critic Chris Fujiwara, interview with Jane Birkin,
NR | 84 min. | Foreign language drama comedy | widescreen | stereo | French with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Around a Small Mountain movie scene

Sergio Castellitto takes in Jane Birkin at the circus in Around a Small Mountain.

Around a Small Mountain by Jacques Rivette (Celine and Julie Go Boating), the most under-appreciated of the French New Wave filmmakers, is a low-key affair that is by far the shortest feature he has ever made. As such, the movie serves as a beautiful coda to Rivette’s impeccable body of work — although, of course, we hope there are more films to come from him.

Although Rivette’s plot lines usually contain numerous secrets and mysteries, Small Mountain has only one: the reason a Parisian (Jane Birkin, Blow-Up) was ejected from her father’s small circus. The plot of the drama revolves around Birkin’s return to the circus and the possibility of her having an affair with a traveling Italian (Sergio Castellitto, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) who falls in love with her.

Much like the recent movies of Alain Resnais (Wild Grass), Small Mountain is a modest, charming, middle-age love story that includes no fireworks or bigger-than-life events, but will beguile viewers looking for a quietly magical film.

The DVD is supplemented by an on-screen interview with Birkin, who speaks about Rivette’s unique method of filmmaking, which involves giving the actors their dialog a very short time before the shooting of each scene.

Critic Chris Fujiwara offers an enlightening commentary track that places the film in the context of Rivette’s other work. The only problem with the commentary is that there are several long silences between Fujiwara’s remarks that could no doubt have been filled by preliminary info about the filmmaker and stars.


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About Ed

Ed Grant has written about film for a wide range of periodicals, books and websites. He edited the reference book The Motion Picture Guide Annual and, since 1993, has produced and hosted the weekly cable program Media Funhouse, which Time magazine called “the most eclectic and useful movie show on TV.”