Over the years I have often wanted to write about the films of Jacques Rivette, but I have always been disappointed by the quality both of the posters for many of his films and of the scans available for even the better designs. With the sad news that Rivette has left us this morning at the age of 87—so soon after the triumphant resurrection of his magnum opus Out 1—I feel I should at least showcase the handful of posters that do this great director justice.
The best Rivette posters are top-loaded at the beginning of his career. His adaptation of Denis Diderot’s La religieuse, starring Anna Karina, seems to have inspired the most varied work (so much in fact that I will save most of it for a later post). And there are a few other terrific designs, like Panignett’s plasticene bas-relief for Celine and Julie Go Boating, Hans Hillmann’s canny design for Paris Belongs to Us, and the reversible playing card design for Duelle, which I know is a favorite among Rivette aficionados. But, for some reason, by the early 80s the posters for Rivette’s films become very bland, mostly photo montages of his actors, as if distributors really didn’t know how to market a Rivette film, or relied on the visual charms of the many great actresses who worked with him. Or perhaps it was just that French movie poster design in the 80s hit the doldrums. Outside France, with a few notable exceptions, Rivette’s films didn’t find very wide distribution. Apart from a Czech La religieuse, I was also not able to find a single Polish or Czech poster for any of Rivette’s films, making me wonder if any of his other films were ever shown behind the Iron Curtain.
Part of the problem may well be that Rivette’s films are just impossible to encapsulate in a poster, or in a single image. They tend to be vast, expansive, exploratory works that rely on duration and motion, rather than striking cinematography. A poster like Panignett’s for Celine and Julie at least conveys the playfulness of Rivette, one of the things we will most miss him for.
If anyone has any favorite Rivette designs that I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments below.
Many thanks to Stanley Oh, Dominique Besson and Stanislas Choko for their help with tracking these down.