Up/down/fragile

on August 01, 2008 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   Veteran French filmmaker Jacques Rivette, whose movies are usually distinguished by their rigorous intellect, makes a 360-degree turn with this musical drama whose fluffy texture is meant to evoke the Gallic and Hollywood melodramas of yore. The results are decidedly mixed.
   For about 90 minutes, "Haut/Bas/Fragile" is supremely entertaining, even exhilarating, as it follows the adventures of three women--an ex-hooker, a former amnesia victim and a librarian--whose lives don't so much intersect as revolve around each other and an opulent nightclub run by a mysterious gentleman. Marvelously guided by Rivette, the light-as-a-feather film shows promise of building to the fantastical high of his 1974 classic "Celine and Julie Go Boating." In its second half, though, "Up/Down/Fragile" begins to be carried in circles. What seemed fresh, such as its inventive first musical number, becomes tedious by the fourth go-round, and the film eventually cancels itself out.    Starring Marianne Denicourt, Nathalie Richard and Laurence Cote. Directed by Jacques Rivette. Written by Jacques Rivette, Laurence Cote, Nathalie Richard, Pascal Bonitzer and Christine Laurent. Produced by Maurice Tinchant. A Cinema Parallel release. Drama. French-language; subtitled. Running time: 169 min. Screened at the Toronto fest.
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