AROUND A SMALL MOUNTAIN (aka: 36 VIEWS OF SAINT-LOUP PEAK) (aka: 36 VUES DU PIC SAINT LOUP) (director/writer: Jacques Rivette; screenwriters: Pascal Bonitzer/Christine Laurent/Shirel Amitay; cinematographer: Irina Lubtchansky; editor: Nicole Lubtchansky; music: Pierre Allio; cast: Jane Birkin (Kate), Sergio Castellitto (Vittorio), André Marcon (Alexandre), Jacques Bonnaffé (Marlo), Julie-Marie Parmentier(Clémence), Hélène de Vallombreuse(Margot), Tintin Orsoni (Wilfrid),Vimala Pons (Barbara), Mikaël Gaspar (Tom); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pierre Grise; Cinema Guild; 2009-France-in French with English subtitles)
“Was too slight and wasn’t entertaining enough for me to go gaga over it.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Octogenarian writer-director Jacques Rivette (“Celine and Julie Go Boating”/”The Dutchess of Langeais”/”Va Savoir”), of the French New Wave,films this sweet road movie in France’s Languedoc region. It has Kate (Jane Birkin) stuck on a deserted winding mountain road with car trouble and the mysterious wealthy Italian Vittorio (Sergio Castellitto), driving a luxury sports car, on his way to Barcelona, stopping to fix her car and splitting without ever saying a word. Their paths cross again in the village, where we learn Kate left the family-run traveling circus 15 years ago and has just returned 3 days ago to help out in the decorating of the tents and to mourn the death of her father Peter-the one responsible for her exile. Vittorio is intrigued by her story and by her, and stays for the next few days to catch the circus show. He’s especially taken with the ever-changing clown act of breaking dishes that’s headed by brooding clown Alexandre (André Marcon), and with meddling with the clown act and snooping around to find out why Kate left the circus. Vittorio will eventually learn Kate left because of a deadly accident to her circus lover, and has refused to enter the ring again. Kate’s been tied up in knots ever since–even though she’s a successful Parisian business woman. When Vittorio creatively finds a way to help Kate and get her life started again, like in the American western, the noble stranger rides off into the sunset alone and seems to be on his way to his next adventure now that he’s rescued Kate and had a chaste romantic fling.

I don’t really know whatRivette is getting at in this whimsical sly tale, but it seems to be an uplifting allegorical film about the human condition and how the world is a stage–where the artist to survive must always be willing to change and be creative. If it’s anything deeper, I didn’t get it. That’s not to say what I got wasn’t irresistibly charming, it just was too slight and wasn’t entertaining enough for me to go gaga over it. I hope it’s not the revered director’s swan song, but I have a funny feeling about this one after reflecting on perhap the more personal meaning to the climax.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”