Combustible Celluloid Review - The Gang of Four (1989), Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette, Jacques Rivette, Bulle Ogier, Benoit Regent, Fejria Deliba, Laurence Cote, Bernadette Giraud, Ines d'Almeida
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With: Bulle Ogier, Benoit Regent, Fejria Deliba, Laurence Cote, Bernadette Giraud, Ines d'Almeida
Written by: Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent, Jacques Rivette
Directed by: Jacques Rivette
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 160
Date: 12/21/1989

The Gang of Four (1989)

4 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Perhaps the least known of the French New Wave directors, Jacques Rivette is nevertheless my favorite of the group. And now, after years of obscurity, Image Entertainment has unearthed The Gang of Four (1989), which never received a U.S. theatrical release, for a new DVD. This masterpiece is one of Rivette's best, combining his passions for theater and for Fritz Lang-type suspense.

In the film, four acting students (Laurence Cote, Fejria Deliba, Bernadette Giraud, and Ines de Medeiros) study with the high-class acting coach Bulle Ogier (from The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) and live together in a big Paris house. One by one, a mysterious man (Benoit Regent) approaches the girls, asking questions and telling tales about their former housemate -- implying that she may have kept some sinister secrets. Something hidden in the house attests to this.

At the same time, the girls struggle in their tough acting class, trying to please the hard-as-nails teacher. Rivette sets up long, semi-improvised scenes, establishing real personalities for the girls and not just writing them off as Hollywood types. Between the theater and crime story scenes, Rivette inserts shots of traveling subway cars with hazy images reflected in the windows, physically separating the two stories, but at the same time, blurring them together.

As ever, Rivette here sticks to his roots: a love of theater and literature, lengthy semi-improvised shots adding up to long running times, and a graceful poetry that eludes nearly every other filmmaker today.

In 2023, the Cohen Media Group released the film on a fresh new Blu-ray edition (adding a "The" to the title), and in a glorious new transfer. It includes a commentary track by Richard Peña, film professor and Director Emeritus of the New York Film Festival, as well as a trailer for the 4K restoration re-release. Highly recommended.

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