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L'Amour par terre begins - as so often with this director - with people doing something that takes a while to be made clear. A group of rather bourgeois men and women climb the stairs in an old apartment building; they are ushered into a series of rooms by a set of male twins - the first of many times in the film where the "twinning" theme will be used. They watch a series of farcical scenes played out between a man (Facundo Bo) and his two lovers (Geraldine Chaplin and Jane Birkin) and it becomes clear that they (and we) are watching a play performed in an actual apartment. A play that quickly spills over into reality as the actor Silvano proceeds to become drunk on the real whiskey that he is drinking instead of prop whiskey - and the playwright Clémont (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) responsible for the piece, uncredited by Silvano who is apparently director and adapter as well as star, turns out to be in the audience.
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It's just another piece of theater blending into life, fantasy intertwined so expertly with reality that it's impossible to say at most points in the film whether we're watching a play, a dream, reality, a vision of the future, or a ghost story, another marvel from the French man of mystery Jacques Rivette. The three actors far from being chastised by the playwright all end up quickly encamping at Clémont's ridiculously extravagant white classical mansion, apparently in Paris when we first see it, but with the sound of the sea evident in at least one later scene; it is a house on the borderlands between the conscious and unconscious, between the players and their roles. Soon Charlotte (Chaplin) and Emily (Birkin) are playing roles that we find are thinly veiled autobiographical elements in the playwright's life, and soon they seem to spin out of control emotionally and towards insanity, as do most of the other guests/actors/writers involved in the improbable scenario.
Filled with references to Dante (Virgil and Beatrice), mythology and early French history (Clovis) and the Zodiac which appears in mosaic form on the floor of the rotunda of Clémont's mansion, with sorcerers and premonitions of death, long-lost lovers who return at impossible moments, this is Rivette's most overtly magical and bizarre film since his pair of mystic genre films from 1976, Duelle and Noroît, and like those films and much of the best of his work it is so long and complex that one viewing can hardly do it justice or suffice to touch more than a handful of its mysteries. Possibly the most significant of its literary/theatrical references is to Shakespeare, both in direct quotation (a minor character is translating Hamlet into Finnish and turns out - like many other characters) to speak flawless English and to know Shakespeare by heart), and in the references to Shakespearian acting conventions as both Emily and Charlotte at different times play the "pants" role.
It may also be the most self-referential film in an ouevre that is filled with films that spill over into each other, with clear nods to Out 1, Céline & Julie Vont en Bateau and the two 1976 films, and many elements that point the way towards later theatrically-influenced and ghost-entranced works like La Bande des Quatre and Histoire de Marie et Julien. And like much of his best work, it is completely unpredictable and contains elements of comedy, tragedy, the surreal and farce mixing in such an elegant fashion that whether the film will end in madness, murder, love or friendship - or all of the above - remains impossible to guess until the credits roles.
Source : Amazon.com