We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Sometimes a film is simply a story we might have found interesting to live. Its message may be no more than that we all have to weather hard times. To ordinary life may be added some style and artifice, allowing the filmmaker to tweak reality into a more pleasing form. Maybe that's what Jacques Rivette has in mind with "Around a Small Mountain." One of the founders of the French New Wave, Rivette is still very much active at 82.
At the film's center is a shabby little circus, playing to sparse crowds in villages. It becomes the stage on which his two characters live, and they meet on their way to it. Kate (Jane Birkin) is driving down a road when her car stalls. Vittorio (Sergio Castellitto) happens along and fixes it for her: It's a Meet Cute as old as time. He doesn't even speak. He drives on, slows and turns back. Something about Kate has struck him.
We learn that she is returning to the little circus after 15 years. It was her father's. Her lover was killed in a performance. Vittorio sizes up the situation and books the room above a local cafe on the spur of the moment. At a performance, he breaks the silence by suddenly laughing. Even the clowns are startled.
When the circus caravan leaves town, he follows. It's not that he and Kate begin a love affair. It's that they've both run off to join the circus. He apparently has nowhere to go and nothing else to do, and the same might be said of her. We learn of the buried past of the circus and the buried careers of its performers. Little one-ring circuses like this set up in town squares in rural districts. They still exist. On the Lido in Venice one night, we attended one smaller than this — so small that after the show, the clown came over to our granddaughter Raven and gave her a ride on his mule.