Joe Dallesandro (Trash, Flesh for Frankenstein) and Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris, The Passenger) are summoned to Paris, which leads to one of the most surreal and mysterious tales in a career that was dominated by surrealism and mystery.
Arrow Academy presents Jacques Rivette’s Merry-Go-Round in a new dual-format edition exclusively available in their Jacque Rivette Collection box set. The Blu-ray presents the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc with a 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation that comes from a new 2K scan of the original negative.
The colours in this film lean on the warmer side but the image as a whole doesn’t have anywhere near the same yellow hue that was found on Duelle’s presentation. The colours overall look pleasing and at times vibrant. The blues, reds, and greens that show up look very good, saturated well, and skin tones look accurate. Black levels are a bit milky during some interior shots but on the whole I found them fairly rich, and shadow details can be quite good.
Details are excellent, clearly rendering the film’s finer details, including fine textures and patterns. The film’s grain, which is really fine for the most part, looks quite good if a bit clunky in some darker interiors. The image ultimately looks very film-like and the restoration work has impressively cleaned up much of the debris, a few tiny little specs or marks remaining. Overall it looks very good.
Arrow’s notes mention that for all of the films the original magnetic reels for the audio were too badly deteriorated and had to resort to using optical negatives and Betacam tapes made in the 90s. I came to each expecting some rough edges but they’re generally all quite pleasant, including Merry-Go-Round, which, like the other films, is given a lossless PCM 1.0 mono presentation. A mix of English and French the dialogue is very clear and easy to understand while fidelity is fairly good, though not great. I also found range to be a bit more wide here in comparison to the other films, and the higher ends didn’t seem to have much of an edge. In all it sounded very good.
Arrow ports over a scaled down version of their UK box set The Jacques Rivette collection to North America, including only the films Duelle, Norôit, and Merry-Go-Round. The set unfortunately drops both versions of Out 1, which has been released in North America by Carlotta Films. Most of the features have been ported over from the UK edition, though the ones pertaining to Out 1 have been, as expected, excluded. This review will only reflect what is available on the disc for Merry-Go-Round.
Of the discs in the set Merry-Go-Round is the more stacked edition, presenting two significant supplements, one of which was actually listed on the Noroît disc. That one is Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers, which is a presentation of two archival interviews with Rivette, one from 1990 (running about 22-minutes) and the other from 2004 (running around 30-minutes). Impressively, though both cover some of the same ground, there is a minimal amount of information repeated between the two. They’re both fantastic interviews, focusing a lot on the 4-film project this box set centers around (this series included Duelle and Noroît, and to a far lesser extent Merry-Go-Round), and the 2004 interview was conducted around the release of his film Story of Marie and Julien, which is somewhat based on one of the films in the series he had to abandon.
The 1990 portion probably proves the most invaluable as Rivette talks very in-depth about this series of four films, clarifying that Merry-Go-Round shouldn’t really be considered one of those films (his original intention was an all-out musical but illness and financing stopped that). He is especially hard on Merry-Go-Round, calling it a failure, and not even an interesting one. But he talks in-depth about the other films and the mythology that influenced them and talks about why he never got to finish them.
The 2004 interview covers some of the same details about the four films, but here he ends up talking more about Marie and Julien and how this film relates to one of his abandoned films. But here he also talks about possible film influences (which he admits are there but they are unconscious) and then goes into more details about the story elements found in Noroît and Duelle. He also explains his original intentions with the music in the films, which he wanted to progress and come more to forefront until his fourth film, which would be a musical.
The films can be a bit bewildering (though Merry-Go-Round is its own thing) and listening to Rivette clarify them a bit helped substantially. He does dismiss Merry-Go-Round (which had a very troubled production according to him) and doesn’t get into much detail about that one unfortunately. At any rate these are both invaluable interviews.
Jonathan Rosenbaum next appears in a 22-minute interview to talk about Rivette’s work, particularly the films in this set. He goes over the original intent of creating four films interconnected in some way and why the director ultimately abandoned the project. But as an accompaniment to the Rivette interviews Rosenbaum’s piece helps to add some clarity to Duelle and Noroît, but he admits to being lost with Merry-Go-Round (which made me feel better). It’s a really good primer, ultimately, though filmed in an odd setting (it seems to be in some sort of public space, maybe a restaurant or some sort of eatery).
The set as a whole feels a bit slim on features sadly, but the features on this disc prove to be vital additions and well worth viewing.
The Jacques Rivette Collection is a solid set overall and I highly recommend it. Merry-Go-Round proves to be the best disc in the set, featuring a terrific presentation and some invaluable supplements.