In Review: Le Pont du Nord (1981) on Blu-ray

by Sam Inglis on 31/07/2013

le pont du nord

Marie and Baptiste (Bulle and Pascale Ogier) are drifting through Paris but keep running into each other. The third time they cross paths in the same day Baptiste announces their meeting was fated and they continue to move around together. At first the film is just about them getting to know each other (somewhat), but once Marie reveals she has just been released from prison a slow-burning thriller involving the women, Marie’s lover Julien (Pierre Clementi) and a briefcase he’s carrying begins to come into focus.

Although much shorter than many of Jacque Rivette’s films, Le Pont du Nord takes time unfolding its plot but, in one of the film’s more unusual touches, never reveals its whole hand. There are hints about what exactly Marie was involved in – notably when one of the men pursuing her mentions ‘the old days’ in German – but all we know for sure is that she’s in danger. Similarly, the final scene opens up the possibility that Baptiste isn’t quite what we’ve seen her as during the film and that her loyalties may be more complex.

Rivette’s mysterious use of structure, along with excellent performances from Bulle and Pascale Ogier (projecting a growing warmth and complexity in their relationship as the film goes on) should make this rewarding to ponder over on repeat viewings. Another watch will likely reveal nuances of the thriller plot seeded in the more observed conversational scenes.

The naturalism of William Lubtchansky’s and Caroline Champetier’s camerawork and the editing by Nicole Lubtchansky and Catherine Quesemand increases the tension scene by scene without any sense of contrivance. The overall feeling is that of a Hitchcock film driven by characters and relationships rather than by plot.


Le Pont du Nord gets an outstanding transfer from Masters of Cinema. The colours are natural-looking, the detail is sharp and the fine grain gives the picture a film-like feel. There are no extras on the disc itself, but the critical writing in the accompanying booklet is fascinating and should extend even further the appreciation of this film and of Rivette.

Sam has awarded Le Pont du Nord four Torches of Truth

four torches

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