Directed by Jacques Rivette. Starring Jeanne Balibar, Sergio Castellitto, Jacques Bonnaffe, Marianne Basler, Helene de Fougerolles and Bruno Todeschini.

Jacques Rivette's latest film is set in the world of theatre and centred on the emotional well-being of a French actress working with an Italian company on tour in Paris. Camille (Balibar) fled France for Turin three years ago and is now troubled by the prospect of meeting with her ex-lover. As well as providing a physical setting, theatre is also employed as the central metaphor, with the characters constantly negotiating their identities and the narrative constructed around intertwining layers of fiction.

Rivette alternates between excerpts from the company's performances of Luigi Pirandello's As You Desire Me' and episodes from the "real" lives of the protagonists. A series of seemingly random snippets gradually becomes more meaningful, revealing a set of interconnected lives. The inevitable meeting between Camille's current and former partners underscores a multitude of thematic juxtapositions, such as the relationship between the past and the present, academia and art, and French and Italian culture, to name but a few.

As the plot develops, more attention is given to the satellite characters - the theatre director, the writer, the wife with the criminal record, the beautiful young student, the jealous brother. All are seen to be wrestling with their own personal brand of angst and involved in individual quests ranging from the literal hunt for an unpublished manuscript to more existential searches for the meaning of love and life.

In what begins as a plausible, if somewhat heightened tale, the farcical elements increasingly come to the fore. Bizarre moments become more frequent and a sense of malaise, complete with incestuous undertones, is conveyed. The denouement eventually renders explicit the director's treatment of his cast as mere pawns in the game.

This is an aesthetically pleasing film, bolstered by interesting ideas and impressive acting. Although little physical contact is depicted, a sense of sexual tension has been achieved in what is a far from sensuous movie. Rivette has indulged his cast, shooting improvised sequences based on a pre-determined synopsis rather than a script.

Although this technique promotes a spontaneous dynamic, the danger of self-indulgence has not always been side-stepped, resulting in characters who are often more irritating than engaging. Ultimately, despite being pleasing in parts, 'Va Savoir' does not quite justify its two and a half hour length.

Siobhan Mannion