It is reasonable to regard the alternative fare at the Reading Gaslamp as Landmark’s leavings, and it is rare that these leavings would include something by a filmmaker as venerable as Jacques Rivette, but that’s what occurred with the offering this past week, Around a Small Mountain, a little doodle to do with a capricious Italian tagalong (Sergio Castellitto) of a French travelling circus and in particular of a haunted older woman in the troupe (Jane Birkin, looking like turning into Mick Jagger). If only because it clocks in at under an hour and a half, this is an uncharacteristic film from a man who not uncommonly expands to three or four hours (La Belle Noiseuse, L’Amour Fou, Celine and Julie Go Boating, etc.) and who tops out at thirteen (Out One). It is helpful to have him in such a compact form, just as it’s helpful, if you have a hankering for some Dickens, to have the option of the Christmas books when you haven’t the time for Bleak House. And Rivette’s aloof, academic, Attic manner — brain-heavy, scientifically detached, classically framed, averse to closeups, drawn to backdrops, mulish in gait, unafraid of dullness and obscurity — is done no disservice by cutting it short. The likelihood of getting all the way to the end will be markedly improved.
The Gaslamp, while we’re at it, shares with the Reading Town Square a series of Hitchcock films in October, “Hitchcocktober” by name, Dial M for Murder, Strangers on a Train, The 39 Steps, Vertigo, and Psycho at the Gaslamp, North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief, Rear Window, Psycho (the only overlap), and The Birds at the Town Square, one screening apiece, Tuesdays at the Gaslamp, Thursdays at the Town Square, Saturday at both on Halloween weekend. When these two theaters booked The Birds last Halloween, I was slow to suspect it would be shown on DVD rather than film. I am quick with my suspicions this time, but the program still affords a communal experience in a genuine movie house. ■