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Jacques Rivette's THE GANG OF FOUR is an intriguing, if somewhat overextended, melodrama that delves into Pirandellian questions of real versus theatrical life, and considers the nature of deception and fate. Constance (Bulle Ogier), a celebrated drama teacher, works only with women. Her
students include Claude (Laurence Cote), Anna (Fejria Deliba), Joyce (Bernadette Giraud), and Lucia (Ines de Medeiros-D'Almeida), who live in a small house together. A mysterious man, Thomas (Benoit Regent), informs Anna that their ex-roommate, Cecile (Nathalie Richard), has been embroiled by her
new lover in a shady and dangerous affair. Thomas begins to infiltrate the actresses' household, seducing the hitherto lesbian Claude. It seems the house harbors a secret, and Thomas is determined to discover it. Rivette (CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING, LOVE ON THE GROUND) maintains virtuoso control
over his material, and the film unfolds in a leisurely but penetrating manner. He opens the film with a bravura stroke, taking Deliba from a cafe, through the streets of Paris, and into a room, where she strikes up a conversation with another woman--rehearsal having begun with a mysterious
seamlessness worthy of Hitchcock. The rest of the film is similarly elegant in technique. On the other hand, Rivette has given short shrift to the film's suspense elements, and the ending is unsatisfyingly perplexing. With its theatrical atmosphere and intensely feminine focus, THE GANG OF FOUR
recalls Gregory LaCava's scintillating STAGE DOOR (1937) and Mervyn LeRoy's intriguing, neglected DRAMATIC SCHOOL (1938).