Out 1: Spectre (1972, Jacques Rivette)

Finally out on video, I got to watch this seven years after seeing Out 1 in theaters.

Rosenbaum calls the two films “radically different,” but to me, it often felt simply like a shorter version of Out 1. Of course, having seen the longer version, I can’t help noticing major differences. The two theater groups’ rehearsal footage is almost entirely gone. Renaud’s disappearance with Quentin’s money is obliquely shown, and the ensuing city-wide hunt for him is even more obliquely included, in the form of black-and-white stills from those scenes inserted between regular scenes, accompanied by a low buzzing noise. There are other appearances of stills, some from deleted scenes from the longer version, sometimes callbacks or flash-forwards to scenes within Spectre.

Admittedly the 13 group felt like a much bigger deal in Spectre, more of a central conspiracy to the film, and I was able to follow the relationships and stories of offscreen characters Pierre and Igor much better, but I can’t tell if they’re really more sharply in focus in Spectre than Out 1, or if during Out 1 itself I was too busy trying to keep the many onscreen characters straight to follow much Igor drama. But looking through articles I quoted in my original Out 1 writeup, Rosenbaum said Out 1 was shaped by “the successive building and shattering of utopian dreams” and Lim says it “devotes its second half to fracture and dissolution,” and that theme and structure didn’t feel as true of Spectre.

The buzzing stills interrupt and fragment primary scenes, and there appears to be more cross-cutting between scenes than in the long version. Conversations sometimes cut off in the middle and never return. The stills appear in greater frequency at times, and disappear for long stretches at others – for instance, when Thomas first visits Sarah at the beach house and convinces her to return to Paris, the whole scene with its long shots plays out without interruption. Sometimes the editing is telling different stories than the dialogue – when Rohmer’s Balzac scholar says “secret societies,” it cuts to the Prometheus group, not returning to Rohmer for a long while.

Obade is far, an 8-hour drive southeast from Paris

Rivette:

They aren’t single frames, but simply production stills. When we tried a shorter version, our first montage ran five and a half hours. Then to make a commercially feasible length, we used the stills to tighten the editing, much the way that Jean-Luc uses titles more and more in his films, as in La Chinoise. Every time there was an editing problem he had recourse to a title. But finally we spent more time on these photos than on anything else, because there were a priori so many possibilities. We wanted the relation between the film and the stills to be neither too close nor too distant, so it was very difficult to find just the right solution. Then we added the sound to the stills. They didn’t work without sound, because the silences interrupted either noises that were very loud or others that were just murmurs. Silence didn’t produce the effect we wanted. I wanted something purely artificial: what we have is just a meaningless frequency, as if produced by a machine, which interrupts the fiction — sometimes sending messages to it, sometimes in relation to what we’ve already seen or are going to see, and sometimes with no relation at all. Because there are stills from scenes, especially toward the end, which don’t appear in the body of the film and are frankly quite incomprehensible.

Hand-off:

At the halfway point, after Colin, Frederique and Emilie/Pauline just appeared in the same scene, it lets loose with a whole montage of the buzzy stills. When Rivette says “there is a moment, one single shot even, in which almost all the fictions intersect, as if all these lines had to pass through a ring. This shot we put squarely in the middle: it comes just before the intermission,” is this the scene he means? There was no intermission in the DVD version, but it seems likely.

Ten of the 13: Thomas, Lili, Sarah, Pauline, Lucie (legal advisor), Warok, Etienne (chess player), The Ethnologist, Igor (never seen), Pierre (never seen). Four more whom I suspect: Elaine (because she discusses Lili’s disappearance with Lucie), Marie (because she gives Colin the letters), Iris (because Pauline speaks freely about Igor and her blackmail plot in front of her) and Georges (unseen character I mentioned in my Out 1 writeup, though I can’t recall who he is).

But let’s not read too much into the conspiracy. Rivette again:

In Out, I was already more careful, because the idea of the “thirteen” came rather late. For a long time we thought that the characters might never meet; perhaps there would be five or six completely different stories. We just didn’t know. Still, I had the idea that something should bring them together, and so it was Histoire des treize. But it was just a mechanism. In Paris and, even more, in Out, I don’t take the whole idea of the search for meaning seriously. It was a convenience to bring about the meetings, but it didn’t work with either film, because they were taken to be films about a search. I tried and failed to make people understand, as the film progressed, that this search led to nothing: at the end of Paris, we discover that the Organization doesn’t exist; and the more Out progresses, the more evident it becomes that this new organization of the thirteen which appeared to have been formed never really existed. There had only been a few vague conversations between completely idealistic characters without any real social or political roots. In each case there was a first part where we assembled a story of a search, and a second part where little by little we wiped it out… When I decided to use Histoire des treize, it was as a critique of Paris, which tried to show more clearly the vanity of this kind of utopian group, hoping to dominate society. It begins by being fascinating and tempting, but in the course of the film comes to be seen as futile.

equipage equipage equipage equipage equipage equipage equipage:

“Listen baby, I’m not Marlon. Marlon is on the waterfront.”

Lili and Pauline are somehow connected in running the shop (which advertises Bob Dylan bootlegs for sale in the window), and Sarah sneaks in and out. I thought Sarah was hanging out in the basement, but when they knock out Lorenzo’s man and drag him downstairs, it doesn’t look like much of a place to spend time. Lili is later said to have stolen a million francs and disappeared – but from Lorenzo or from the cases full of important-looking papers beneath the shop, I’m not positive.

Both theater groups begin with “rehearsals” that seem more like acting warm-up activities, then into vague explorations of theme and character. Each group gets a shot in the arm from the entry of a new member – Sarah to Prometheus and Renaud to Thebes. But Renaud’s ideas don’t work for Lili, and she begins to retreat from the group. In the end, both groups have dissolved because their most recent members have left, followed soon by leaders Lili and Thomas to Obade.

More important differences in the ending: Thomas doesn’t have his beachside breakdown, and Frederique doesn’t die (not sure that she even meets Renaud).

Shortly before Pauline’s lover Igor reappears (in the form of a phone call to the beach house), this maybe-strangely-translated conversation – Lili: “Why do you imagine Igor’s in a room here?” Pauline: “Imagine someone is a half, or a full year trapped in a house. No one notices. In the basement, on the floor, in a room.” Lili: “But this is a dream.” Then they agree to search the house for him, but there’s one section to which nobody has the key, and later when the key mysteriously appears, Pauline searches the unoccupied rooms beyond, staring into the infinite mirror. I find this piece of the film interesting since Bulle Ogier (Pauline) would appear in Rivette’s next film as a ghost trapped within a dream house.

Rosenbaum: “The coded messages Leaud intercepts are significantly different in the two films.” Different how? Also: “Much as Thomas Pynchon in Gravity’s Rainbow bears witness to mid-century paranoia by turning imaginary plots into real ones and vice versa, Rivette has a chilling way of both suggesting explanations and dispersing them in this monumental, maddening epic.”

Rivette:

There are some sequences which I think are failures, but after a certain number of hours, the whole idea of success and failure ceases to have any significance. Some things that I couldn’t use in Spectre are all right in the longer version. The whole actor-spectator relationship is totally different in Out, because there the actors are much more actors than characters. There are many more scenes where the sense of improvisation is much stronger, even to the point of admitting lapses, hesitations, and repetitions. There are some of these in Spectre, but relatively few, because we treated it much more as a fiction about certain characters. In the longer version, the dramatic events are a lot more distant from each other, and between them are long undramatic stretches… contrary to what most people believe, one doesn’t learn any more in the long version than in the short one.

On the meaning of the opening title “Paris and its double”:

I wanted the two titles to indicate that the film was shot in April and May 1970 – that, for me, is the important thing, since there are many allusions in the dialogue to that period. It should be evident that the group of thirteen individuals had probably met and talked for some time until May 1968, when everything changed and they probably disbanded.

David Thomson:

Out 1: Spectre begins as nothing more than scenes from Parisian life; only as time goes by do we realize that there is a plot — perhaps playful, perhaps sinister — that implicates not just the thirteen characters (including Léaud, as the mystery’s self-styled detective), but maybe everyone, everywhere. Real life may be nothing but an enormous yarn someone somewhere is spinning.

Eduardo de Gregorio double-feature

Eduardo de Gregorio, cowriter of the great Celine and Julie Go Boating, died last month. I don’t know any of his non-Rivette works, so I watched one he wrote/directed and one he adapted from a Borges story directed by Bertolucci, both very good.

Surreal Estate (1976, Eduardo de Gregorio)

A novelist (Corin Redgrave, Vanessa and Lynn’s brother) seeks a country house in France as an investment – can’t find gate so he climbs the wall. A sexy, ghostly Bulle Ogier shows him around then abruptly disappears when he attempts to enter a forbidden room. Already he’s referring to his situation as novelistic: “Her act was pointless. The mixture of old clothes, erotic come-on and overacted hysteria was in the most hackneyed gothic tradition, a tradition I had done my own small part to debase.”

Next time he meets a different girl (Marie-France Pisier, Bulle’s fiction-house coinhabitant in Celine & Julie) and an older servant (Gigi star Leslie Caron). He rightly comes to think that the vanishing girls are part of an imaginative scam to get him to buy the house, and decides that he must meet Bulle again to write a book about her – but eventually he buys with the understanding that the two beautiful girls will stay there with him – which they do not.

Leslie Caron:

Marie-France:

I lost track at the end of who really was working for whom, and who knew what about which scam, instead paying attention to the mobile camera creeping around corners, the great crazed piano music, and the self-conscious gothic atmosphere the film is creating. Shot by Ricardo Aronovich (Ruiz’s Time Regained and Klimt) with assistant director Claire Denis!

But maybe losing track of the plot threads and simply reveling in the atmosphere of mystery was the film’s intent. It seems to purposely confound expectations in order to mess with Redgrave, beyond simply the goal of selling the house, and the girls end up competing for him (and against him), while Caron takes a larger role than first expected, and even takes over narration for a while.

D. Cairns in The Forgotten:

Secret passages and two-way mirrors are hinted at. What emerges is a much stranger yarn, one which never fully coalesces into an “explanation.” Depending on one’s inclinations, this is either less or much more satisfying than the initial Scooby Doo plot. What seems to be the case is that the younger women are actresses playing parts for the dubious benefit of Redgrave, whose mind starts to unravel when faced with such duplicity. … The idea of actors performing a semi-improvised “play” in a real location with an unwitting stooge as co-star is a beautifully Rivettian one.

Of course, Marie-France Pisier (Agathe) had problems with flowers in Celine & Julie as well.

The Spider’s Stratagem (1970, Bernardo Bertolucci)

Bertolucci made this the same year as The Conformist. I think I’ve underestimated him because the only movie I’ve watched in the last decade was his underwhelming The Dreamers. Similarities to Surreal Estate: it’s about an outsider entering an enclosed world full of unknown intrigues. Also, both movies have overt Macbeth references. Very elegant camerawork, outdoing the other feature.

Young Athos comes to the town where his militant anti-fascist father (also Athos, and they look identical) lived and was murdered. He meets his father’s mistress Draifa (Alida Valli of The Third Man, schoolmistress of Suspiria), who sets Athos to investigating the murder. The town is hostile to his queries, and Athos feels endangered from all fronts except by creepy Draifa who wants to hook him up with a young niece so he’ll stay. Then when he tries to flee in frustration, the secretive parties suddenly open up.

The main suspect was fascist Beccaccia, who finally tells Athos “unfortunately, it wasn’t us who killed your father.” Elder Athos’s three friends, who seem alternately welcoming and sinister, finally give up the plot – that Athos had ratted on his own group when they’d planned to bomb a visiting Mussolini, then had allowed them to shoot him instead, martyring him for the cause.

Ebert:

He’s on a strange sort of quest. He doesn’t seem to really care much who killed his father (if you’ll forgive me for not taking the plot at quite face value). In a way, he is his own father, or his father’s alter-ego. Magnani was the only vital life force in the district, and the district defined itself by his energy. Even the fascist brownshirts gained stature and dignity because Magnani opposed them, and Bertolucci demonstrates this with a great scene at an outdoor dance. The brownshirts order the band leader to play the fascist anthem. All dancing stops, and everyone looks at Magnani to see what he’ll do. Coolly, elegantly, he selects the most beautiful girl and begins to dance with her.

L’Amour Fou (1969, Jacques Rivette)

Finally I got a chance to watch this, said by some to be Rivette’s finest hour (errr, four hours). I can’t say I agree, but I came in with absurdly high expectations, and having seen nearly all of Rivette’s other films. So its endless theater rehearsal scenes held no surprises, but the movie perked up considerably in the last hour. As usual, I’m feeling much more strongly about the film after reading a hundred online articles about it. And unlike in Gang of Four, I actually picked up on some connections between the theater-rehearsal dialogue and the actors’ lives.

Claire (Bulle Ogier in her first Rivette film) lives with boyfriend Sebastien (Jean-Pierre Kalfon, a lead in Love on the Ground). Sebastien is directing a play – Racine’s Andromaque (it’s always some ancient text), which Bulle quits at the start of the film (I think right near the beginning of rehearsals), spending the rest of the movie at home not wanting to do much of anything.

The play rehearsals are being filmed in 16mm for a documentary about the theatrical process – by director Andre Labarthe (a Cahiers critic turned Cineastes/Cinema de notre temps director) and cameraman Etienne Becker (Jacques’s son, he shot Phantom India and parts of Le Joli Mai), playing themselves. So the actors in the film are playing actors in a play, interviewed in character by Labarthe. And Becker’s footage of the play rehearsals is edited into the film proper (which is mainly shot in 35mm by Alain Levent, cinematographer of The Nun).

The amour of the title is between Claire and Sebastien, though it doesn’t seem that way until the three hour mark, at which point Sebastian’s frustrated love life and his play rehearsals have been at a standstill for so long, one of them has to explode. So he takes a few days off from the theater, goes home, and he and Claire get naked and fou, finally tearing through the wall of their apartment to have sex at their neighbor’s place.

Other interesting bits: the play and documentary directors get dinner together and talk about Jerry Lewis. The nature of the sound changes when the movie switches cameras from 35 to the 16mm documentary, but both feature loud, clompy footsteps on the wooden stage. Sebastian’s awful clothes always clash with his awful wallpaper.

Movie takes place over two and a half weeks – title cards display the date. Before the first card, some shots (which make no sense at the time) show Claire on the train, and the wrecked apartment. Claire walks out of the play on the 14th. On the 17th the documentary crew interviews Claire’s replacement Marta (Sebastian’s ex-girlfriend, whom he tries to sleep with again) and Claire starts following Sebastian through the streets after rehearsals.

The 19th: Sebastian is interviewed about playing Pyrrhus himself while directing the play. He sleeps at the theater, gets a call saying Claire tried to kill herself. He returns home, bringing her a record with a dog on the cover. 22nd: She goes looking for an Artesian Basset like the one on the cover, almost steals one from a guy.

24th: Claire in full spy mode, watching out her window and reporting everything into a tape recorder. A weird moment, a shot of two chairs going in and out of focus. Claire invites Marta over, tells Sebastian she wants a divorce, and hooks up with her ex Philippe. The first real crazy scene (if you don’t count the chairs): when she says she’s leaving, Sebastian wordlessly starts cutting up all his clothes.

26th: Claire is back with Philippe, someone at the theater tells Sebastian that rehearsals are becoming impossible. He goes home. 28th: full-on fou. Seb and Claire draw all over then destroy their wallpaper, chop through a wall and make love everywhere, until she suddenly says she’s tired and that he needs to leave. He goes to the theater.

31st: Claire is cutting herself, he tells her to stay. 1st: She is free, has a friend call Seb from the train station to tell him that she’s left. “I feel like I’ve suddenly woken up.”

The movie gets more complicated when you read about its production. Sure, Rivette is directing a feature fiction film, but it’s based largely on improvisation – plus Jean-Pierre Kalfon is really directing the Racine play. He even cast the actors. One of them is Francoise Godde, who played a domestic maid in The Nun, but I’m not sure which. Also in there somewhere is Michel Delahaye, “the ethnologist” in Out 1. Michele Moretti (Out 1‘s Lili, leader of the Thebes theater group) plays (or IS) Kalfon’s assistant on the play. And the documentary filmmakers are doing their thing independent of Rivette’s feature, getting in close and conducting their own interviews while the 35mm camera stays distant and unobtrusive.

16mm:

35mm:

According to a Greek mythology site, the play is from 1667 – “The structure of Racine’s play is an unrequited love chain,” and it’s “the most often read and studied classicist play in French schools.”

Shooting Down Pictures – who gets credit for getting there first, and linking me to a bunch of articles from which we quoted the same things:

Sebastien, made self-conscious of his directing technique after watching rushes of the doc, adopts an increasingly hands-off approach to the production, effectively casting the production adrift in endless rehearsals without a clear sense of focus. … [the film] seems implicitly to be an inquiry on the limits of what straight shooting of spaces and interactions can tell us.

Director’s assistant Michele Moretti and a tired-looking actress:

Rosenbaum:

The rehearsals, filmed by Rivette (in 35 millimeter) and by TV documentarist Andre S. Labarthe (in 16), are real, and the relationship between Kalfon and Ogier is fictional, but this only begins to describe the powerful interfacing of life and art that takes place over the film’s hypnotic, epic unfolding. In the rehearsal space Rivette cuts frequently between the 35- and 16-millimeter footage, juxtaposing two kinds of documentary reality; in the couple’s apartment, filmed only in 35, the oscillation between love and madness, passion and mistrust, builds to several terrifying and awesome climaxes in which the distinctions between life and theater, reality and fiction, become virtually irrelevant.

He also says the movie may have been inspired by the “psychotic breakup” of Godard and Anna Karina.

K. Uhlich:

The result is a mish-mash of ideas and situations both brilliant and inane: a good stateside comparison, coincidentally created around the same time, is John Cassavetes’s Faces, which, like L’Amour Fou, is a jagged-edge black-and-white psychodrama prone to rather unbelievably grand gestures in constrictively intimate settings.

Peter Harcourt:

The films ends with the same shots that had opened it, with the sense of separation and emptiness — Claire travelling away on a train; Sebastien as if defeated, in his apartment; the characters of the play, in costume and make-up, as if ready for a performance; and then that slow tilt down from those few spectators in that huge arena onto an empty stage as we hear, as if from some other space, a baby crying — as we had heard as well at the opening of the film.


Mirror-mirror

Rivette 1975:

Shooting a film should always be a form of play, something that might be seen as a drug or as a game. Even during the ‘breakdown’ scenes near the end of L’Amour fou I was not being tragic as many people thought. I was joking, having fun, and so was Bulle. It’s just a movie, not some kind of cinéma-vérité!

Rivette from an epic, essential interview for Cahiers in 1968:

I hadn’t forgiven myself for the way I had shown the theatre in Paris nous appartient, which I find too picturesque, too much seen from the outside, based on cliches. The work I had done on La Religieuse at the Studio des Champs-Elysees had given me the feeling that work in the theatre was different, more secret, more mysterious, with deeper relationships between people who are caught up in this work, a relationship of accomplices. It’s always very exciting and very effective to film someone at work, someone who is making something; and work in the theatre is easier to film than the work of a writer or a musician.

The film itself is only the residue, where I hope something remains. What was exciting was creating a reality which began to have an existence of its own, independently of whether it was being filmed or not, then to treat it as an event that you’re doing a documentary on, keeping only certain aspects of it, from certain points of view, according to chance or to your ideas, because, by definition, the event always overwhelms in every respect the story or the report one can make out of it.

I didn’t feel I had the strength, or even the desire, to make a film where the woman would really be mad. So this would only be a crisis, a bad patch, as everyone has. And that’s when it became clear that she would be no more mad than he was and even that of the two he was clearly the one who was more sick. The main feeling was also expressed in a sentence from Pirandello that I happened to find when I was reading a bit before starting to write anything at all, which I had even copied out at the beginning of the scenario: ‘I have thought about it and we are all mad.’ It’s what people commonly say, but the beauty is precisely in stopping to think about it.

I believe more and more that the role of the cinema is to destroy myths, to demobilize, to be pessimistic. Its role is to take people out of their cocoons and to plunge them into horror. … More and more, I tend to divide films into two sorts: those that are comfortable and those that aren’t. The former are all vile and the others positive to a greater or lesser degree.

With its four-hour length (Rivette called it “only a little longer than Gone with the Wind, though without the bonus of the Civil War”), it was a flop for producer Georges de Beauregard, who made some fifteen movies I’ve heard of before L’Amour Fou and only one after. The producers butchered together a two-hour version, which Rivette wants nothing to do with. He once spoke of making a finished edit of the 16mm documentary. But it makes sense that the documentary was never finished, just as the play was never produced – he’s more interested in the process than the finished work (see also La Belle Noiseuse).

This was the same year as Army of Shadows, My Night at Maud’s, The Swimming Pool, The Milky Way, at least two by Chabrol, Z, and Bresson’s Une Femme Douce.

B. Kite on the ending:

Sebastien, meanwhile, has learned the perils of true collaboration. Having initiated a process which assumed its own momentum, he now finds himself trapped inside it, inhabiting the shell of a departed life. Mourning is its own paranoia, and Sebastien is left locked in Claire’s old role, shut up in the apartment, listening to the recordings she had made to summarize the findings of her investigation, conducting his own investigation into absence and loss.

P. Lloyd:

The ghosts of Hitchcock, Lang and Preminger, which have haunted the New French Cinema for the last ten, years, have finally been laid to rest, by L’Amour Fou. The classical tradition has outlived its uses; but Rivette rejects that tradition, paradoxically, only because he absorbed its principles, received with thanks all that it has had to offer.

From Robin Wood’s excellent article – obviously I need to get his books:

Clearly, the length of our cinema program is closely bound up with the more obvious conditions of the current phase of consumer-capitalism: alienated labor, the five-day week, the 9-5 job, the nuclear family, a norm common to all levels from employee to executive, necessitating that (weekends apart) “leisure” be packed into a 2-3 hour slot between the time the kids are put to bed and the “early night” required by the next day’s toil. Otherwise, in one of those ugly and brutal, but entirely taken-for-granted, phrases that characterize our culture, “time is money”; and if we are going to surrender four hours of our “money” to watching a spectacle, we must be repeatedly reassured that the spectacle we are buying was extremely expensive, that we are purchasing a visibly valuable commodity. Rivette’s films, on the contrary, are perceptibly cheap … Nor is the length of the films validated by complexities of plot, large numbers of characters, “epic” events. What is the plot of L ‘Amour Fou? Sebastien tries to produce Andromaque; Claire goes mad. Rivette could easily have told it to us in fifteen minutes and spared us the superfluous four hours. The “unjustified” length of the films, then, represents an act of cultural transgression. The question, “Why this length?,” should immediately provoke a reciprocal one: Why the standard length? Why should we automatically expect our movies to last between 90 minutes and two hours, feel cheated if they are less and demand particular justifications if they are more?

We have, then, Rivette making a film of Labarthe shooting a documentary of Kalfon producing a play by Racine reinterpreting a Greek myth.

I know of no other film that so powerfully communicates the terror moving out of one’s ideologically constructed, socially conditioned and ratified, hence secure, position and identity, into… what? Which’ is precisely the question with which the film leaves one: a political question if ever there was one.

Le Pont du Nord (1981, Jacques Rivette)

Another freewheeling Rivette film, with its 16mm look and protagonists running throughout the city of Paris in the midst of a game with ill-defined rules, seeking to unveil a conspiracy, seeming like a scaled-down Out 1.

Two girls meet on the street, run around a Paris that seems to be populated only by themselves and various conspirators, and get caught in a game, possibly of their own making. There’s more energized music than usual for Rivette, with drums and accordion and strings. Whirling camera, 360-degree pans, many shots of local monuments also recall Out 1, specifically its final shot. But this film has a lighter touch, also bringing to mind Celine & Julie Go Boating, with its playfulness and our heroines’ mysterious bond to each other. The dialogue is a bit new-age, the actions are somewhat improv-theater, it seems to have been shot entirely in real locations, and perhaps in a hurry, since I caught the boom mic a few times.

Films in the film:

Knife-wielding Pascale vs. Kurosawa’s Kagemusha:

The Silent Scream, a spooky mansion flick:

The Big Country with Gregory Peck – in French it’s called “Wide Open Spaces”, as Pascale leads the claustrophobic Bulle into the theater for the night, to sleep close enough to the screen that she can’t see the walls

And on the way out of the theater…

Bulle Ogier stars in her fifth Rivette film along with Pascale Ogier, Bulle’s daughter, who also starred in a Rohmer movie and something called Ghost Dance before dying of a heart attack at age 26. Bulle, just out of prison, has a crippling claustrophobia and cannot step indoors, not even into a glass-enclosed phone booth, without feeling ill. Pascale, apparently homeless, hears Bulle’s story of getting caught up with the wrong crowd and sets out to keep it from happening again, tailing Bulle’s boyfriend Julien (Pierre Clementi of The Conformist, The Inner Scar).

Pascale seems to be on to something – they steal Julien’s briefcase and discover all sorts of newspaper articles about kidnappings and killings, and also a map of Paris that has been sectioned off in a spiral pattern which reminds Bulle of a “very frightening game” she used to play called the Goose game. They find a sort of key to the map on a murdered man in a cemetery and start to identify the “trap squares” in the game, beginning with places they’ve already been: Prison and the Tomb, then they proceed to play Paris like a game, hoping to survive all the trap squares and win the game.

Besides Julien, they keep running into a balding man (Jean-Francois Stevenin, the teacher in Small Change and the man who beats up Juliet Berto in a bar in Out 1), who sometimes seems to be a companion of Julien’s and sometimes schemes with the girls independently of Julien, warning Bulle that the people responsible for sending her to prison are after her again. Pascale calls this man Max, her name for all the city’s conspirators. For example, when Bulle wonders about the explanation for the dead map-carrier in the cemetery, Pascale responds “The Max had a bullet in his guts – that’s the explanation.”

Discovering the murdered, bewigged Max

Each “trap” location presents a new challenge. At one, Pascale, who has a compulsion to carve the eyes out of advertising posters, is faced with a whole wall of those. At another, Pascale is in a fight with a white-haired Max who leaves her in a giant cobweb until rescued by Bulle, and at a third Pascale has to defeat a giant dragon, played by some sort of amusement-park ride with an added flamethrower.

While Pascale lives in this fantasy Paris, Bulle’s adventure seems more real and dangerous – she’s given a gun by Julien and keeps having to figure out whose side she’s on. Of course once a gun is introduced into the movie, someone has to get shot. Pascale kills a Max and seems unrepentant, and then Julien kills Bulle, telling her “I loved you.” But the movie’s sympathies have turned towards the inner life of Pascale – she meets Max on a bridge over the river, and they spar together, appropriately practicing “Katta – a combat against imaginary enemies.”

I was tempted to see the sparring scene above as evidence that Pascale was working alongside the Maxes all along, but no, I think she’s just an erratic character. Anyway, it wouldn’t have taken a city-wide conspiracy including Pascale to defeat the fragile Bulle.

Good one by F. Ziolkowski:

Marie’s belief in a great love with Julien, the real at the end of her quest, will eventually be fatal for her. It is Baptiste’s ability to “roll with the punches” which will perhaps save her, but at what cost? As one of the Maxes puts her through a karate exercise and tells her to fend off “imaginary enemies,” the cross-hairs of a surveillance device (a rifle scope? a camera?) appear on the screen. “They” are now being watched by others, perhaps simply by us. That is, it may be that the answer to the riddle of the labyrinth — its last door — is simply the screen on which the actors’ shadows appear.

The movie got a hateful review in the Times, and was even dismissed by Senses of Cinema. Fortunately it’s not my job to analyze its quality in relation to other Rivette films, or even other films in general – I was just along for the ride, which I enjoyed.

Insight from J. Rosenbaum:

The file of clippings concerns specific scandals of the Giscard d’Estaing regime, and the locations refer to various municipal corruptions associated with that period (e.g., the ruins of slaughterhouses in La Villette which were built and then demolished before they could be used, due to safety hazards). Rivette has indicated that the film was made prior to the French elections and with the pessimistic expectations that the same regime would remain in power; so the unexpected election of Francois Mitterand obscured and blunted part of the film’s intended impact. Rivette conceived of Marie as a continuation of the anarchist character played by Bulle Ogier in Fassbinder’s The Third Generation (1979), after she gets out of prison. Her claustrophobia was occasioned by the film’s cut-rate budget, which led to the decision to shoot the film exclusively in exteriors.

Ziolkowski again:

[Paris] for the Surrealists was not only a magical place, it also became a living organism, a protagonist in its own right, complete with motivations, deaths, rebirths, etc. … The group’s fascination with the myth of the labyrinth led them to name their most prestigious and influential review Le Minotaure. … All the elements of Surrealism are here once again: the double, the lions of the Place Denfert-Rochereau which seem ready to spring to life at any moment, the mysterious stranger who crosses one’s path in the middle of the night.

Follow the gun.

From Julien…

… to Bulle …

… to Pascale

Julien again (different gun)

Rivette: “The idea was to refer to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Passing from the Parisian quartiers outward to the peripheral areas, within those zones that are slightly uncertain, but without ever leaving Paris. We also wanted to show everything that was in the process of being transformed, under construction.”

Bulle and Julien atop the Arc:


Paris s’en va (1981)

“Paris Goes Away,” a half-hour movie made from scenes and outtakes from Le Pont du Nord. A narrator tells us about the Goose Game, often repeating as the images also double back on themselves. It’s a mini-Spectre version of the feature, more lightweight, with more lingering shots of monuments and less danger and conspiracy. The narration seems to imply that Bulle’s flask is her game token. Rivette’s only other short that I’ve seen, Le Coup du berger, also referenced games, if that means anything.

Le Lion Volatil:

Pascale:

Bulle:


Jacques Rivette, Le Veilleur (1990, Claire Denis)

“Artists have a portion of basic villainy, even the greatest of them.”

Agnes Godard (still Denis’s cinematographer two decades later on 35 Shots of Rum) shoots critic Serge Daney (he took over Cahiers after the Bazin/Rohmer era) in conversation with Rivette, in Parisian cafes and fields. Divided into two parts, “I – Day” and “II – Night.”

“Do we see his painting or not?” Jacques discusses preliminary thoughts on Le Belle Noiseuse before he had worked out the story or approach. Le Pont du Nord gets the most discussion time, strange, since he’d made three movies since then (Love on the Ground doesn’t get a single mention). I wasn’t crazy about the music in Le Pont du Nord so I’m glad to hear that he spent very little time selecting it.

Rivette with Serge Daney:

I wouldn’t call it a great film (sorry, Claire Denis) but it’s a great interview/conversation, worth watching again, not like a throwaway DVD extra. Loooong shots include the silences between questions, perhaps in deference to Rivette’s own long-take style. He tells of his early years, first arriving in Paris, meeting up with Rohmer, Truffaut and Godard and going to work for Cahiers with Bazin. He discusses duration in a “post-Antonioni world,” saying movies used to have pre-determined beginnings and endings and filmmakers were free to fill the middle with events, but now it seems there are fewer rules and everything takes longer to say. When asked what he’s enjoyed lately in theaters he highly recommends a Sandrine Bonnaire film called Peau de Vache.

“I don’t want to separate, to split things up. I know a lot of filmmakers, whether consciously or not, who have this notion of splitting the body into bits. Not just the face, it can be the hand or any part of the body. I always want to see the body in its entirety. I don’t have the temperment, the taste or the talent to make heavily edited films. My films focus more on the continuity of events taken as a whole.”

Time out for an interview with Le Pont du Nord’s Max, Jean-Francois Stévenin, including his entire scene as Marlon in Out 1.

Rivette again: “My feeling is these people who have been affected [by his films], and who have these individual ways of showing that, they constitute a kind of widespread secret society. We’re obviously not talking about lots of people, unfortunately for the film producers!” He talks with his hands, striking wonderful poses.

In part 2, Bulle Ogier is along for the ride, interjecting a word or two, only getting the camera to herself for a few minutes.

Serge: “When you came back to earth with Pont du Nord in the early 80’s, it was with the feeling that we adapt to things as they are, we stop tempting fate or playing Prometheus and we come back to the real world. And we remember that the beginning of the 80’s were roaring, euphoric, entertaining – very explosive, in fact. And your film takes that on board. We can feel something quite intentional in the processes which make up Le Pond du Nord and allow you to tackle the 80’s.”

Rivette’s vogue poses:

Rivette:

It’s a time when we feel such a decision has been taken. Just as Bulle said at the end, ‘I’m alive.’ As far as I’m concerned, and I have the impression that, strangely, it concerns – I won’t say everyone, there are always exceptions – many filmmakers of my generation and subsequent generations. After Out, it seemed impossible in my films to talk about the contemporary world, what we call the real world, and at that time I wanted more than anything to work on fiction, fantasy fiction films. I didn’t shoot them all because the first project was, after Out and Celine & Julie, was a film we wanted to do with Jeanne Moreau [Bulle: "Phoenix."] and Juliet Berto and Michel Lonsdale, which was a story based on the Sarah Bernhardt myth loosely mixed up with Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. And what came next were stories that were all different with one thing in common: the total refusal of France in the seventies. It was something I suddenly didn’t want to see anymore. And after a series of events, more or less successful films – some were far from being completely successful, unfortunate films, at least Noroit and Merry Go Round were, that were hardly seen anywhere. They were shaky films, it’s true. When I went to see Bulle and said ‘We have to do another film together and I want to do it with you,’ it was the idea that we hadn’t put these bad times behind us, that they may well continue, and we had to come to terms with it but in order to do that we had to turn it into fiction, to put it in a film. And that’s why, in Pont de Nord there’s this insistence – that may appear anecdotal ten years after – on the affairs or scandals at the end of the seventies, such as the Debreuil affair or the suicide or non-suicide of Boulin or the killing of Mesrine, that sort of stuff. As symptoms, but strong symptoms. And we shot the film, at least from my point of view I began the film, not in this atmosphere of eighties euphoria we mentioned but with the impression of being in a country – France – that was stuck. Stuck, because of a lot of things we won’t go into here – everyone remembers. But it so happened that this feeling of being stuck was so strong that it brought about a certain unblocking.

Belle toujours (2006, Manoel de Oliveira)

“It’s in my style as homage to Bunuel’s style which is very different.”

Very spare, a couple talky dialogue scenes but mostly quiet, with pillow shots of Paris at night between scenes. Opening titles at the symphony, Husson spies Severine, out to the street, to a bar. Her hotel, a near miss. Back to the bar, Husson confesses what’s on his mind to the bartender – this scene must contain over half the dialogue of the film. Another chance meeting on the street, an invitation to dinner. At dinner Severine wants to know one thing, but Husson plays around, doesn’t tell her. She storms out. A chicken! He pays the servers from her forgotten purse, they clean up after he has left.

Piccoli (right) with the director’s grandson Ricardo Trêpa
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Bulle Ogier also acted in Bunuel’s Discreet Charm
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Piccoli, reprising his Belle De Jour role, was in a pile of other Bunuel films
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N.D. Carlson of Cineaste has a compelling explanation for every part of the film: why it works and what it means… a wonderful analysis.

Sam, as usual, sees something I don’t see, even when I’m seeing what he saw, since it was his favorite narrative film of the year.

M. Dargis calls it “an act of critical violence.”

J. Rosenbaum calls it a “sequel–or tribute, or speculative footnote … more about class and less about sexual desire”

M. Piccoli: “Very often, cinema is indecent. What characterizes Manoel de Oliveira and Bunuel is their reserve. But don’t get me wrong: this reserve allows them to explore the most secret gardens of our existence. They are very modest but very immodest when it comes to shaking the imagination of the audience.”

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Don’t Touch The Axe (2007, Jacques Rivette)

What to say? Despite my recent Rivette obsession and how I was looking forward to this, I didn’t love it. But I didn’t expect to love it, since it’s a period piece about upper-class people unable to declare their love for each other because of societal restrictions, and I tend to hate that kind of story. I got to watch fave Rivettian actors Bulle Ogier and Michel Piccoli and Barbet Schroeder (all sharing a scene) but they’re hardly in the movie and they play gentle, wise elder friends and relatives, with a bit of dialogue but no passionate acting showcases. I got my Rivette themes and trademarks served up: conspiracies, secret rooms, performance (explicitly at the convent, but throughout as the two toy with each other), real locations with creaking wood floors, oceanside drama, but all enslaved to this book-to-film adaptation of Balzac – something that I thought Rivette just said he’d never do in the DVD interview on Belle Noiseuse, that he dances around Balzac in his film writing (that one and Out 1) because a direct adaptation would be impossible. In the story, Montriveau is one of the notorious 13, but the name of the group is never stated here. Anyway, we also get very good performances from the leads – Guillaume Depardieu, lookalike son of Gerard who once played his dad in flashback in Les Misérables, with a false leg used to great effect here on the wooden floors… and Jeanne Balibar, who I don’t remember from Code 46 or Clean, and haven’t seen yet starring in Va savoir.

Not much outward passion to the movie, emotions seem detached (I know, that was the point, sorta) but it has a quietly affecting ending aboard Montriveau’s ship after he breaks into the convent and finds the Duchess dead. The plot being easy to follow, I started paying attention to nerdy cinema stuff like the quality of light (all supposedly from sunlight and candles) and the sound (music used very sparingly, as usual). Sound was rough because of the loud hissing and gurgling noises coming from the ceiling at the Landmark, and picture was even rougher since the film was projected out-of-focus (except for the left third of the screen, which looked lovely). So it was easier to measure the quality of light than, say, the details of costumes and decor. I’m not much for decor anyhow.

Definitely closer to Hurlevent (Wuthering Heights) than to anything else I’ve seen Rivette do. At least I learned how Duchess of Langeais is pronounced (vaguely: “lawn-jay”). This Balzac story was previously filmed a few times, from a 1910 lost silent to a 1995 TV version adapted by the co-writer of Goya’s Ghosts.

————
Excellent analyses found on other sites:

E. Howard:

Games are the film’s central conceit, in fact, whether they be word games, mind games, literary games, games played between appearance and feeling. The game being played at the narrative level takes place between a General and a Duchess … But this is only one game that Rivette is toying with, and he plays an entirely different one with the audience, a game of subtle winks and sly nods that continually disrupts the placid surface of the narrative … This narrative disruption is mirrored in the way the General’s story to the Duchess, about his time lost in the desert after escaping from the enemy’s imprisonment, is continually interrupted, usually by the listener’s short attention span and her tendency to divert the flow of the conversation just as the story is reaching a critical juncture. This results in the General’s story being doled out across three successive evenings that they spend together early in their relationship. On the third night, as they settle in to continue the story, Rivette frames the Duchess in a tight closeup as she asks her would-be lover to finish the tale. At this moment, she turns a sly sidelong glance directly into the camera, maintaining eye contact with the audience, as though to include them in the game.

This game of narrative interruptus is also carried through in the way Rivette uses the text of the film’s original source, a novella by Honoré de Balzac. This is a rigidly faithful adaptation… with texts from the novel periodically included as intertitles to highlight certain moments or get at the characters’ internal states. The titles are also used to convey the passage of time, which is parceled out in scrupulously precise measures: “one hour later,” “twenty-two minutes passed,” “she waited twenty-four hours.” These titles often seem to abruptly cut off the action, sometimes flashing up on screen when, after a long scene of near-stasis, a character is right in the middle of completing the scene’s first real movement or action (most often: leaving the room). The passage of time, like everything else in the film, is subject to Rivette’s subtle humor. After the Duchess kicks her friend out of her house, a title informs us that it one hour passes (a very common interlude), and surprisingly in the very next scene there’s the General again, still standing in her parlor, walking around it aimlessly, looking like only five minutes has passed since she ordered him to leave. Rivette’s use of these titles is obviously very sardonic and mannered, as when he uses a long series of images of the Duchess at a party as though it constituted a clause in between two dashes in a sentence: “the Duchess searched for him —” followed by the visuals and then, when the dangling phrase had almost been forgotten, “— in vain.”

J. Romney:

Characterised as a sort of Napoleonic wild beast ill at ease in the tameness of Restoration Paris, Armand – a general newly returned from Africa who initially fascinates married duchess Antoinette with stories of his exploits – is associated from the start with the great outdoors, prowling Mallorca’s windlashed ramparts, while Antoinette is first seen doubly imprisoned, in nun’s cowl and behind a grille.

The film is largely set in a series of enclosed salon and boudoir interiors, an overtly theatrical domain in which Antoinette is a surpassing mistress of mise en scène. Preparing for Armand’s first visit, she arranges herself for maximum effect on a canapé, in discreet déshabille, ordering her servant to lower the lighting (the thematics of light and heat later extended in the fireplace that Armand pokes with barely contained sexual frustration, and in the brand with which he threatens Antoinette).

As actress, Antoinette is skilled at the well-timed entrance and exit, whereas Armand habitually arrives too early, or storms inopportunely into the star’s dressing room. It is part of Armand’s revenge that he at last masters both mise en scène and performance, in a startlingly excessive scene that replaces Antoinette’s poised comedy of manners with a lurid melodrama: in it, he plays a menacing Byronic ravisher, supported by masked men hovering around a brazier. This sudden eruption of violence in the middle of an analytical drama may seem wildly incongruous, yet the tonal discontinuity comes directly from Balzac’s story, and Rivette achieves the seemingly impossible in making such a disjunction work convincingly on screen. The violence at the heart of the story, together with its cautionary-tale aspect, is foregrounded by Rivette’s reversion to Balzac’s original title for his novel. The reference is to a veiled warning that Armand gives Antoinette, the axe being the English one that beheaded Charles I – the implication is that the reckless cause their own downfall. In reality, however, Armand himself figuratively wields the axe that will destroy his own chance of happiness.

D. Kasman:

How strange that a filmmaker who through the years has so loved process, often in terms of acting and theatre, of seeing the expression of things worked out awkwardly before us, and conspiracy, in terms of the hints that everything out there, out of sight and out of the film frame, may be connected, has decided to adapt a reserved, 19th century historical chamber romance. Oh, but with such a surprise we then get to engage in the pleasures of the hunt! For then we find things like this: how is the navigation of social rules and norms—a very real thing with a very allusive existence—like the theatre and how is it like a conspiracy? Well, it is not without reason that Rivette opens the film at the melodramatic peak of the couple’s aching separation—the Duchess a nun on a remote Spanish isle and separated from the General by the convent’s metal bars—and then transitions and flashes back five years to the couple’s meeting and affair through two sweeps of a theatre curtain. The stage then is not the actual island (filmed on location), but is the interiors of the Restoration period, in all their glory, wood boards creaking like an empty stage. …

It is like a game played again and again with different moves but the same results, the repeating drama inside the haunted house of Celine and Julie transposed to thinking, feeling participants. The drama exists in a hanging kind of closed-off world, all frustrated performances that are almost content, as the playfulness and acting gets close to true expression, true connection. But something holds everyone back, holds the drama back, holds the love back, and gradually both General and Duchess become obsessed with this vague, menacing limitation, a mysterious stopgap to happiness that can neither be seen nor surmounted.

Whew, I love all these themes that get read into Rivette’s work. I always wonder whether he’s aware of them and consciously shaping his films in this way, or if the themes are unintended and they are more or less created by the critics, or if they’ve just become a part of his creative process, so much that he doesn’t think about them as consciously as he used to, and they become more subtle and have to be drawn out by a viewer well familiar with his previous films. I sure hope it’s that last one!

D. Ehrenstein: The film is “dryly funny. Especially so when “the 13″ make their appearance in the last act, looking more like a left bank version of the Keystone Kops than a fearsome secret society.”

Duelle (1976, Jacques Rivette)

Stars Juliet Berto (Frederique in Out 1) and Bulle Ogier (Pauline in Out 1) as two mysterious women, Hermine Karagheuz (Marie in Out 1) as a somewhat less mysterious woman and Jean Babilée (a dancer not in a lot of films) as her brother Pierrot, and also Claire Nadeau and Nicole Garcia (Mon oncle d’Amérique, now a director).

Frederique fatale with the awesome Babilée:
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I don’t really know what exactly happened in this one. I am willing to watch it again sometime to find out.

Music is improv piano and the pianist is on set, in the shot, even in places where he obviously does not belong. Acting and plot are perversely mysterious. After a bit I started pretending that this was a sequel to Out 1 and that Frederique, Pauline and Marie were the same characters from that film. I found that it didn’t make any more or less sense.

Bulle Ogier, after the world turns blue, In-the-Mouth-of-Madness-style:
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There is a very powerful jewel which the two goddesses would like to possess in order to become human. Either the jewel or the goddesses tend to bring death upon people who mess with this jewel. Marie gets her hands on it and uses a Story of Marie and Julien-style spell to banish the two and return the world to normal.

David Ehrenstein has the inside scoop on literary references: “Our innocent heroine (Hermine Karaghuez instantly recalling Betty Schneider in Paris nous appartient) recites lines from Cocteau’s play [Knights of the Round Table] as a kind of incantation, much as Geraldine Chaplin reads lines from Cyril Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy in Noroit.” Rivette screened The Seventh Victim for the cast, and D.E. also mentions Bresson’s Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne as an influence.

Our heroine Marie:
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A story from when Jonathan Rosenbaum visited the set:
“The next shot occurs on an even bleaker adjacent street with decrepit turn-of-the century houses and peeling paint, Viva and Lucie approaching from some distance again. But this time something extra-ordinary happens: a portly middle-aged woman with hair the color of ashes and sawdust, unaware of the presence of actors and crew, wanders down the street after the take begins and stoops over to peep through a mail slot in a tin fence — a Lumiere subject suddenly come to life. She steps back a bit, looks around: will she notice the camera on one side, the approaching actresses on the other? Rivette can barely contain himself; everyone holds his breath. She looks through the slot again, and just as she passes, Karagheuz has the ingenious idea of incorporating her as a prop, a temporary shield to hide behind… Lubtchansky declares it a successful take; certainly it’s an unrepeatable one. The woman wanders off, still oblivious to the movie she’s stumbled into, and I step over to the mail slot to see what she was peering at. The answer: nothing at all.”

I forget who this is, but she’ll be dead in a minute:
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David Cairns put it best:

“Lots of creaking in this film! As the dolly trundles over wooden floors, a cacophony of straining wood announces its presence. Since the film has a very live soundtrack, there was obviously no way to eliminate these extraneous sounds, so they kind of make a mild virtue of them. The camera movements, couples with the moves of the actors, are extremely elegant and elaborate, and the symphony of sounds that accompany them all can be seen as atmosphere.”

Awesome costumes all round. The romance of 1976, with added ‘thirties vibe, plus MASSIVE sunglasses; veils; many hats; a silver-tipped cane and a magic gemstone activated by drops of blood…

Jean Babilée is an amazing physical presence, not just when he does his acrobatic feats, but just in his general movements, which are all like dance, even when maybe he’s just moving around so you can’t see how short he is next to the women.”

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Rivette himself, before shooting on the four films began:

First, starting from the basic principle of each of the fictions, the building of not so much a traditional scenario as a canvas: a construction, a framework of some fifteen block-sequences. Evolving parallel in time, the four stories are all divided into three main sections, three acts, corresponding to the three lunar phases (from new moon to full, return of the new moon, then finally full moon again — therefore with the same number of transitions from darkness to light) which circumscribe the forty days of Carnival.

Then, during shooting, each “unit” (each block-sequence) will be subjected to a method designed to break down not only conventional dramatic techniques but also the more recent conventions of improvisation with all the prolixities and cliches it entails (hesitations, provocations, etc.), and to establish an ecriture based on actions, movements, attitudes, the actor’s ‘gestural’, in other words. The ambition of these films is to discover a new approach to acting in the cinema, where speech, reduced to essential phrases, to precise formulas, would playa role of ‘poetic’ punctuation. Not a return to the silent cinema, neither pantomime nor choreography: something else, where the movement of bodies, their counterpoint, their inscription within the screen space, would be the basis of the mise en scene.

In order to enable us to make a definitive crossing of this frontier which separates traditional acting from the kind we are looking for: the constant presence during shooting of musicians (different instruments and styles of music according to each film) who would improvise during the filming of sequences, their improvisation dependent on the actors’ playing, the latter also being modified by the musicians’ own inventions (recorded in direct sound along with the dialogue and the “stage noises” properly speaking).

Gang of Four (1988, Jacques Rivette)

Netflix says: “Art and life intertwine when four aspiring actresses study with a renowned film instructor in this acclaimed psychological drama directed by Jacques Rivette. Assigned to analyze the play Double Infidelities, the women – who also happen to be roommates – soon find themselves caught up in a web of suspense and scandal as the script spills over into their offstage lives.”

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Only my seventh Jacques Rivette film, but here I am watching it going “oh that’s SO Rivette” as if I’m some expert or even someone who knows how to pay attention properly while watching a movie. Half (?) of this one takes place in Bulle Ogier’s theater, where the girls are practicing a play we never see performed, and I’m all “ooh, that’s just like in Out 1 and Paris Nous Appartient” but I’m not really paying attention to the text of the play, so whether the Netflix blurb is accurate I cannot say. Then we’ve got a secret conspiracy, the train rides from Secret Defense (done very differently here, brief and abstract, much better), a direct reference to La Belle Noiseuse, and Bulle Ogier and you’ve got Rivette 101.

The careful compositions and slow unveiling of story and character flow like a Rivette film, but otherwise I can’t say it was similar to his others that I’ve seen… the experience of watching them was very different. I guess it’d be the most like Secret Defense, if I had to compare.

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Above: JR muse Bulle Ogier as a great actress turned acting instructor.

The titular four are Joyce, Anna, Claude and new roommate Lucia, who is replacing ex-roomie Cécile, who has started acting strange and disappearing a lot, caught up in her boyfriend’s criminal trial. In a mystical storm scene, Lucia finds some keys that Cécile has hidden in the apt., keys which could clear the boyfriend’s name while taking down someone powerful. Thomas is out to stop this at all costs, following each of the girls (mostly non-threateningly) and asking them questions, finally getting sometime-lesbian Claude to fall in love with him, gaining him access to the house so he can search for the keys. Cécile has also come back looking for the keys, and even Constance (Bulle Ogier) gets involved, getting arrested at the end for hiding Cécile’s boy after he escaped prison.

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Some occasional Celine-and-Julie antics (see mock trial above). What movie has most in common with Out 1 is its split between the easily-summarized plot (above) and the theater scenes which add to the character of the movie but since I didn’t understand those scenes’ connection to the rest of the story, don’t come out much in my discussion.

Irene Jacob of “Red” and “Double Life of Veronique” had a small part, as one of the actors I think.

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Above: the Four, left to right:
Lucia – Inês de Medeiros – in movies by João César Monteiro and Pedro Costa
Joyce – Bernadette Giraud – later in Secret Defense and Joan of Arc 1
Claude – Laurence Côte – in Up Down Fragile, Thieves and Godard’s Nouvelle Vague
Anna – Fejria Deliba – in an Olivier Assayas movie

And:
Cécile – Nathalie Richard – Up Down Fragile, 2 by Assayas, 2 by Haneke
“Thomas” – Benoît Régent – lead dude in “Blue”, died a month after “Red” opened
Constance – Bulle Ogier – of “Out 1″ and everything else

Out 1 (1971, Jacques Rivette)

The charactors (actors) and their relationships seem more important than plot/storyline, so I’ve made a page for the characters first, then a story summary page, separated into day one and day two, totalling my most complex journal entry to date!

I spent all this time on plot and character description, not necessarily because the story elements are so important, but because I may not get to see this again and I want to be able to remember it.

Thankfully, I have a downloaded copy of the movie from Raitre Italian TV, so I can get lots of screen shots.

But what of the movie, overall? Worth the trip to New York to see it, for sure. A total experience of a film, from the dedicated audience to the live subtitles to the 16mm presentation to the museum theater that hosted it to the sheer length and intermissions to the Jean-Michel Frodon (Cahiers du Cinema editor) introduction to the content, with its very long wide shots and very gradually developing story… many scenes that only form a complete big-picure scenario if you’re paying close attention for most of its runtime.

Dennis Lim of the NY Times called it “the cinephile’s holy grail” and says:

In the annals of monumental cinema there are few objects more sacred than Mr. Rivette’s 12 1/2-hour OUT 1. Shot in the spring of 1970, this fabled colossus owes its stature not just to its immodest duration but also to its rarity. Commissioned and then rejected by French television, the film had its premiere on Sept. 9 and 10, 1971, at the Maison de la Culture in Le Havre before receding into obscurity . . . has become a true phantom film whose reputation rests on its unattainability . . . Mr. Rivette worked without a script, relying instead on a diagram that mapped the junctures at which members of his large ensemble cast would intersect. The actors came up with their dialogue; the only thing Mr. Rivette actually wrote were the enigmatic notes Mr. Léaud’s character receives . . . With OUT 1 he found the perfect match of form and content, an outsize canvas for a narrative too vast to apprehend. In a 1973 interview Mr. Rivette described the film’s creep from quasi-documentary to drama in ominous terms: the fiction ‘swallows everything up and finally auto-destructs’.

I love it – not just a legendary museum curiosity that people pretend to like to impress other cinephiles, but actually an amazing film worthy of its reputation. Of course, mostly its reputation is that of an unattainable film (we were told this was the eighth-ever public screening), not of a great masterwork… but I guess it’s worthy of both of those.

The experimental theater exercises get very long, even too long, but not tedious. If a scene lasts “too long” in a regular movie, maybe you could’ve trimmed two minutes to make it feel right. But the theater scenes aren’t necessary at all, from a story point of view, so there’s no telling how long they need to be. When it hits me that I’ve been watching the same theater scene for twenty minutes, it’s not annoyance but awe that hits me. It’s hard to say what exactly is necessary in this movie… once you start cutting or shortening scenes, tying up loose ends and clarifying character connections and histories, you’re talking about a different movie (and not SPECTRE, but a different movie entirely). Best leave it the unwieldy beast it is, and appreciate it as that.

Dennis Lim’s article is a good one… here’s more:

“Out 1″ now seems a relic of a bohemian heyday, a time when you could spend your days rehearsing ancient Greek plays or making 12-hour films. But even in 1970 that hazy idyll was already fading. The film takes its shape, as Mr. Rosenbaum has noted, from “the successive building and shattering of utopian dreams.” An epic meditation on the relationship between the individual and the collective, “Out 1″ devotes its second half to fracture and dissolution. But it’s not a depressing film, perhaps because its implicit pessimism is refuted by its very existence. Experiential in the extreme, “Out 1″ cannot help transforming the solitary act of moviegoing into a communal one.

And Lim says that Rivette’s 2007 movie Don’t Touch The Axe will be revisiting Balzac’s “History of the Thirteen”. “Does this represent a closing of the circle? An expansion of the master plan? If there’s one thing we know from Mr. Rivette’s films, it’s that the big picture will remain just outside our grasp.”

Ah ha: Rivette’s interview from Film Comment… he says shots of Paris’s landmarks “were inserted…frankly as empty spaces. As a kind of visual silence. . .” I had been wondering.

Reverse Shot says: “In Rivette there’s a sense, not just of watching or duration, both of which are passive ideas, but of actively being put through a process”.

Crawford in Reverse Shot:

Out 1 was made in the aftermath of the social uprising of May ’68, when a series of strikes by Parisian student unions devolved into a full-bore confrontation with the military. What once began as a hope to radically reinvent the mores of a stagnant and conservative society ended meekly, with the unions urging a peaceable return to work and De Gaulle’s party consolidating its power to a greater degree than ever. Out 1 taps into this post-May ’68 malaise, betraying an abiding mistrust in grand social movements, services organizations. Paris is turned into a disconnected amalgam of individual groups hermetically sealed off from one another. . .

Is it too simplistic to describe Colin as a spectator’s surrogate and leave it at that? What do we make of choice to pose as a deaf-mute and his return to that state at the end of the film? How, for that matter, do we take of the weird behavior of the male (Colin) and female (Frédérique) interlopers? Their logic and mode of behavior is vastly different from anyone else in the film; it’s like they’ve parachuted in from Céline and Julie Go Boating.