Netflix says: “Art and life intertwine when four aspiring actresses study with a renowned film instructor in this acclaimed psychological drama … 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.”

EDIT: you know I’ve got a horrendous writeup when it opens with netflix’s envelope plot description… need to watch this again and update.

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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 watching, 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), a direct reference to La Belle Noiseuse, throw in Bulle 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 most similar to Secret Defense.

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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 strangely and disappearing, 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.

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

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.