Ten years ago I bought tickets to see Rivette’s Out 1 over two days in New York, having only previously watched his The Nun (on cable I think, or VHS). In preparation for the big event I watched the three Rivette movies I could most quickly get my hands on, from the early 1960’s to the late 90’s, giving me a weird sense of his cinema. And after Out 1, I was in love, resolving to watch every Rivette movie.

I suppose I completed this goal two years ago when Spectre came out on DVD, coming full circle from the Out 1-initiated quest. But I’ve been meaning to watch his three-part Renoir documentary. And I’d like to see the extended version of Joan The Maid. And three early shorts are being restored and will hopefully come out on video next year. And I wanted to rewatch Lumière and Company. And his 1980’s and 90’s features are playing U.S. theaters this year, so one can dream of a blu-ray box set. And rewatching Duelle and Noroît in HD last week gave me a new appreciation and understanding of them, so I should rewatch more of the movies.

This is the kind of thinking that keeps me from wrapping up these little completism projects I set myself and starting new ones. It’s not like I’m closing the door on Rivette, just rounding up some first passes at his work. Anyway, some of these I know are masterpieces, some I wasn’t fond of, and all I’d like to watch again. I cleaned up some of the posts linked below, but the Out 1 entry remains a sprawling mess – after watching it for what I assumed would be the only time, I wanted to map out every person and scene, because I knew I wouldn’t forget the overall experience but knew I would forget half the scenes and character names pretty soon.

Rivette, on why ranking the films is ill-advised:

One always speaks of films as if they were absolutes; yet we always see them in particular circumstance, be it only because of the different projection conditions of each theatre. All that matters enormously. So, it often happens that I see a film I know has objective value and yet sit through it absolutely bored even though I know, at the moment I’m watching it, that I will find it remarkable if I watch it again in three months time; and vice versa.

The Films:

1956 – Le Coup du Berger
1961 – Paris Nous Appartient
1966 – The Nun
1969 – L’Amour Fou
1971 – Out 1
1972 – Out 1: Spectre
1974 – Celine and Julie Go Boating
1976 – Duelle
1976 – Noroît
1981 – Merry-Go-Round
1981 – Le Pont du Nord and Paris s’en va
1984 – Love on the Ground
1985 – Hurlevent
1989 – Gang of Four
1990 – Jacques Rivette, Le veilleur
1991 – La Belle Noiseuse / Divertimento
1994 – Joan the Maid
1995 – Up, Down, Fragile
1998 – Secret Defense
2001 – Va Savoir
2003 – Histoire de Marie et Julien
2007 – Don’t Touch the Axe
2009 – Around a Small Mountain

Other Works, more or less related:

Aux quatre coins / Le quadrille / Le divertissement (1949-1952)
Bérénice (1954, Eric Rohmer)
Une Visite (1955, Truffaut)
La sonate à Kreutzer (1956, Rohmer)
Chronicle of a Summer (1961, Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin)
Cinéastes de notre temps: La nouvelle vague par elle-même (1964)
Jean Renoir, le patron (1967)
Piege (1968, Jacques Baratier)
Les Idoles (1968, Marc’o)
Surreal Estate (1976, Eduardo de Gregorio)
Every Revolution is a Throw of the Dice (1977, Straub/Huillet)
La mémoire courte (1979, Eduardo de Gregorio)
The Third Generation (1979, Rainer Fassbinder)
Serge Daney: Journey of a Cine-Son (1992)
Lumière and Company (1995)
Small Cuts (2003, Pascal Bonitzer)
Mysteries of Paris: Out 1 Revisited (2015)


Rivette in 1981:

I have on occasion seen films on television at friends’ homes, and since I’m not used to it, I’ve always had the impression that I was not watching the film, that I was seeing something else, a reflection … television is great for a second viewing, but not for discovering a film.

Rivette in 2007:

Films today have a completely different life with DVD, which I think is the greatest … that’s practically the only way I watch films anymore.


Rivette, on wanting to be a filmmaker after reading Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast diaries: “Cinema was a place where things happened, where one debated with people, where one invented and tried things, whether they worked or not.”

I detest the formulation “a film by”. A film is always by at least fifteen people. I don’t like “réalisation” very much either, which seems to me very portentous, maybe because its root is “reality.” Mise en scène is a rapport with the actors, and the communal work is set with the first shot. What’s important for me in a film is that it be alive, that it be imbued with presence, which is basically the same thing. And that this presence, inscribed within the film, possesses a form of magic. There’s something profoundly mysterious in this. It’s an alchemy that one procures, or does not … It’s a collective work, but one wherein there’s a secret, too. For that matter, the actor has his secrets as well — of which the director is the spectator.

Watched this right after the Mulholland Dr. extras where Lynch says his film’s title was originally intended for another, cancelled project – and here’s Rivette saying the same. Out as the opposite of In, since in the late 1960’s everything was “in,” and 1 because if it was successful a sequel would be filmed the following year. I also learned that Noli me tangere was a Rivette-approved optional subtitle of the long version, added during the 1990 restoration. “You can make up what you like about the title. There will be 500 interpretations I haven’t even thought of. That’s what titles are for, to give the critics something to play with.”

Interesting that Igor gets a row:

He hadn’t actually read History of the 13 yet when shooting Out 1, nor had any of the actors, and Rivette only read the first of the three stories later while editing the film and the other two years later – hence Rohmer’s appearance as guest expert. Rivette became a huge Balzac appreciator though, and based Don’t Touch the Axe on one of those belatedly-read stories.

Rivette saw an 11-hour private rough cut screening of the otherwise normal-length Jean Rouch movie Petit à petit, loved the experience of watching it, which gave him the initial idea – so the long duration of Out 1 was part of its initial conception.

Rivette never told the cameramen how to shoot the scenes, and never told the actors exactly what to say or do. Cast and crew would have to recap at the end of the day, discuss what had been said and done, so the next day they could cover or explain things the improvising actors had previously put on film

2016/17: Watched the new blu-ray and updated the 2008 writeup below.

The brother of Morag (Geraldine Chaplin, then of Cría cuervos and The Three Musketeers, later of Love on the Ground and Talk To Her) is killed. She seeks revenge on pirate queen Giulia (Bernadette Lafont, Sarah in Out 1, also Genealogies of a Crime), infiltrates the castle with help of traitorous Erika (Kika Markham of Truffaut’s Two English Girls and Dennis Potter’s Blade on the Feather). Gradually all of Giulia’s associates are killed off, then G & M stab each other to death, fall to the ground dying and laughing.

Early ambush attempt:

Feels more mysterious and less straightforward than Duelle even though there’s less talk of magic in this one. Morag is apparently the moon goddess and Giulia the sun goddess, though they don’t reveal their powers until the last half hour. I didn’t do the best job keeping track of the minor characters, but I’m almost positive that some of them – including Morag’s brother – keep dying then reappearing in later scenes. In fact, I guess one of the two male pirates, “Jacob” (Humbert Balsan of Lancelot of the Lake, later an important film producer) is also her brother “Shane,” which complicates the plot in ways I no longer understand.

The men of the castle, Jacob and Ludovico:

There are gas lamps and castles and swordfights and magic, all very period, but then there is lots of cool, modern (clearly 70’s) clothing and guns and motorboats. And nobody is cooler than Bernadette Lafont in her bellbottomed pink leather suit (which creaks loudly when she moves). Watching her and Chaplin’s movements through the scenes, and to a lesser degree the other male pirate Larrio Ekson, are the best part of the movie and sometimes appear to be its entire point.

As beautiful and simple as the sun: Giulia with pink jeans on:

Morag and Erika have meetings in which they sit or walk robotically and recite lines in English from the play The Revenger’s Tragedy, so maybe reading that would help somewhat. Then again, D. Ehrenstein says “Analysis begins to run into a series of dead ends. The texts utilized as central sources of quotation… Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy in Noroît — are merely pre-texts, having nothing to say about the films that enclose them, posed in the narrative as subjects for further research.”

As in Duelle, whenever there’s music in a scene the musicians are part of that scene, even when they realistically would’ve left the room. Maybe right before the shot begins Giulia has threatened their lives and told them to play, no matter what. There are long stretches with no spoken dialogue. Lighting mostly looks natural indoors. This and Duelle were Rivette’s first films shot by William Lubtchansky, who would shoot most of the rest of the films (not Hurlevent). William is husband to Nicole L., who edited everything for forty years from L’Amour Fou to Around a Small Mountain.

Morag killing Regina:

Erika playing Morag in the reenactment of previous scene:

Morag playing Regina getting killed by skullfaced Erika:

I wish I knew how this movie’s title was pronounced, because every time I think of it, Fred Schneider sings “here comes a narwhal!” in my head. It’s gonna be “narr-WHAA” until some Frenchman tells me otherwise. One site translates the word as “Nor’wester.”

Rivette:

When I was filming Noroît, I was persuaded that we were making a huge commercial success, that it was an adventure film that would have great appeal … When the film didn’t come out, when it was considered un-showable … I was surprised. I don’t consider myself … unfortunately, I’m not very lucid when it comes to the potential success of my projects.

J. Reichert:

As with all good revenge dramas (this one inspired by bloody Jacobean plays), the mass of killings begin to far outweigh the initial wrong done and the angel of vengeance experiences moments of doubts and sympathy for her marks—there’s betrayal as well. Rivette shorthands these narratively rich moments, suggesting them in a glance, a line, a change of Chaplin’s face, so that he can maintain focus on the ballet-like movement of his players through space, where stowing recently acquired treasure takes on the aspect of slow-motion acrobatics. The drama climaxes in a clifftop masquerade ball/murder spree/dance performance shot across what looks like infrared, B&W, and color, that combines violence and poetry into a mix that’s literally unlike anything I’ve seen.

Doomed dance party:

Giulia (left) and Morag having stabbed each other to death:

D. Ehrenstein:

The films are devoted to methods that while seeming to reach representational specificity, do so in a manner designed to cancel all possible affectivity. The settings and costumes of Duelle suggest their display in a reserved “theatrical” style, but the camera, while tracking smoothly, does so far too energetically, and when coupled with the film’s nervous angular montage rhythms, disrupts the space it has spent so much time constructing. Likewise each setting (casino, hotel, aquarium, ballet school, race track, park, subway, dance hall, and greenhouse in Duelle, castle by the sea in Noroît) suggests the possibility of an atmosphere the mise en scene never seems directly to create (as in Resnais, Franju, Fellini, etc.).

Similarly acting styles clash with one another. Flip off-hand cool (Bulle Ogier, Bernadette Lafont) wars with highly stylized affectation (Hermine Karaheuz, Geraldine Chaplin) rather than the work holding to the latter mentioned category for an overall tone as would be logically demanded by a project of this sort … The film’s essence is thus not reducible to a specific moment, but must be seen in the working through of its positive/negative gestures — unfixed points neither within nor without the films.

Poster shot: Morag and Shane… or is it Jacob?

Michael Graham:

Like any Rivette film, [Noroît] took shape gradually, drawing on a large number of deliberately chosen ideas and as many fortuitous circumstances. As important as Rivette’s interest in Tourneur’s The Revenger’s Tragedy (drawn to his attention by Eduardo De Gregorio), and the curious traditions surrounding the period of Carnival, was the availability of Geraldine Chaplin and Bernadette Lafont together with that of a group of dancers from Carolyn Carlson’s company. It must be kept in mind that Rivette often conceives a film around particular people; Celine et Julie began as ‘a film for Juliet Berto’. Any casting decision is consequently of primary importance. Further, the selection of Brittany as a location arose as much from certain union allowances permitting a six day week outside Paris, as from a vague desire to spend some time in the country. Once the different ideas and practical considerations begin to sort themselves out and interact, the narrative itself starts to acquire definition. Even after shooting has begun, however, Rivette is enormously influenced by what he may discover the actors capable of achieving.

2016/17: Watched the new blu-ray and updated the 2008 writeup below.

Juliet Berto and Bulle Ogier are rival goddesses, only on Earth for a short time unless they can possess a magic stone. Juliet hires Hermine Karagheuz (Marie in Out 1) to track some people connected to her brother Pierre (Jean Babilée, a dancer not in a lot of films) – first an acquaintance named Sylvia who dies at the aquarium, then Pierre’s on-again girl Elsa (Nicole Garcia of Mon oncle d’Amérique, now a director). Poor Elsa has a key role in the middle half of the movie, then gets killed trying to defeat Bulle and is barely mentioned again. Pierre himself has been possessed by Bulle and also infected by the stone, which he hands off to Hermine, who figures out how to use it to banish the two goddesses, Hellraiser-style, at dusk.

Juliet Berto in her serious vengeance suit:

So much camera movement, most of it (per Rosenbaum’s set-visit notes) on tracks, which seems too complex to be possible. Music is improv piano and pianist Jean Wiener is on set, in the shot, even in places where he obviously does not belong. Bulle has an accomplice, Elisabeth Wiener (daughter of the pianist) who disappears a few scenes into the movie.

Bulle and Elsa go for a walk:

David Ehrenstein has the inside scoop on literary and filmic 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 Noroît.” Rivette screened The Seventh Victim for the cast, and D.E. also mentions Bresson’s Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne as an influence.

Frederique Fatale: Juliet Berto at the aquarium

Hermine discovers Sylvia dead:

David Cairns puts 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, coupled 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 … 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.

Showdown: Elsa and Juliet…

vs. Bulle and the fabulous Babilée

Rivette discussed how each of the four planned films (this was written as part two) would be set during the same forty days of Carnival, two cycles from new moon to full.

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).

Showdown: knife-wielding Bulle…

vs. gem-wielding Hermine

G. Adair reporting from the set:

Whatever else it may be, a film is also the record of its own tournage. In Rivette’s case, the film set becomes a theatre of imponderables, which shape the result much as a sleeper’s movements will govern the nature of his dreams; and from the evidence of interviews one realizes that the only guidelines of a Rivette film are those of tournage, the idea of a definitive form, at least until editing begins, being a nonsense. In the past (L’Amour Fou, Out 1) his overriding concern as a director has been to record the work’s gestation, which tempts me to suggest that, though the ‘legendary’ 13-hour version of Out 1 may indeed be extraordinary, it must be less so than the six-week version, i.e. the tournage. From [Duelle], whose camera movements are plotted out in advance but whose dialogue is written the evening before, whose actors have specific things to do but whose music is improvised, one can have no idea what to expect.

Hermine triumphant:

U.N. translator Nathalie Baye (Détective, La chambre verte, DiCaprio’s mom in Catch Me If You Can) is hired for a job involving the nazi-investigation papers of a man played by Jacques Rivette in flashbacks. Gregorio cowrote many of Rivette’s films, and he’s joined here by Rivette, the Lubtchanskys, Hermine Karagheuz (Out 1‘s Marie) and Bulle Ogier (and I might’ve spotted Barbet Schroeder in a dinner party scene). Given the personnel it’s clearly a must-watch for Rivette fans, and now that I’ve finally found and seen a subtitled copy, it’s a must-watch-again, since I’m afraid I got lost in the multinational conspiracy. Then again, maybe that was the idea.

Double dose of Rivette and Karagheuz:

Rivette was seeking a nazi called Andros, possibly with help from a mysterious Holocaust survivor called Mr. Mann. Baye tracks down a woman of Andros’s acquaintance, but Bulle is unhelpful. Baye talks to a guy named Franck (Philippe Léotard of a couple early 1970’s Truffaut films), who provides elegant flashbacks about Bulle’s history with a general working for Andros, selling new passports to escaped nazis. But Andros may actually be Mann, who may have killed Franck’s parents, and he’s out for revenge. The movie ends with Mann unhurt and unexposed, Franck injured and police seeking his accomplice Baye.

Baye, cornered:

Nice shadowy conspiracy drama (Rosenbaum calls it “a film noir in color”) with good music (a nervous piano rumble) and stylish flashbacks. Gregorio and cowriter Edgardo Cozarinsky are from Argentina, a country known for harboring nazis after WWII. In their contemporary review NYTimes claimed Philippe Léotard played either the general or Andros – is that true?

Oh yeah look at that, they’ve got the same eyes.
Then who’s Eduardo Manet, who IMDB says plays the general in flashbacks?

Before looking for critical articles and reading the Criterion extras, I supposed this was an important film for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s part of the French New Wave movement to bring the new, portable film cameras into the streets. Then it’s a portrait of the times, an ethnography of 1961 Parisians and their thoughts, two years before Le Joli Mai did similar work with a more political flavor. And it’s also a total meta-film, which I hadn’t realized going in.

Rouch & Morin introduce their “novel experiment of film-truth” to interviewer Marceline. I correctly assumed this was Marceline Loridan Ivens of A Tale of the Wind. Either I’d read it before, or she was mentioned in opening credits, or she’s just the only Marceline I know of. Anyway, they intend for her to ask people “how do you live? What do you do all day,” and everyone’s acting like this is the first time people have ever been interviewed on camera.

A backlit Marceline from the best shot in the film:

Then a montage of Marceline interviewing people on the street, or trying to, since nobody is much interested. I was afraid the whole movie would be like this. They find some people willing to talk (ahem, friends of the filmmakers) and hang out at their places. They find a black student named Landry, and one of the first questions is “so you don’t mind being black?” Marceline gets her own turn to speak, then they regroup and discuss their progress. “So far, the film has confined itself to take in the events of this summer of 1960,” then they bring in the war in Algeria, racism, the newly independent Congo, Marceline’s concentration camp tattoo (Landry: “I’ve seen a film about them, Night and Fog“) which leads into a dreamy monologue about her camp experience, and the movie starts to get interesting. Interview subject Angelo is being harassed by his employer for participating in the film. Landry goes to St. Tropez as “the black explorer of holiday France.” Morin: “You know Rouch and I are making a film. We don’t agree. Rouch thinks life is fun and I don’t.”

Landry:

This is the first movie I’ve seen to include its own test screening. Participants and non-participants give their reactions. “It’s completely phony.” “Extremely painful. When it’s not terrifyingly boring, it’s at the cost of total indecency.” Finally, the directors interview each other about the test screening results. “As soon as they’re more sincere than in life, they’re labelled either as hams or exhibitionists.” One of them finally decides the film is about the failure to communicate (isn’t that what all films are about?).

Morin was a sociologist who’d coined the phrase cinema-verite three years earlier. Rouch had already made 20 documentaries at this point (including Les Maître fous) and would make 80 more (including Rose and Landry two years later – a follow-up?). Produced by Argos Films (which released Night and Fog). The second most intense interview subject after Marceline is Cahiers du Cinema secretary Marilu Parolini, who later cowrote four Rivette films and The Spider’s Stratagem. Cameramen included Michel Brault (Mon Oncle Antoine) and Raoul Coutard (at least 15 Godard films).

Marilu…

and her boyfriend Jacques Rivette:

S. Di Iorio:

Morin was largely responsible for the film’s radical content: alternately analyst, priest, and spectator, he led the in-depth conversations that formed the backbone of the project and worked to facilitate moments of communal contact … Rouch, on the other hand, was concerned with form, and spent much of the production developing a walking-camera approach – they called it “pedovision” – that offset the closed-room structure of his partner’s scenes with renegade expeditions into contempo­rary France. While the film’s oscillation between sincere attention (Morin wanted to listen) and anarchic exuberance (Rouch brought water skis) almost justifies Morin’s self-deprecating description of the two of them as a kind of Martin and Lewis of ethnographic cinema, what matters more than these differences is the fact that, as partners, they shared fundamentally similar values. Both were confident that cinema offered a means to analyze everyday life; both believed that invaluable discoveries could result from what Lautréamont and the surrealists framed as the friction of unexpected encounters; both were convinced that their film would be determined by the chance associations and meandering pathways of open-ended conversations.

For Chronicle, Rouch and engineer André Coutant developed a prototype of the first handheld, sync-sound 16 mm camera ever used in France.

Morin:

I thought we would start from a basis of truth and that an even greater truth would develop. Now I realize that if we achieved anything, it was to present the problem of truth. We wanted to get away from theater, from spectacle, to enter into direct contact with life. But life is also theater, life is also spectacle.

Berenice (1954, Eric Rohmer)

An Edgar Allen Poe story about a talky, sickly shut-in who stares at everyday objects all day is an odd choice for your first film. The guy (Rohmer himself!) lives with an epileptic cousin, becomes monomaniacally obsessed with her teeth, and eventually they get engaged since neither can deal with the outside world. But she dies one night, and he takes this very melodramatically, then awakens from a fugue days later having dug up the grave and stolen the teeth. It’s all narration and sound effects, shot by Jacques Rivette, still a couple years before his debut short.

Khan Khanne (2014, Jean-Luc Godard)

“This is not a film anymore, although it is my best.” What Godard sent to this year’s Cannes instead of appearing in person. Godard is his usual latter-day self, acting the scatterbrained professor, possibly quoting Hannah Arendt and/or referencing Chris Marker, cutting in excerpts from Alphaville and King Lear, using camera shots and sound editing that make it seem like he doesn’t know what he’s doing, ultimately making little sense to me, but with a weirdo bravado.

Adieu a TNS (1998, Jean-Luc Godard)

Swaying, smoking, Godard recites a singsongy poem over gentle accordion in three parts, the framing tighter each time. I’ve read that this was “a bitter and mournful farewell to the National Theater of Strasbourg.”

The Accordion (2010, Jafar Panahi)

Two brothers play music for spare change, not realizing they’re outside a mosque. A guy threatens to report them to the police, takes their accordion and runs. But it turns out he’s just a poor bastard hoping to earn money with the instrument, so the kids join him instead of killing him with a rock, which had been the other option.

The Nest (2014, David Cronenberg)

Single-take nine-minute shot from first-person perspective of surgeon (Cronenberg) interviewing patient (Evelyne Brochu, Tom’s ally/coworker in Tom at the Farm) who claims she has a wasps nest inside her left breast. Doubles as a commissioned short for some exhibition and a trailer for his first novel, Consumed, out this fall.

Gradiva (2014, Leos Carax)

Another gallery commission featuring a naked girl. This time the girl has gone to buy cigarettes, returns and has a short conversation with Rodin’s The Thinker.

The Legend of Hallowdega (2010, Terry Gilliam)

Unfunny fake investigation into haunted goings-on at the Talladega racetrack from a Daily Show writer. Just terrible. I won’t give away the twist comedic ending because I’m too embarrassed. Ends with a nice Wolf Parade song, at least.

On demande une brute (1934, Charles Barrois)

Early Jacques Tati, who wrote and starred as a hapless actor who accidentally signs up to be a wrestler. Despite all the time spent on audition scenes and the wrestling match, the only good bit is when he tries to keep his shrew wife from absentmindedly eating a pet fish at the dinner table.

Gravesend (2007, Steve McQueen)

Beautiful shots that seem to go on longer than they should, check, yep it’s the guy who made Hunger. One of those art installation pieces that is very cool to read about and less fun to watch. I wanted to like it, and almost did…

From the official description:

Gravesend uses a documentary approach to focus on the mining of coltan, employed in the manufacture of cell phones, laptops and other high-tech apparatus. The film cuts between two sites: a technological, highly automated industrial plant in the West where the precious metal is processed for the final production of microelectronic parts, and the central Congo, where miners use simple shovels or their bare hands to extract, wash and collect the ore on leaves. .. coltan, traded at an extremely high price, represents one of the key financial factors in the armed conflict of the militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where decades of civil war have cost several million human lives.

Away From It All (1979, John Cleese & Clare Taylor)

Fake travelogue disguised to look and sound like a real one (unless you recognize John Cleese’s voice), very gradually straying from the company line, slipping in notes of humor and aggression. Stock footage takes us from Rome to Venice to Ireland to Bulgaria to Vienna to New York, back to Venice to Acapulco, to a rapid montage of vacation spots as the narrator begins ranting about existential terror. Accompanied Life of Brian in British theaters.

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.

Revisiting this after watching so many Rivette movies. The sound design, amplifying ordinary noise from clothes, floors and chairs, usually uncovered by music, is the main familiar element. It may be his most tightly structured film, without any improv, though I’d have to watch it back-to-back with Don’t Touch the Axe to be sure.

“In marrying your sisters, we’ve ruined ourselves.” Anna Karina, towards the end of her Godard relationship, is sent to become a nun by her parents against her will in the mid-1700’s. To her, the experience is just like prison, but she manages to sneak out some letters and secures herself a lawyer (soundtrack plays ocean waves when she’s finally allowed to see him), incurring the wrath of head nun Francine Berge (gorgeous baddie of Franju’s Judex), until her punishment is finally noted by Berge’s superiors and Anna is moved to a new convent.

Karina and Berge have a nun-off:

The new one is a pleasure palace, run by clingy lesbian Liselotte Pulver (of A Time to Love and a Time to Die), whom the father confessor tells Anna to avoid like the devil. Anna doesn’t like this place any more than the last one, finally teams up with an amorous monk (Francisco Rabal, whose face was ripped off in Dagon) to escape. Best scene is with him, as she realizes his intentions and the music goes mental.

Karina and Pulver bond:

Anna flees him and he’s captured – oh, and her mom is dead, her friend who talked her into becoming a nun in the first place (Micheline Presle, Depardieu’s relative in I Want To Go Home) is dead, and now her lawyer is dead. Then she flees the village where she’s hiding out, gets picked off the street by a fancy lady, and finally flees her party right out an upper-story window. This made more sense once the internet told me the “fancy lady” was a prostitute, oops. C. Clouzot: “Rivette completes Diderot’s unfinished novel with her suicide.”

brief moment of happiness, post-escape:

the end is near:

Banned in France for over a year, with much public debate leading up to its eventual release. It’s funny now that this movie was considered so outrageous, falling five years after Mother Joan of the Angels and five before The Devils. Quite a good movie, even if not extremely Rivettian. Cinematographer Alain Levent worked on the first films by Chabrol, Rohmer and Truffaut, shot Cleo from 5 to 7, The Nun and later, Sam Fuller’s Day of Reckoning and Madonna and the Dragon. Adapted again (sort of) by Joe D’Amato in the 80’s and there’s a new version out with Isabelle Huppert.