A vacationing Marianne and Nicolas visit the estate of long-idle painter Frenhofer and his wife Liz, where an unguarded look by Marianne gets Fren’s artistic urges raging once more. Nicolas tells Fren that Marianne will pose for a painting without asking M.’s permission first, but she comes anyway, with an angrily determined look on her face, to spite Nic. First few scenes when she goes naked in the studio are just astounding. Frenhofer goes about his work, setting up a drawing table, sketching some lines (Rivette, in his usual fashion, shows us the entire artistic process, omitting nothing for the sake of runtime), while M. has this incredible internal struggle visible on her face. It probably helps a lot that the film was shot in order, so the character and the actress become increasingly comfortable with her nudity as the audience does too.

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Fren’s relationship with his wife Liz proves to be complicated. She was once his model, and the very painting he’s attempting to achieve with Marianne was once begun and abandoned with Liz. In her conversations with Fren and Marianne and Porbus the art dealer (with whom she once had an affair) and in her movements and her uneasy looks we get a wonderfully conflicted character. She’s never showy or artificial – the only one here who fits that description is Marianne’s boyfriend Nicolas, who grows increasingly absent. He comes back towards the end when his sister arrives to artificially force a closure to Nic and Marianne’s long limbo-vacation. Marianne, either dedicated to the painting or still stubbornly trying to prove her mettle, refuses. When she sees herself in the finished painting, sees what she’d been trying to hide while apparently so exposed, Frenhofer watches her expression, and what he sees convinces him to hide the painting forever behind a brick wall and stay up all night creating a substitute, a less powerful work which pleases Porbus and sickens Nicolas. I wonder if Frenhofer’s falling in love with Liz prevented him from ever finishing the painting a decade earlier, for fear of scaring her, or if his falling in love prevented him from being able to see that part of her which would enable him to finish it. Either way, a very satisfactory ending, the masterwork completed but Frenhofer, a greater man than Nicolas, hides it for the well-being of the two women.

Simply filmed, mostly in long takes in authentic locations. I mean, the shots aren’t Tarr-long, or even Rivette-long, just longer than most films – though there are authentically long insert-shots of sketches and drawings created from scratch before our eyes. I watched with headphones and found the sound of Fren’s pen scratching across his notepad to be almost unbearable. Rivette’s usual favorite sound effect of footsteps on a wooden floor can be muted when convenient, as when Liz comes into her husband’s studio and watches unnoticed.

Frenhofer = Michel Piccoli – Simon Cinema himself, of lots of films by Ruiz, Oliveira, Godard, Bunuel, Hitchcock, Varda, Demy, Resnais, Malle, Clouzot, and Mario Bava.
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I just saw Emmanuelle Béart as Marie, and she’s been in two different movies called L’Enfer.
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Jane Birkin was in Love on the Ground, Same Old Song, Kung-Fu Master, Keep Up Your Right and Blow-up.
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Art dealer Porbus (right), Gilles Arbona was in similarly-titled La Belle Captive.
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Nic’s sister Julienne, Marianne Denicourt (left with David Bursztein as Nic), later starred in Haut bas fragile and played Victor Hugo’s wife (?) in a French TV biopic of Balzac.
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“And the hand of painter Bernard Dufour.”
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Towards the end, when Frenhofer is through sketching and has started to paint, we see the first slash of red across a canvas. There’s more red during the next painting session, and when we glimpse the bottom of the “true” completed painting from under a sheet it’s mostly red). The false ringer painting is almost all light blue.

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J. Heilman:

The film begins unassumingly in a hotel courtyard where we see a young man stealthily sketching some seemingly oblivious English-speaking tourists. As Rivette’s camera continues to pan, however, we find that our casual artist is actually the subject of another’s art. A woman on the hotel’s balcony furtively snaps a photo of him, but is noticed by sketcher, who becomes visibly irate. As soon as he confronts her, though, it becomes immediately apparent to us that most of this incident was a ruse. The two artists are lovers, and their coyness was entirely put on. Spurned by the excitement of their charade, they retire to the bedroom. The stunt even continues a bit farther than planned when one of the tourists watching this amorous French drama unfold says to another in mock culture shock, “Well, what do you expect?” This seemingly frivolous episode resonates throughout the rest of the film, since it manages to say much about the relationship between an artist and subject, the secretive, similar natures of art and love, and the need to sometimes create an environment where ever-fleeting inspiration might strike. It’s these themes that come to the fore during rest of the long journey that La Belle Noiseuse takes.

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K. Uhlich in Slant, less reverential than most, says it “vacillates between genuine insight and didactic mystique-of-the-artist bullshit.”

Won the grand jury prize at Cannes, but didn’t have quite enough of that barton fink feeling to take the golden palm. Did not take the nation’s award shops by storm – lost the Cesar to some Gérard Depardieu flick, and wasn’t nominated for an Oscar or much else. But it did put Rivette’s name back into public circulation.

I watched two-hour edit Divertimento a couple months later.
“The hand of painter Bernard Dufour” barely appears in it!

Music by Igor Stravinsky, and the name Divertimento was stolen from the short version of one of his works. An in-joke for Stravinsky fans. That fits in with the Balzac references and the fact that the entire project was based on a joke, a flip fake answer Rivette would give when asked about his next project.

Jacques Rivette:
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Apr 2008:
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Watched again with a very small, mildly unhappy audience. Oh how will I meet some fellow Rivette fanatics in my town if not at a public Celine & Julie screening? Love love love the last twenty minutes or so when they attack the fiction house, but the parts in the middle where they interfere in each other’s lives (Celine driving away Julie’s lover, Julie wrecking Celine’s job) are great fun also. Still don’t know what to make of Julie meeting her grandmother at the house next door to the fiction house.

Catching up with the cast: “Julie” had not-huge parts in Renoir and Fellini films, was recently in Ruiz’s Time Regained with La Belle noiseuse star Emmanuelle Béart. Marie-France Pisier played the dark-haired flower-fearing woman in the fiction house, also appeared in Time Regained, as well as Phantom of Liberty, Trans-Europ Express and got her start starring in Truffaut’s short Antoine & Collette.

Remembering the cat in the final shot, I paid attention to all the cats in the movie this time. Not much to say about that, though.

Feb 2007:
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Incredible movie. Been thinking about it a lot. Lived up to expectations after I’d been wanting to see it for 6-7 years. Delightful to watch for all three of its hours, playful in every sense.

Dark-haired Celine meets red-head Julie, and they goof around for a long time, then…

James Crawford in Reverse Shot:

From the outset, Céline’s been on the run from a mysterious mansion with a gruesome secret. And so, just as the title predicts—in French, ‘aller en bateau,’ literally translated as ‘to go boating’ has a colloquial meaning of approximately ‘to get taken for a ride’ or ‘get caught up in a story’—Céline and Julie get wrapped up in discovering said secret.

The two take turns entering this house and comparing their experiences, trying to change the outcome and learn the secrets within. They mess with each other’s personal lives (jobs and friends), experiment with spells and legends and memory, and seem to never stop enjoying themselves. A big ol’ metaphor for movie watching, filmmaking, audience participation, getting caught up in the action. Out 1 is at the theater and Celine & Julie is at the movies.

Released the same year as another movie to blow my mind on video lately, Edvard Munch.

Will have to see this again and again.

Celine & Julie:
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Feuillade-ing through town:
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Bulle Ogier (Out 1’s Pauline/Emilie)
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Director Barbet Schroeder as the guy in the fiction house:
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The girl from the house, rescued:
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Going boating:
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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.

First movie of my Rivette Fest, to get acquainted with his work before seeing Out 1 in March. But Sam just told me that his late movies, like this one, have little in common with the early batch. So maybe my efforts are misdirected, but whatever the case, I enjoyed this one.

Lab rat Sandrine Bonnaire (Rivette’s Joan of Arc, also starred in Vagabond, East/West, Intimate Strangers, and Chabrol’s The Ceremony) hears from her brother Paul (Grégoire Colin, young star of The Intruder and Dreamlife of Angels) that old family friend Walser (Jerzy Radziwilowicz: Rivette’s Julien, Godard’s director in Passion, star of Man of Iron and Man of Marble) may have killed their father.

it all starts with a photo:
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angry brother:
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Rounding out a star-studded cast is their mom Francoise Fabian (of 5×2, Belle de Jour, and the title role in My Night at Maud’s) and Walser’s girlfriend Laure Marsac (of nothing in particular).

Sandrine confronts Walser and accidentally kills the girlfriend. Later, the gf’s twin sister (also Laure Marsac) shows up. Everyone is sleeping with Walser except for the brother, who’s still all hopping mad. Eventually the twin sister accidentally kills Sandrine (both deaths were caused by someone jumping in front of Walser).

dig the mobile:
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dig the sexy girl:
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Movie is usually captivating, but every time Sandrine rides the train in the first half, it shows us the entire train ride. Goes beyond “setting the mood” and starts to get boring. Much improved in the second half (unlike most movies). A twisty little mystery movie… liked it.

a long train ride:
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final shot:
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