Sunday, March 04, 2007

Out 1

Jum Boo! Thirteen to hunt the Snark! Prometheus, Thebes, and Balzac! Eight episodes, thirteen hours, two days, and innumerable shots of Michel Lonsdale just lounging on people's couches and mattresses as his long fingers search for morsels of food and drink.

I wish I could go back and see this film before ever seeing the 4-hour version, Out 1: Spectre, a different work all its own, but culled and shaped from the same material, and which (despite being a third of the length) is actually more difficult and disconcerting than the original (whose unofficial subtitle is Noli me tangere, which I think may be a reference to a Lonsdale scene on the beach). The 13-hour version is hardly the obscure and maddening exercise in endurance it has been fashioned as in these past decades of its legendary scarcity (to this day only a single print exists, and without doing serious research, I gather one can count its total public screenings on two hands, with some fingers left over). This isn't to say that the film is a breezy narrative, the equivalent of a TV-on-DVD fest. It is still very much Rivette, with all the regular longeurs that might imply for those who don't like his other films, or are on the fence with regard to them. But it was conceived as a mini-series and not primarily as a marathon--it's supposed to be digestible if inconclusive, approachable if uncontainable.

At any rate, who could otherwise resist Juliet Berto brandishing knives or guns, or Jean-Pierre Leaud bullying cafe patrons into giving him change for his impromptu harmonica performances (he blows wildly into his instrument for about a second and a half before expectantly extending his palm)? And--a marked contrast to the print of Out 1: Spectre that showed at Anthology Film Archives in New York last year (possibly also the same print they used for the Moving Image retrospective in December?)--this print of Noli me tangere is quite gorgeous, with very bright colors (primaries & pastels). Rivette's art does suffer when bad prints decay his color work--I think the pinkish monochrome of a faded print (not only the one I saw of Spectre, but also Noroît) pushes one's perceptions in directions less playful and emotionally associative than the bold and pure, sometimes '60s-Godardian, tones of Rivette's costumes and props, and the oft-bare walls of the rooms he films in, the skies, the rather expressive backdrops of dingy grays even (Parisian rooftoops, an old beach house, warehouses turned into theater troupes' rehearsal spaces).


All in all, see this film if you ever get the chance ...

13 comments:

Jaime said...

>>At any rate, who could otherwise resist

Me.

And Sky Hirschkron, apparently. (He showed up for Day One at AMMI but was MIA for Day Two.

I got more pleasure checking out the design of the 2008 Honda Accord, which is supposed to be pretty sharp.

My favorite deliberate-pace director is still Sokurov, he's longueurrific!!

And Bresson.

Zach Campbell said...

Well, glad you liked that car at least.

Sokurov and Bresson are cool too, of course.

Anonymous said...

funny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VybqCHxSeTA

Zach Campbell said...

That is completely hilarious! I'll post it up on the site tomorrow (too tired now, gotta go to bed).

Jaime said...

If it weren't for the cuts to the broken egg, and the different colors, I would have taken that for a real Hollis Frampton film.

Bill W said...

I never even considered going, as Rivette has generally left me cold, except for "Joan the Maid."

I liked how J Hoberman recommended it while calling the first 3 hours "stupefying."

Anonymous said...

frampton's lemon does come to mind.

Zach Campbell said...

Yeah, I'm sure that Lemon is an intentional reference--I haven't even seen the Frampton film and I realized this was a reference/parody. Plus of course Sharits. Are there any other possible allusions I'm overlooking in my post above?

Bill W.--I wouldn't recommend Out 1 to anyone who doesn't already like Rivette. I'm all for pushing oneself to see films that aren't in one's comfort zones (which includes giving continual chances to work by authors you don't much like--like for me & De Sica, or Bergman), but there are practical limits to such nobly masochistic endeavors ...

BrunoForestier said...

"Noli me tangere" was never intended by Rivette to be considered part of the title of the film. It was simply something he or one of his cohorts wrote on the cans holding the only print of the film. It means "touch me not."

I have an essay on Rivette where this is explained. I will try and find it at some point.

Zach Campbell said...

Bruno, thanks--I knew it wasn't really part of the film's title (hence my calling it the film's "unofficial subtitle"). The question is, why did that person write it on the film can? Do we know it was solely an order to not touch the print? (In which case, is the Latin just a joke? An allusion?) All I know is there's an emotionally climactic scene with Lonsdale where he says something like, 'Stay away from me!' If there is any reason for "Noli me tangere" to be written on the print aside from a cryptic demand (and maybe there isn't), I would guess that this Lonsdale scene would be it ...

(If memory serves that same scene is also in Spectre.)

Keith Uhlich said...

Hi Zach-

As was explained by MoMI curator David Schwartz at the Out 1 press screening, "Noli me tangere" is actually a biblical reference, specifically from the Gospel of John, Chapter 20, Verse 17. This link will take you to the various translations of the passage.

I address the subtitle in the last paragraph of my Out 1 review for The House Next Door. Hope this helps.

Zach Campbell said...

Keith, thanks. I knew that the phrase is a Biblical reference--having been raised Catholic & majored in art history, I'd have to hang my head in shame otherwise!--I just didn't know if it had any kind of textual (allusive, referential) significance, or if it was just a joke. I think your paragraph explains the placement adequately. Which makes sense--I thought perhaps it was something one of Rivette's "cohorts"--as BrunoForestier suggested it might be--wrote, perhaps as a friendly joke toward Rivette.

(This reminds me, I have to go and read all the OUT 1 write-ups that I deliberately skipped last December...)

So anyway, am I reading you right to say that Noli me tangere was indeed on the celluloid title card (at one point, of the workprint), not just a label on the film cans?

Keith Uhlich said...

Yes, you're reading right. David Schwartz, when he introduced the film at the critics screening, explained the history of the quote, that it was on the workprint and subsequently removed. Half-playful, half-serious on Rivette's part.

Somehow, I'm willing to bet there are other variations on the story as well. One of those allusive/elusive cinema anecdotes.