French filmmaker Jacques Rivette passed away January 29 at the of 87. Rivette was a French director who was part of the French New Wave although he doesn’t quite get the recognition like François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol Agnès Varda and Éric Rohmer do when you mention French New Wave.
Like his fellow New Wave filmmaker Rivette started his career as a film critic at the Cahiers du cinéma. His first film was Paris Belongs to Us He started making it in 1957 but it wasn’t released until 1961. It wasn’t as well received as other French New Wave films at the time and Rivette continued working at Cahiers du cinéma until 1968.
Rivette made two more movies in 1960s and in 1970 he made Out 1. Out 1: Noli me tangere is a 12 hour 9 minute masterpiece. It has barely been seen in it’s full length, Rivette had cut it down and made a shorter version retitled Out 1: Spectre which is a more manageable 4 hours 13 minutes. Rivette loved his long movies, most were around 3 hours but he also made another 4 hour movie in 1991, La belle noiseuse. Rivette loved to let movies move at their own pace. He also encouraged his actors to improvise which is quite evident in Out 1.
Rivette originally conceived the movie as a TV series but it was rejected by every network in France so he made the film for theatres. The title comes from the fact that Rivette hated the phrase “in” as in “this is in now” so he called the film Out 1. The film is divided into eight episodes and the story follows two theatrical groups both putting on plays based on Aeschylus’ work. One is doing Seven Against Thebes and the other is doing Prometheus Unbound. The movie follows the creative process as both groups work through rehearsals. The overall story is influenced from Honoré de Balzac’s La Comédie humaine which after awhile slowly starts by following a man named Colin (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who receives a note that seems to indicate that there are thirteen people that secretly run Paris. Frédérique (Juliet Berto) a woman who steals money from men also eventually discovers some letters about the thirteen.
Rivette takes his time slowly connecting all the stories together but in the end creates a film experience that not many people have seen. The movie has long been unavailable to audiences. It had limited screenings every couple of years but the logistics of screening a 12 hour movie are tough to get around. A couple of years ago it played in Vancouver over two days with 15 minute breaks between the episodes. It would have been awesome if tiring to see it that way.
Out 1 has been digitally restored recently and released on Bluray for Carlotta studios in Europe and through Kino in North America. The impressive box set includes the entire 12 hours over 4 discs with the shorter 4 hour version Out 1: Spectre on its own Bluray disc. Very few filmmakers would make such a risky movie and long movie although it seems to work better (at least for viewing) on home video than on the big screen. Today’s binge watching of streaming TV shows has sort of prepared people for Rivette. It’s kind of sad that just as Out 1 is released onto home video for the first time that Rivette has passed away but at least more people can finally see his masterpiece.