Footnotes to Out 1 [Chicago Reader blog post, 5/28/07]

Posted By on 05.28.07 at 07:39 PM

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If I’d had my druthers, I would have seen Jacques Rivette’s masterpiece Out 1 for the third time this past weekend, at the Gene Siskel Film Center. It’s still one of my all-time favorites, offering far more pleasure, enlightenment, and sheer stimulation over its dozen and a half hours than any dozen routine commercial releases (which would cumulatively last twice as long, and most of which I wouldn’t dream of seeing if my job didn’t require it). Thanks to work, I had to content myself with about three of the eight episodes, #3, #7, and #8. Still, it was  gratifying to see this much of it with such an appreciative and good-sized audience (about 140) who laughed in all the right places and seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. (The experience was enhanced by a superb job of “soft subtitling” supervised by Sally Shafto, director of the last Big Muddy Film Festival.)

I realize this is the third post about Rivette in the past couple weeks (see Pat Graham’s Celine & Julie: The Typeface and One Sings, the Other Doesn’t), but he’s the kind of filmmaker who fosters obsessiveness of various kinds. And I’d like to take this opportunity to correct a slight overstatement in my long review of the film in the Reader. Alluding to a slim paperback I once edited, Rivette: Texts and Interviews, published in England 30 years ago and long out of print (a used library copy is currently selling on Amazon for $137.90), I stated that the contents are now available at a new and excellent web site devoted to Rivette. On reflection that’s almost but not quite true: still missing is the last major piece of critical and theoretical writing by Rivette, a fascinating 1969 item called “Montage” that he coauthored with two Cahiers du Cinema colleagues, Jean Narboni and Sylvie Pierre.

The piece is especially relevant to Rivette’s four-hour Out 1: Spectre, which screens at the Film Center on June 9. But Daniel Stuyck, who helps run the Rivette site, assures me that the text will be added in June as part of the site’s periodic expansion. Meanwhile, if you’d like a small taste of this brilliant, somewhat difficult piece, check out a brief extract, about Jean-Marie Straub, in Kinoslang, an invaluable blog by Los Angeles writer Andy Rector (who flew to Chicago for the Out 1 screening). [November 2014: I haven't been able to locate this link, but the full "Montage" piece is now available at jacques-rivette.com.]

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I was fortunate enough to see this at MoMI in Queens a few months ago. Jonathan, are you currently working/know of on any of his major films for eventual DVD release?

Posted by Reader on 05/30/2007 at 11:17 AM

A couple of years ago, Jean-Michel Frodon, the editor of Cahiers du Cinema, told me that he thought an edition of Out 1 was being planned. If this is true, I would suspect, based on previous experience, that this won’t be subtitled. It seems insane to me that three of Rivette’s greatest films (L’amour fou and the two versions of Out 1) remain unavailable while all of his worst films, starting with Hurlevent, can be found easily.

Posted by Jonathan R. on 05/30/2007 at 1:06 PM

I must admit I’ve always been puzzled by the distinct line you’ve drawn between the Rivette ’70s films and the pictures that come after. Of course one can just chalk it up to a matter of taste based around the “direct cinema” and improvisatory methodologies at the surface, but I’ve always felt that much of what is treasurable in the earlier films rears its hydra-heads in the later films as well… in a permutated way, sure, but perhaps one not so much more alien than what happens in the leap from ‘Céline and Julie’ to ‘Duelle.’ ‘Hurlevent,’ for example, means a lot to me considered both as an elegy to Truffaut (filmed on his deathbed, as you know) in the sense of an exploration of literary adaptation vis-à-vis “mise en scène cinema” (to use Rivette’s sense of the term that he lays out in the interview with Eisenschitz et al., as appears in the ‘Rivette’ book which you had edited and now appears on jacques-rivette.com — and which was passed out photocopied at the MoMI screenings of ‘Out 1′), and as a further consideration (a “lateral” development, one could say) of how the theater fits into “mise en scène cinema” (in a post-Bazin reflection) coming off the heels of ‘L’Amour par terre’ — a film which can only be evaluated in its full 3-hour+ version (available on the French DVD), and which I believe is a masterpiece. But as for ‘Hurlevent,’ I find that it is also, via Lucas Belvaux, the only adaptation of Brontë’s novel that got the casting of Heathcliff spot-on, for my purse-of-sous. Anyway, more (and more, more lucidly) on the theatrical aspects of ‘Hurlevent’ can be found in B. Kite’s landmark Cinema Scope essay (part one) in the latest issue, which he promises to develop further in part two next issue or the following one. So, I guess I just wanted to get a good word in for the post-’Merry-Go Round’ + ‘Le Pont du Nord’ Rivettes, all of which I find rich in varying degrees, but never less, I admit, than glorious. The highest points are maybe ‘L’Amour par terre,’ ‘La Belle noiseuse,’ and ‘Histoire de Marie et Julien,’ although I keep in mind I haven’t yet seen the latest, ‘Ne touchez pas la hache’ (which is drawing ‘masterpiece’ raves from most cinephiles / Rivetteniks who’ve been able to catch it on the continent), nor the integral (and as far as Rivette is concerned, the only valid) version of ‘Va savoir,’ the so-called ‘Va savoir +’ which to my knowledge has gone unscreened outside of Paris in 2002. To my mind, the New York screenings of ‘Out 1′ (x 2) and ‘L’Amour fou’ drew more enriching connections with Rivette ’80s , ’90s, ’00s, than deeply dug trenches of ambivalence… But I’m very happy that, as a discrete film, ‘Out 1′ has come out of the shadows to cast its flashes… cmk.

Posted by craig k. on 05/31/2007 at 12:46 AM

Oh, as a PS/erratum/addendum — I should note that ‘Va savoir +’ also screened as part of the (truly) Complete Rivette retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris earlier this spring. cmk.

Posted by craig k. on 05/31/2007 at 12:49 AM

And, as a final PPS (and then I’ll shut up), just to assert where I stand with at least one particular patch of ’70s Rivette, ‘Out 1′ is one of the two or three or four solid contenders for the rank of the greatest film I’ve ever seen. I guess it’s really been the ultimate experience of my movie-watching life. craig.

Posted by craig k. on 05/31/2007 at 12:55 AM

Maybe I’m being unjust to “Hurlevent” on some level, but I would maintain that the Wyler, Bunuel, and Rivette adaptations of “Wuthering heights” all get the novel dead wrong by assuming that Heathcliff can be perceived without the uncomprehending viewpoints of Nelly Dean and Lockwood recounting and perceiving his story. For me the novel doesn’t exist without these characters as narrative filters. I still haven’t seen the long version of “Va savoir”. I agree with you about the long “L’amour par terre” being much, much better than the shorter one, but I don’t regard that film as a masterpiece in any version.

Posted by Jonathan R. on 05/31/2007 at 10:23 AM

Jonathan, This comment doesn’t stream with the topic but I didn’t know how else to contact you. I was recently in Paris and saw David Lynch’s art exhibtion at the Cartier Foundation. It was extraordinary. Besides his large scale paintings, there were perhaps hundreds of 3×3 yellow post-it notes with ink or pencil drawings. Penciled on one of them was “Jonathan Rosenbaum” along with one of his sketches. Just thought you should know that while either thinking of you, planning a note to call you, or perhaps while even meeting with you, you inspired his artistic impulse.

Posted by Kathryn Q. on 05/31/2007 at 11:57 AM

Thanks. You’re the second person who’s told me about this. I have no idea what it means: the only time we ever met was very briefly, in Toronto, when Blue Velvet premiered. Prior to that, I had a phone interview with him while working on Midnight Movies with Jim Hoberman, and that’s the extent of our direct contact.

Posted by Jonathan R. on 05/31/2007 at 9:11 PM

i just read your review of against the Day which I finally got around to reading five months after receiving it. Bela Blasko is Bela Lugosi singing in The Burgher King. I was deeply impressed and moved by the book. For me Mason and Dixon remains his greatest masterpiece.

Posted by Craig on 06/03/2007 at 8:11 AM

For any who are interested… Rivette’s Out 1 was shown on Italian television (RAI) some time ago. A digital rip of this broadcast, in French with Italian subtitles, is available online: bittorrent, Emule, etc.

Posted by Pacze Moj on 06/04/2007 at 4:24 PM

I keep my fingers crossed and keep a candle burning for this movie to be finally released on DVD. Jonathan, only 2 questions: Are there any plans (in short-term or long-term perspective) to reprint your seminal book on Rivette in a new revised and updated edition. I guess it would be very useful companion preceding or coming up with the release of Rivette’s best films. And the second one: Have you ever listened to any albums by the british exceptional band THE FALL?

Posted by Alex Bas. on 06/07/2007 at 2:36 PM

Sorry, it’s no to both questions. The British Film Institute has never shown the slightest interest in reprinting my book–especially after they reprinted (without credit) several excerpts from it in some of their Cahiers du Cinema collections. And at the moment their publishing branch is in the process of privatizing by finding a (more) commercial publisher to team up with, meaning that their interest in anything less commercial than (say) the Coen brothers is likely to be even slimmer than it was before.

Posted by Jonathan R. on 06/07/2007 at 4:41 PM

Correct me if I’m not right, but does this mean that they hold the dаmn copyright on all the book’s writings that prevents you from publishing it independently, e.g. in Germany, France or USA and/or may result in possible lawsuits. I mean if they have no intention to publish it, why not let you to team up with more concerned party and make it available to a wider audience reasonably priced or are they so greedy in harvey weinsteinian way even on the material they have no (commercial) interest in and just put it on the backburner in a typical soviet shelf-manner. Ok, they deserve some props for Celine and Julie, but the bonus disc is crap. Rivette is no doubt one of the most important director of post-war french cinema (after Grand Maestro R. Bresson of course, by the way any information when 4 Nuits d’un rêveur will finally arrive, so long overdue) and certainly the most interesting figure behind New Wave who’s still not given his due. Keep it up, J. Cheers!

Posted by Alex Bas. on 06/08/2007 at 4:40 AM

Jonathan – I just wanted to thank you for creating and nurturing my interest in Rivette. It was through your essays that I learned of his incredible films and thought of my debt to you while watching Out 1 earlier this year at MoMI. Best regards.

Posted by John Hanlon on 06/08/2007 at 10:57 AM

It’s good to see that Rivette is still capable of soliciting this kind of interest and passion. To Alex Bas., I should note that (1) as a former BFI employee, I’m fairly sure that the people who put out the DVDs and the people who publish the books aren’t the same, and may not even communicate with one another, and (2) because virtually the entire contents of my Rivette book is now either available online at www.jacques-rivette.com or is about to be (see above), the issue of reprinting it–a risky financial undertaking at any time and under any circumstances–seems pretty moot. No one from the BFI has threatened any lawsuits or even shown any awareness about the web site, and I’m not even sure if many people working there today are aware that the book ever existed.

Posted by Jonathan R.- on 06/08/2007 at 11:27 AM
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