Jacques Rivette’sOut 1 (Kino Lorber / Carlotta, Blu-ray+DVD) has been one of the Holy Grails of international cinema since its premier screening in 1971. Rejected by French TV and, at over 12 1/2 hours in its initial cut, too long for theaters, the definitive editions wasn’t even completed until 1989. It showed on French and German TV but apart from periodic special screenings (including a handful of showings in the U.S. and Canada in 2006 and 2007) was impossible to see.
That changed in 2015 with a French digital restoration from the original 16mm negatives, a high-profile two-week run in New York (qualifying as the film’s American theatrical debut) followed by screenings across the country (including Seattle), streaming availability from the arthouse subscription service Fandor and a late 2015 disc release in France. Now 2016 brings this amazing Blu-ray+DVD combo box set release. It features not only the 13-hour Out 1: Noli me tangere (1971 / 1989) but the shorter Out 1: Spectre (1974), designed for a theatrical release after French TV balked at his original vision, plus an accompanying documentary and a booklet.
[Originally published in Movietone News 39, February 1975]
“Sometimes dreams are really…”
One way or another, all the really big guys make movies about themselves making movies. Luis Buñuel may be caught most conspicuously doing so at the beginning of his career, in UnChienandalou, and at what must be temporarily accounted the end of his career, LeCharmediscretde labourgeoisie, until Le FantômedelaLiberté gets here or until Buñuel really does stop making films, as he’s been threatening to do for about a decade now. Unlike most of its sophomoric contemporaries, UnChienandalou operates as a most lucid disquisition on a kind of formal logic peculiarly available to the cinema. The recurrent patterns of diagonal design (the pattern in Buñuel’s tie, the lines on the lid of the cyclist’s box and the wrapping paper inside) and diagonal movement (the stropping of the razor, the woman’s arrangement of untenanted garments on the bed) attest to the possibility of formal integrity without reference to any conventional, mundane logic. The succession of visually similar forms (a hole in the hand, a tuft of underarm hair, a sea urchin, a head glimpsed in a god’s-eye-view iris-shot) provides its own poetic justification, and a sinister shot-pairing (clouds cut across moon, razor cuts across eye) testifies to the power of editorial progression! A woman “hears” and reacts to the approach of a cyclist whose only sensory signal has been to enter and pass out of a right-angle frame of a street scene disposed between two shots of her looking at a book in a room somewhere: shot juxtaposition creates its own acceptable narrative logic. And that room she sits in, having been established in a conventional full shot at the beginning, can be broken up by camera angling and restructured by montage so that its window looks down on both a city street and a desolate beach, and its door opens on a stairway, the seashore, or the mirror duplication of the selfsame room, depending on where the narrative chooses to go next. Truly, Buñuel opens not only the girl’s but also his and our eyes to a new kind of vision.
Making its stateside home video debut on Tuesday, February 17, is Jacques Rivette’s Le Pont du Nord (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD), a dark sister film to his more buoyant and whimsical Celine and Julie Go Boating. Longtime collaborator Bulle Ogier stars with her daughter, Pascale Ogier, and they co-wrote the film with Rivette and Suzanne Schiffman, which gives the characters and their journeys a decidedly female perspective, a hallmark of many of Rivette’s films. It also channels his love of puzzles, games, fantasy, and conspiracy with a story that tosses the two women together in Paris and sends them on an odyssey through the city, following clues and hopping through neighborhoods like they are squares in a massive boardgame with fatal stakes.
Marie (Bulle Ogier) arrives in the back of a pick-up truck—she’s spent the last few years in prison—with the intention of tracking down her old lover. Baptiste (Pascale Ogier) rides in on a moped, challenging a motorcycle rider like a kid playing matador and stepping off to slash the eyes from posters and placards. Marie is older, experienced, practical, disillusioned yet still hopeful, and she’s afflicted by a crippling claustrophobia that prevents her from even stepping inside stores. Baptiste is young, dreamy, a believer in fate and magic, and possibly unstable (her reflexive defacing of public imagery seems more compulsion than artistic statement). She’s also unfailingly loyal. When Baptiste sees that Marie’s criminal boyfriend Julien (Pierre Clémenti) is involved in shady business dealings, she appoints herself Marie’s guardian and takes the lead in investigating the contents of Julien’s briefcase, which includes newspaper clippings of political assassinations and of Marie’s criminal past. What’s the connection?
[Originally published in Movietone News 51, August 1976]
A vaguely arty bourgeois couple experiment with sexual freedom and end by pretty thoroughly disassembling their lives as they have known them. The bored wife of a New Guinea–based diplomat leaves the capital long enough to scout up some exotic feathers for the world of haute couture, learns of a likelier source farther from civilization, and ends by disappearing into a white area on the map in quest of Paradise. Claude Chabrol directed Une Partie de plaisir and Barbet Schroeder made La Vallée but, while each film makes sense in the context of its director’s career, some broad thematic similarities suggest that Paul Gégauff, the screenwriter they claim in common, has been at least equally important in determining the nature of the finished films.
Une Partie de plaisir, in fact, may be even more Gégauff’s film than Chabrol’s: in addition to having written the script, Gégauff plays the leading role—opposite his wife Danièle—and has freely called attention to the psychodrama aspect of the whole venture. Suggesting both a visual and characterological cross between George Macready and Shepperd Strudwick, Gégauff’s protagonist is first seen introducing his wife to the pleasures of baiting a fishhook with a live crawfish and then making love to her on a rock by the sea. At one of Chabrol’s dinnertable interludes shortly after they have left this vacation site, he brings up the subject of extramarital sex—Has she indulged? Ever wanted to? How would she feel if he did?—because, well, he has, it was no big deal, and he wouldn’t mind at all if she yearned for a temporary change now and again. She’s shy, dubious, just a little wounded by both the revelation and the suggestion; but when a house party affords the opportunity not long afterward, she opts for a brief adventure with a gentle Arabian friend of a friend. The husband listens to her sounds of pleasure somewhere in the house, and tenderly looks in to be sure their child is sleeping peacefully. But life-events get away from the teacher. While still abiding by his libertarian principles—and copping friendly feels from another mutual friend in the kitchen—he begins to compete with the lover, and insults the friend that this interloping friend of a friend has brought to the next party. While she screws the Arab, the husband can’t manage to stay the course with the kitchen cuddler. And so, with increasing psychosexual complications, it goes, as the wife continues to discover her own identity and Gégauff becomes more and more desperate about—and insistent on—his male supremacy.
[Originally published in Movietone News 58-59, August 1978]
Céline and Julie Go Boating just may bring Jacques Rivette from the background to the foreground in the continuing history of French New Wave directors. Rivette is another of the Cahiers du cinéma writers who made his way from critic to director but, at least until now, has remained something of an unknown quantity, more mentioned than seen. Commercial and legal difficulties with his first two films (Paris Belongs to Us, 1958-60, and The Nun,1962) meant that his movies were discussed by European observers long before they were shown (and then only briefly) in this country. His films since then have been extraordinarily long (Spectreruns 13 hours; OutOne, a much shorter assemblage from the same footage, still runs four hours) and that may have a lot to do with the apparent lack of circulation accorded L’Amour fou, a four-hour Rivette which has had a U.S. distributor for some time but scant bookings.