Why long form?
Why make film that goes beyond the usual couple of hours? What can happen that couldn’t happen otherwise?
Film makers have rarely had the opportunity nor taken the risk of making very long form works, though it seems natural that one of the first such films was a Christian photo-play made in 1914 that ran for 8 hours or so, covering creation to rapture. Christian story-telling is after all preoccupied with the long-lived and the enumeration of generations.
Andy Warhol established long form as a cool, defining concept for the generation that discovered the lovely affordability and easy projecatibility of 16mm. Other artists have gone long ever since. With the even cheaper potential of digital we can expect ever longer forms to emerge. But in terms of a film that offers contemporary lively drama, with dialogue, with a script (or something like that), the pleasure of developed and developing characters, Out 1 is it – the work of a New Wave film-maker at the top of his game.
Rivette’s most liked and widely-seen work is probably Céline et Julie vont en bateau (1974), a tightly scripted romance full of sparkling wit and ludic convolutions. It demonstrates clearly Rivettes’s delight in working with actors in a search for nuance and detail in contrived dramatic situations. If that film was tightly scripted (as it was), Rivette knew of another way to foreground and privilege performance - improvisation. Improvisation is a theatrical method for developing material, and for actors to enter into character, and find the necessary energy to propel performance. And so, in Out 1, Rivette gave his cast free rein, providing the framework and scene-setting from his literary sources but then asking the actors to improvise within that frame. The cast is huge, and the fun is immense.
The cast list is a roster of the very best of French cinema of the time, including Jean-Pierre Léaud, Bulle Ogier, Juliet Berto, Michel Delahaye. Rivette’s extraordinary achievement is to energise and feed this multitude of protagonists, to make them so vividly self-aware, so functional and functioning. There is never a hint of the automatic, of the merely recitation of grim clichés: this is a cast in state of excitement.
If any more needs be said of Rivette, consider that he was an editor of the Cahiers du cinema, that most venerated cinephile publication, and that what he wrote and published in that journal brought about a profound reconsideration of cinema. It is Cahiers du cinema that discovered and argued for the true greatness of Hitchcock, Hawks and Sirk. Rivette was a key part of a sainted generation: Bazin, Godard, Rohmer, Truffaut, Resnais…
Out 1 feels modern, looks modern, and will hopefully delight as much as it has Jonathan Rosenbaum, Richard Roud and Jonathan Romney. Rarely seen, but now digitally restored, and provided with freshly translated subtitles, this is a chance for a new generation to discover a legendary cornerstone of long form cinema.
Out 1 was presented on 28th and 29th November 2015 by A Nos Amours and the Badlands Collective, hosted by the Prince Charles Cinema.