Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Out 1

This weekend was spent submerged in Jacques Rivette's Out 1. A massive work with a slender plot, the sheer length of the film/mini-series allows an acclimation to the rhythms of the film and of its characters that other, more plot-driven epics can't. As a result, Out 1 grows more engrossing as it progresses, as opposed to Lord of the Rings or even a 3-hour Hollywood blockbuster, which can be hugely exhausting experiences.

Out 1
starts out with extended quasi-documentary footage of two theater troupes rehearsing plays by Aeschylus. Both interpretations are radical, to say the least - high modernist attempts to deconstruct the text to the point at which the author is incidental, and the performance is everything. The performances never leads anywhere; as in Paris Belongs to Us and L'Amour fou (and arguably Celine and Julie as well) the characters engage in rehearsal, without the payoff of any actual public performance. (Which, in an unintended irony, would be the fate of Out 1 itself.) I'm not sure what to do with that just yet, but the act of rehearsal is particularly bizarre. It isn't what we normally think of as performance, which has an audience to justify its occurrence. Instead, it's grown men and women pretending to be other people, like a game, but one that only works if all parties involved are absolutely serious.

It's difficult to wrap my head around a full twelve hours, even if several of those hours contain extended theatrical improvisations - some of which are truly brilliant, some of which fall flat, but all of which are fascinating. Over twelve hours, the usual standards of good and bad don't really apply anymore. At a certain point, the details of the film become fact, and it seems no more valid to criticize (or notice) fluctuations in "quality" or "success" than it would to do so in your daily life. Which isn't to say that the details aren't important: the incidental observations vastly overwhelm the portions of the film that contribute to the narrative(s). The film becomes a place the viewer inhabits. This weekend is Out 1: Spectre, and I'll have more to say after having seen the, ahem, sleeker four-hour version.

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