Out 1 is a 1971 film directed by Jacques Rivette, one of the major filmmakers of the French New Wave. Notorious for its unwieldy length of twelve hours and forty minutes, it is also referred to as Out 1: Noli me tangere. When asked why the film is called Out 1, Rivette responded, "I chose 'Out' as the opposite of the vogue word 'in', which had caught on in France and which I thought was silly. The action of the film is rather like a serial which could continue through several episodes, so I gave it the number 'One'." The Spectre subtitle for the shorter version was similarly chosen for its ambiguous and various indistinct meanings, while the Noli me tangere subtitle ("don't touch me") for the original version is clearly a reference to it being the full length film as intended by Rivette.
Divided into eight episodes around 90-100 minutes each, the film is distinctly and explicitly indebted to Honoré de Balzac's La Comédie humaine, particularly the History of the Thirteen collection (1833-1835). The vast length of the film allows Rivette, like Balzac, to construct multiple loosely connected characters with independent stories whose subplots weave amongst each other and continually uncover new characters with their own subplots. This experimentation with parallel subplots was influenced by Andre Cayatte's two parts of La Vie conjugale (1963), while the use of expansive screen time was first toyed with by Rivette in L'amour fou (1969). The parallel narrative structure has since been used in many other notable films, including Kieślowski's The Decalogue and Lucas Belvaux's Trilogie, to name a few. Each of the episodes begins with a title in the form of "from person to person" (usually indicating the first and last characters seen in each episode), followed by a handful of black and white still photos recapitulating the scenes of the prior episode, then concluded by showing the final minute or so (in black and white) of the last episode before cutting into the new episode itself (which is entirely in color).
Plot and themes:
From the starting image of a small group of actors lying down with their legs bent back towards themselves, Rivette again focuses his film around rehearsals for a play, a motif present in both L'amour fou and his debut feature Paris nous appartient (1960); in particular, he extends L'amour fou's relentless reportage-style examination of the continual development of a play under rehearsal (in that case Jean Racine's Andromaque) and its effects on the director and his wife. In the case of Out 1, the two main anchors of the film are two different theater groups each rehearsing a different Aeschylus play (Seven Against Thebes and Prometheus Bound), and the film does not particularly privilege any character within these groups more than any other. External to these two groups, two outsiders peripheral to the theater are featured: Colin (Jean-Pierre Léaud), a young man who believes that there may be a real-life Thirteen group in operation, and Frédérique (Juliet Berto), a young swindler who happens to steal letters which may prove to be communication between members of the Thirteen. Other featured characters include Emilie (Bulle Ogier), who runs a local hangout under the name Pauline and whose husband, Igor, has been missing for six months. Michael Lonsdale plays Thomas, the director of the Prometheus Bound group, and there are cameos by directors Barbet Schroeder and Éric Rohmer, who plays a Balzac professor in a scene of both plot exposition and comic relief.
The first few hours of the film alternate between documentary-style scenes observing the two troupes' rehearsals, Colin soliciting money from cafe patrons as a deaf man by playing irritating harmonica tunes, and Frédérique stealing money through a variety of deceptions. The plot gradually develops when Colin receives three mysterious messages in quick succession containing cryptic references to "the Thirteen" and to Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark. He quickly connects this to Balzac and begins a quixotic quest to uncover what the messages mean and who the Thirteen are. Sometime afterwards, Frédérique casually interrupts a businessman, Etienne, playing chess against himself at home; when she has the room to herself briefly, she attempts to locate a stash of money but instead steals a collection of letters. Sensing that they refer to some sort of secret society, she attempts to sell them to several of the correspondents in exchange for either money or more information on the group, but fails to gain any information. Only Emilie buys the letters, but only because they refer to her husband.
The Seven Against Thebes production takes on a newcomer, Renaud, to assist in the production, but he quickly begins to take over more and more of the creative direction of the piece from Lili, who recedes into the background in disgust. Their fortunes appear high when Quentin wins a million francs at the races, but during the ensemble's celebration, Renaud steals all the cash; the production is cancelled and the members undertake a futile search for Renaud, spreading out all across Paris with a photo of him to try to discover his whereabouts. Thomas brings in old friend Sarah to help work through a creative block on Prometheus Bound, but she instead causes a rift within the group and the play is abandoned after another player leaves for unrelated reasons. It turns out that Thomas's block was largely due to his break-up with Lili after being with her personally and professionally for seven years.
Thomas also is revealed to be a key member of the Thirteen, although the group never really was fully functional and had agreed to go into a period of dormancy two years earlier. Ironically, a chance encounter between Colin and Thomas motivates the latter to suggest reviving the Thirteen to Etienne, who is reluctant because the group never really did anything to begin with. One of the main correspondents in Etienne's letters, Pierre, is frequently discussed but never seen, and is described alternately as sinister and childlike. After reading the contents of the letters sold to her by Frédérique, Emilie prepares packages to be sent to major Parisian newspapers containing photocopies of these letters and purporting to disclose the existence of a scandal involving Pierre setting up Igor. Since Pierre and Igor are both members of the Thirteen, members of the group are forced to reconstitute to prevent the disclosure, and Thomas, Etienne and the ruthless lawyer Lucie de Graffe (Françoise Fabian) meet to discuss what to do.
Frédérique eventually meets up with the young man that her gay friend Honey Moon (Michel Berto) is infatuated with, who turns out to be Renaud; the two become married in a blood ritual, but she suspects that he may be a member of another secret society even more sinister than the Thirteen. After seeing him associate with a local gang, she draws a gun on him, but warns him - causing him to turn around and shoot instantly, killing her.
Colin gives up on the idea of the Thirteen, while it is quietly suggested during a discussion between two other members of the Thirteen, Lucie de Graffe and the cynical professor named Warok (Jean Bouise), that perhaps Pierre was the author of the messages to Colin and has been the invisible hand behind much of the plot, because he misses the Thirteen and wants to either restore it or replace it with young blood like Colin. Several of the characters retreat in the end to Emilie's small seaside house in Odabe, where she breaks down in front of Sarah, confessing her love for Colin (who had been courting her earlier) and Igor at the same time. Her dilemma is solved at the end, when she receives a call from Igor telling her to meet him in Paris. She and Lili set off for Paris.
Thomas remains behind on the beach at Odabe with two of his actors and has a drunken hysterical episode there, when he pretends to collapse on the sand. His actors are worried and frantically try to revive him. When he reveals his jest, they walk away in disgust and get in the car to go back to Paris. Thomas is left alone on the beach, crying and laughing at the same time, stranded in Odabe and for the first time in the film, part of no group whatsoever. The film then quickly cuts to a completely unrelated shot of Marie, an actress from the Thebes group who still seems to be searching for the missing Renaud and the money he stole. A golden statute of a Greek goddess, perhaps Athena, towers above her. The shot is held for a second before fading out.
Achille (Sylvain Corthay): Actor in Prometheus Bound troupe. Accompanies Thomas and Rose to Odabe at the end of the film.,
Arsenal (Marcel Bozonnet): Actor in Seven Against Thebes troupe. Vaguely knew Renaud and introduced him to the rest of the group. Also known as Nicolas, Papa, or Theo.,
Balzac specialist (Éric Rohmer): Professor whom Colin contacts (while still pretending to be a deaf man) to attempt to discover some further clues as to the possibility of the existence of the Thirteen in real life.,
Beatrice (Edwine Moatti): Actress in Prometheus Bound troupe. Is a confidant and possibly lover of Thomas. Engages in a threesome with Thomas and Sarah. Her relationship with the Ethnologist is broken off when he announces his intention to depart for the Basque region for work. This also causes her to leave the troupe.,
Bergamotte (Bernadette Onfroy): Actress in Prometheus Bound troupe.,
Colin (Jean-Pierre Léaud): Young outsider who pretends to be a deaf whilst playing a harmonica for money around Parisian cafes. Receives three messages from Pierre, which set him off to try to uncover a real-life "Thirteen" in the vein of the Balzac novels. Falls in love with Pauline after numerous meetings at her store. Makes many connections through his investigations, but ultimately fails to find any cooperative parties and abandons his belief in the Thirteen.,
Elaine (Karen Puig): Actress in Seven Against Thebes troupe. Alerts Lucie when Lili goes missing for several days (which turns out to be a trip with Emilie to Odabe).,
Emilie (Bulle Ogier): Name that Pauline goes by at home. Wife to Igor and mother of two children with him. His disappearance six months earlier causes her to buy Pierre's letters from Frédérique; these refer to the disappearance. Despite Sarah's admonitions, she plans to send photocopies of the letters to newspapers in order to discover what is going on; however, Iris winds up burning them behind her back. Leaves for Odabe, where she confesses her love for Colin and Igor to Sarah. Igor calls her not long after and tells her to meet him in Paris. See Pauline.,
The Ethnologist (Michel Delahaye): Romantic interest of Beatrice. Breaks up with her when he announces his departure to the Basque region for work. Beatrice leaves Prometheus Bound shortly afterwards because of this.,
Etienne (Jacques Doniol-Valcroze): Member of the Thirteen. Frederique steals his letters during an attempted con and tries to sell them off for money and information about the group. Meets with Thomas to discuss the revival of the group and later with Thomas and Lucie to discuss how to control Emilie's potential contact with newspapers.,
Faune (Monique Clement): Actress in Prometheus Bound troupe.,
Frédérique (Juliet Berto): Young petty thief who deceives and exploits men only as long as she needs to get into their wallets. Her only friend and confidant is Honey Moon, a gay barfly played by Juliet Berto's real-life brother Michel Berto. She finds Etienne's letters while looking for his money and takes them instead. Starts calling the correspondents to sell them for money, but begins to try to make sense of the information referring to the Thirteen and also asks for information, particularly from Lucie. Meets Honey Moon's crush, who turns out to be Renaud, and has a blood wedding with him. After suspecting his involvement in a secret society, she follows him and causes him to shoot her dead before he realizes who she is.,
Gian-Reto (Barbet Schroeder): Hanger-on at Pauline's store.,
Honey Moon (Michel Berto): Gay confidant of Frédérique who borrows money from her, incites her to disrupt black market pornographers. He is infatuated with Renaud, and this eventually leads to Frédérique seeking out Renaud.,
Igor (unseen): Emilie's husband and father of her two young children. Member of the Thirteen. Been missing since leaving for work six months ago. Discussed in Etienne's letters, some of which Emilie buys from Frédérique. Reunites with Emilie at the film's end.,
Iris (Ode Bitton): Pregnant nanny of Emilie and Igor's children. Member of the Thirteen. Solves their problem by burning Emilie's letters to the newspapers which would have revealed the Thirteen and scandalized Pierre.,
Lili (Michele Moretti): Director of the Seven Against Thebes troupe, formerly involved with Thomas. May be involved with Quentin. Gradually recedes from the production as Renaud's influence expands. Accidentally takes a picture of Renaud which the troupe uses to try to get someone from the public to identify him. Member of the Thirteen.,
Lucie (Françoise Fabian): Lawyer with whom Lili renews contact after a long silence. Member of the Thirteen. Correspondent in some of Etienne's letters. Is contacted by Frédérique and meets her, but instead takes some of the letters from her.,
Marie (Hermine Karagheuz): Actress in the Seven Against Thebes troupe. May have delivered one of Pierre's messages to Colin, which may make her a member of the Thirteen. Last character seen in the film, standing next to a Paris monument.,
Marlon (Jean-François Stevenin): Thug with a criminal history who is an acquaintance of Frédérique. She encounters him in a bar, and he bizarrely beats her, but she pickpockets him during the beating.,
Max (Louis Julien): Quentin's son. Suggests the Seven Against Thebes troupe use Lili's photograph of Renaud to ask members of the public if they've seen him around.,
Nicolas (Marcel Bozonnet): Actor in Seven Against Thebes troupe. Vaguely knew Renaud and introduced him to the rest of the group. Also known as Arsenal, Papa, or Theo.,
Papa (Marcel Bozonnet): Actor in Seven Against Thebes troupe. Vaguely knew Renaud and introduced him to the rest of the group. Also known as Arsenal, Nicolas, or Theo.,
Pauline (Bulle Ogier): Name that Emilie goes by at her store where local youths hang out. Colin meets her there and soon falls in love with her. She abandons the shop to retreat to Odabe. See Emilie.,
Pierre (unseen): Member of the Thirteen. Author of letters to Colin. Correspondent in some of Etienne's letters who may be implicated in Igor's disappearance. Emilie threatens to send evidence of this to newspapers after she pays Frédérique for the letters.,
Quentin (Pierre Baillot): Actor in the Seven Against Thebes troupe. Father to Max. Wins a million francs in the lottery, which is promptly stolen during celebrations by Renaud. Attempts to find Renaud but fails, and joins Prometheus Bound troupe briefly afterwards.,
Renaud (Alain Libolt): Brought in by Arsenal/Nicolas/Papa/Theo to help the Seven Against Thebes troupe, but gradually starts to exert more and more influence on the production, to Lili's chagrin. Steals Quentin's million francs of lottery winnings during the troupe's celebration. Turns out to be Honey Moon's crush, which allows Frédérique to find him. They have a blood marriage, but she soon suspects that he may be a member of a secret society (though ultimately it seems more likely to be a local gang, and not the Thirteen). He shoots and kills her when she catches him off-guard.,
Rose (Christiane Corthay): Actress in Prometheus Bound troupe. Accompanies Thomas and Achille to Odabe and comforts him during some of his hysterical episodes at the end.,
Sarah (Bernadette Lafont): Writer living in Emilie's Odabe home. Thomas asks her to help him with the direction of Prometheus Bound, and later has a threesome with her and Beatrice. She clashes with the group, which is a factor in the abandonment of the play, along with Beatrice's departure, which is caused by personal factors. Member of the Thirteen, she doesn't trust Thomas and strenuously attempts (unsuccessfully) to intervene to prevent Emilie from sending Pierre's letters to the newspapers. Emilie later confides her love for Colin and Igor to her.,
Theo (Marcel Bozonnet): Actor in Seven Against Thebes troupe. Vaguely knew Renaud and introduced him to the rest of the group. Also known as Arsenal, Nicolas, or Papa.,
Thomas (Michael Lonsdale): Director of the Prometheus Bound troupe, formerly involved with Lili, and in ambiguously romantic relationships with both Beatrice and Sarah during the course of the film. Asks Sarah to help him direct the play. After a threesome with Sarah and Beatrice, abandons it because of Sarah's friction with the group and Beatrice's unrelated departure. Member of the Thirteen. Destroys Emilie's letters incriminating Pierre. Proposes to reunite with Lili, but is rejected by her, which leads to his final hysteria on the beach.,
Warok (Jean Bouise): Member of the Thirteen. Referred to in Etienne's letters. Both Frédérique and Colin ask him about the group, but he denies all knowledge.,
After working with both 35mm film and 16mm film in L'amour fou, Rivette was comfortable enough with the 16mm format to work with it on Out 1, whose massive length precluded any serious attempt to shoot the whole film on expensive 35mm. Incredibly, despite the immense length of the final product, the film was shot under a tight shooting schedule of only six weeks. Rivette's preference for the long take was the main reason why such a schedule could be maintained. Because he wanted the performances to have a level of realism, some takes include lines "fluffed" by actors, or other common "mistakes" such as camera and boom microphone shadows, as well as unwitting extras looking at the camera in exterior shots (including a memorable scene where two young boys doggedly follow Jean-Pierre Léaud along the street during an extended monologue). Rivette has said that the intimacy of the performances in the face of such mistakes was precisely why he kept those takes in the film. Many of the rehearsal scenes, particularly those of the Prometheus Bound group, are composed almost entirely of long shots, although the film also contains more conventional editing elsewhere. The slow pacing of the film as a whole is also loosely based on Balzac, and its first few hours are constructed more like a prologue, where the editing is slower and the characters are no more than introduced. It is not until three or four hours into the film that characters' motives and the story lines begin to reveal themselves.
The work also includes stylistically adventurous techniques, including the shooting of long shots through mirrors (again developing from work in L'amour fou), short cuts to black to punctuate otherwise continuous scenes, short cutaways to unrelated or seemingly meaningless shots, non-diegetic sound blocking out crucial parts of the dialogue, and even a conversation in which selected lines are re-edited so that they appear to be spoken backwards. However, these experiments form a fairly small part of the work as a whole, which is generally conventional in style (aside from the length of takes and of the work as a whole), and is fairly easy to follow.
First shown as a work in progress at the Maison de la Culture in Le Havre, the film was re-edited down to a four-hour "short" version called Out 1: Spectre, which is more accessible and available (although not widely). Richard Roud, writing in The Guardian, called this version "a mind-blowing experience, but one which, instead of taking one 'out of this world' as the expression has it, took one right smack into the world. Or into a world which one only dimly realised was there - always right there beneath the everyday world...the cinema will never be the same again, and nor will I." Few people have seen the full-length version, though it is championed by Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, who compares it to Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow 1, and has included both Out 1: Noli me tangere and Out 1: Spectre in the 100 films singled out from his 1000 favourite films, published in his anthology Essential Cinema.
Out 1: Noli me tangere was restored in Germany in 1990 and was shown again at the Rotterdam and Berlin Film Festivals shortly thereafter. It disappeared again into obscurity until 2004, when both Noli me tangere and its shorter version Out 1: Spectre featured in the programme on June 1-21, in the complete retrospective Jacques Rivette Viaggio in Italia di un metteur en scène organized by Deep A.C. and curated by Goffredo De Pascale in Rome at the Sala Trevi Centro Sperimentale and in Naples at Le Grenoble. Then, only in the April/May 2006 Rivette retrospective at London's National Film Theatre, with the shorter film also screening twice across two subsequent nights at Anthology Film Archives in New York City on the same April weekend as the NFT projection of the long work. The North American premiere of Noli me tangere took place on September 23 and 24, 2006 in Vancouver's Vancouver International Film Centre organized by Vancouver International Film Festival programmer and Cinema Scope editor Mark Peranson, attended by around twenty people (22 at Peranson's initial count, before episode 1, though others came and went). A subsequent screening took place as a part of the 2006 festival over September 30 and October 1, introduced by Jonathan Rosenbaum.
The subtitled Out 1: Noli me tangere provides a particular challenge for exhibitors, as the subtitles are not burned onto the print of the film itself, as is usual with most foreign films shown in North America. Rather, the subtitles for Out 1, provided by the British Film Institute, are projected from a computer in a separate stream (in the Vancouver screening, just below the film itself); this then has to be synchronized with the film itself, almost certainly by someone unfamiliar with the entire Out 1. Few theatres can meet this technical challenge, especially over a thirteen hour span. In addition, the film was shot on 16mm at a nonstandard 25 frames per second, a speed few current projectors are equipped to handle. In the Vancouver screening, the film was projected at 24fps, adding about half an hour to the film as a whole.
Screenings of both the long and short works took place in late November and December 2006, during an extensive retrospective of Rivette's work which ran at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, New York City. The screening of the longer version was sold out for the December 9 and 10, 2006 screening, so the Museum held an encore performance of the film on March 3 and 4 in 2007 (which came close to selling out). It was shown on both occasions over 2 days. In interviews, Rivette has explicitly stated that the work is meant to be seen theatrically "on the big screen", and apparently dislikes it being watched on television. Ironically, the preparation of the film in eight episodes was in large part due to the "naive hope", according to Rivette, of it originally being distributed like that on French television, although his disdain for that mode of exhibition only arose after the film's completion.
The series has been made available for download on Usenet. 2
Out 1 is known by many titles. Out 1: Noli me tangere, the frequently-cited longer title of the film, has its origins as a phrase written on the film canister of an early workprint. This longer title was commonly understood as the film's actual title until a finished print was made in 1989 for exhibition at the Rotterdam Film Festival and as a telecine transfer for TV broadcast. At that point Rivette asserted the title on-screen as simply Out 1. Out 1: Spectre is, however, the proper title of the shorter, four-hour version of the film, which is nonetheless a completely separate and distinctive work rather than simply a shortened form of the longer film.