‘Out 1: Noli Me Tangere’
Director: Jacques Rivette
Stars: Michel Lonsdale, Juliet Berto
5 (out of 5) Globes
Jacques Rivette’s 1971 film “Out 1: Noli Me Tangere” rarely gets screened, and with good reason: it’s nearly 13 hours long. But it’s challenging in ways besides its length. It’s a slow-burn narrative whose story doesn’t properly kick in till the four-hour mark. Even then the tale comes in fits and starts before fizzling out like a balloon whose air is slowly, patiently let out. Made by the French New Wave’s most Warholian-ish member, it’s comprised of leisurely scenes that often seem to go on forever, with dialogue that’s for the most part made up. Actors chatting in epic long takes often flub their lines, repeat the same information and so enjoy each other’s company that they resist parting ways, long after you may have been mentally shouting “And scene.”
Still, you shouldn’t be afraid. It’s a film for the most adventurous of viewers, but it’s also an unparalleled experience that, should one choose to accept it, leaves you with more than butt pain. Many long films — “Satantango,” Warhol’s “Empire” — play with duration as experience, creating a sense of time evaporating. But “Out 1” is after something different. It wants to show the long, slow, painful, sad dissolution of plans, ambitions, even ideals. Rivette made it only three years after the fabled May 1968 riots, which galvanized and politicized the young and/or artistic in France, and he could see that the new passion wouldn’t last — that it would slip slowly and tragically away, that everyone would forget what they were after and things would return to as they were, as though nothing had happened at all. It’s the fear that plagues any movement, from the May ’68-ers right up to Black Lives Matter.
In some ways, “Out 1” is the same film as Philippe Garrel’s 2005 great “Regular Lovers,” which was about the fallout of May ’68 (and did it in only three, still glacial hours). But Rivette couches it in metaphor and never cites the events by name. His ensemble cast of characters aren’t young and most aren’t even expressly political. Most of them are actors. Most of the film traces two separate troupes, each working on a separate Aeschylus play. (One, led by future Bond villain Michel Lonsdale, is trying to mount “Prometheus Bound”; the other is doing “Seven Against Thebes.”) Each want to find new avenues into two classics, but neither ever gets out of the rehearsal phase. They’re always chipping away without getting anywhere. Eventually — around hour seven or eight — everyone begins to scatter. They forget about it and get distracted by other concerns, which may not matter either.