Century 1971: Out 1: Noli me tangere

Out 1: Noli me tangere. Jacques Rivette. 1971.

It’s a Saturday, and I should be working, but instead I’m watching this 12 or 13 hour movie from 1971. I’d read about it before, because it’s a pretty famous film (or perhaps infamous), and Carlotta released a really handsome collection of it on Bluray. 2K, but beautifully restored while keeping all the 16mm grain (i.e., an unusually high bitrate for a 2K bluray).

I usually avoid knowing anything about a film before watching it, but this time I’m happy that I did, because one of the articles about it said that it’s the kind of film that you don’t really have to pause while going for a pee, because not much will have happened in the meantime. That’s a liberating thought. On the other hand, there are some very short scenes between the really long talky ones that would be a shame to miss, so I’m not sure it’s good advice.

In some ways, this film exemplifies what Drew Daniel wrote in that book about Throbbing Gristle, and I’m paraphrasing from memory: Sometimes the avant-garde is the R&D division of the entertainment industry. Because this must have been such a statement in 1971, but now, after decades of Big Brother and other really long TV shows without overt scripting, it’s mostly a reasonable, interesting, good film.

But the actors here are better (even brilliant), and the editing and cinematography is on fleek. And the little drips of paranoia and conspiracy throughout are riveting.

I did find the improvisations with Thomas’s theatre troupe to be sometimes excruciatingly boring, but perhaps that’s the point, because Lili’s rehearsals are interesting.

OK OK, I didn’t finish the entire thing in one day. It’s now Sunday, but that’s fine because this weekend is Pretension… Ascension… Presumption… One of them there christian weekends, so I have tomorrow off! Hah! No Monday!

I made it to about hour eight yesterday before I had to take a break and watch RuPaul, so I’ve got… five hours left? Let’s go!

Despite not being an er information-dense film, there are so many characters here that intersect in various ways over so many hours that I’m going into an associative fugue. “Isn’t that the guy…?” “Is that the woman who…?” “That can’t be that guy, can it?” Since the plot is based on conspiracies and unknown connections, it makes it all a rather tingly experience.

OK, I wrote the stuff above mostly during the Thomas theatre exercises, but now the film is over. For such a long film, it goes past quickly. If I were to re-edit it, I’d just drop the Thomas sequences, because the rest aren’t really excessive. And the Thomas sequence don’t really seem pertinent to, well, anything. Is that the point? He’s a vortex sucking the energy out of everything?

But that’s only two or three hours. I wonder what they did to cut it down to the four-and-a-half version called Spectre.

Anyway, if you decide to see any thirteen-hour movies next weekend, it should be this one. Run out an buy it now; the box set is a large number of bluray discs and probably even more DVDs. Search for “Out 1” on popular shopping sites. It’s probably not going to be available forever.

But what’s the name of that beach where they retreat to at the end? Where the “Obade” is? I want to go on holiday there right now!

This blog post is part of the Century series.

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