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 (This frequently cited, and obviously longer, title of the film — Out 1: Noli me tangere — has its origins as a phrase written on the film canister of an early workprint, which 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 telecine transfer for TV broadcast, at which point Rivette asserted the title on-screen as simply Out 1. Out 1: Spectre is, however, the proper title of the shorter, four-hour variation of the film, which is nonetheless a completely separate and distinctive work rather than a simple shortened form of the longer film). When asked why the film is called Out 1, Rivette responded, "because we didn't succeed in finding a title. It's without meaning. It's only a label." 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).
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 Phedre) 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 exceptionally more than the others. 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 Frederique (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 Frederique stealing money through a variety of cons. The plot gradually develops when Colin receives three mysterious messages in quick succession containing cryptic references to "Thirteen" and Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark. He quickly connects this to Balzac and begins a quixotic quest uncover what the messages mean and who the Thirteen are. Sometime afterwards, Frederique 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 in the ensemble's celebration, Renaud steals all of 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 prior. Ironically, a chance encounter between Colin and Thomas motivates the latter to suggest reviving the Thirteen to Etienne, who is more reluctant as 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, described alternatively as sinister and child-like. After reading the contents of the letters sold to her by Frederique, 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, Ettiene and the ruthless lawyer Lucie de Graffe (Francoise Fabian) meet to discuss what to do. Frederique 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 Obade 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 Obade 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.
The work also includes stylistically adventurous techniques, including the shooting of extensively long shots through mirrors (again extending 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 sounds blocking out crucial parts of dialogue, or even a conversation in which selected lines are re-edited so that they appear to be spoken backwards. However, it should also be noted that these experiments form a fairly minimal part of the work as a whole, which is generally conventional in style (aside from the length of both takes and the whole work) and fairly easy to follow.
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 2006, when both Noli me tangere and its shorter version Out 1: Spectre featured in the programme for 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 will take 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 it commonplace 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), which 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 an extra half hour to the film as a whole.
Screenings of both the long and short works took place in late November and December 2006, during a large 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 9th and 10th, 2006 screening, so the Museum held an encore performance of the film on March 3rd and March 4th 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 a 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 it should be noted that his disdain for that mode of exhibition only arose after the film's completion.
Vancouver (September & October 2006):
New York (December 2006):
Chicago (May 2007):
Los Angeles (July 2007):