Sunday 30 July 2017

On Blu-ray - A Journey through Jacques Rivette's OUT 1 - Stéphane Tchalgadjieff and Episode 2

Stéphane Tchalgadjieff 
Between 1971 and 1979  Stephane Tchalgadjieff produced 17 films. The first of them was Out 1 and then came its progeny Out 1: Spectre. Of those seventeen, five were directed by Jacques Rivette, three by Marguerite Duras, two by Benoit Jacquot and one by Robert Bresson. The other six were by lesser known names. By 1979 Tchalgadjieff and his company Sunchild Productions had gone broke. Later he formed other companies which produced Beyond the Clouds (Antonioni & Wenders) and the portmanteau film Eros  (Soderbergh, Antonioni & Wong). Tchalgadjieff was almost Medici-like in backing quality. It’s almost folie de grandeur. The first thing to appear on the screen in each episode ofé Out 1 are the words “Stéphane Tchalgadjieff présente”. (Still no sign of Noli me Tangere on the credits.)

Part two is titled “Deuxième episode”. It picks up on the rehearsals being undertaken by the two experimental theatre groups, both using Aeschylus as their starting point. The group lead by Michel Lonsdale (Thomas) involves itself in an intense exercise whereby one of its number is required to play dead while the other five harass her loudly, and frequently physically, and at some length. Meanwhile some intrigue emerges with the other group. The leader Lily suspects her man Georges of some unspecified bad act and at the end has a conversation with a female friend voicing her suspicions, saying the romance is over and talking about her friendship with this new otherwise unknown character. In a conversation that takes place in a car outside what I think is the law courts, the conversation ends with the friend saying “What shall we do?”. That ends Episode two.

The young Jacques Rivette
Running parallel are two thus far almost separate stories. Jean-Pierre Leaud as the apparent deaf mute continues to go round the cafes and beg money from customers by annoyingly blowing on a mouth organ before he puts out his hand. I’m not sure if viewers find this funny or even mildly amusing. As he enters one café a passer-by, one of the female actors from the Sophocles group, slips him a typed note. He takes the note home and pins it alongside another. Later there is another with a quote from Lewis Carroll. Leaud keeps peering at the three notes, all typed on blue paper, and divines somehow that they are referring to Honoré de Balzac’s “L’Histoire des Treize”, a book comprising three stories about a secret society involved in a conspiracy. It has has been an underlying inspiration for Rivette all the way back to his debut feature Paris Nous Appartient.
Jean-Pierre Leaud reads Balzac, Out 1
Rivette returned to Balzac for inspiration on other occasions, most notably for his most successful film La Belle Noiseuse (1991) and also in Ne Touchez Pas la Hache (2007), one of the three stories that comprise Balzac’s “Histoire des Treize”. Leaud starts to read the book and thus the film begins its voyage into Balzac.

The other individual protagonist Juliet Berto as a young thief continues to wander round Paris. She meets a gay man who is pining for a boy he loves from afar. The gay draws attention to two café patrons whom he claims are pornography peddlers. They are played by the young Bernard Eisenschitz and Pierre Cottrell, both of whom went on to distinguished careers but not as actors. Berto is thrown out of the café after she attempts a crude blackmail. We see her fuming and disappearing into the distance. Back in her room she measures something out in paces.

At 1h 49 mins Episode two is apparently the longest individual part. We are starting to burrow into plot as well as witness some intense theatre work but ‘meaning’ is only very slowly emerging.

What shall we do?

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