Friday 4 August 2017

On Blu-ray - A Journey through Jacques Rivette's OUT 1 - Episode 3 and Le Tour d'Argent

Editor’s Note: Click on the links for previous entries for episode 1 and episode 2.

Eric Rohmer, Out 1
The only part of Out 1 I had seen previously was Episode 3 “de Frédérique à Sarah”.  I saw it along with barely a dozen other people at the Vancity Theatre presented by the Vancouver International Film Festival and introduced by Jonathan Rosenbaum. Memory plays tricks. I believed that the episode revolved around a long ‘conversation’ between the young deaf mute (Jean-Pierre Leaud) and a Balzac scholar, listed in the end credits as ‘Le balzacien’ (Eric Rohmer). By now Juliet Berto is listed in the credits as ‘Frédérique’, no longer ‘Le jeune voleuse’.

In fact, the sequence with Rohmer as the balzacien lasts only 12 minutes or so but it provides the opportunity for Rivette to lay out just what it is of Balzac that he’s interested in here (and for that matter in other films going all the way back to Paris Nous Appartient). The discussion relates to conspiracies and secret societies, first in Balzac and then, moving right along, to those that might exist in the present. The ‘conversation’ about Balzac relates largely to “L’Histoire des Treize” and the secret society which features in the stories. A series of questions written on a piece of paper are answered by the scholar Rohmer, clearly as erudite as you can be about the author.

In response to a written question the scholar starts to speculate about what might be the modern iterations – political parties, freemasonry, others with more nefarious aims. It sets the tone then for Leaud to later visit a hippy shop, L'Angle
Jean-Pierre Leaud, Out 1
du Hasard, in which, in a back room, a group is discussing, almost sotto voce what we first think may be something conspiratorial but which turns out to be only a plan to publish a new newspaper. The group includes Barbet Schroeder, Bulle Ogier and, lurking in the background, the same Bernard Eisenschitz who played a pornographer in episode 2. Leaud presents a note to one of the others hanging round “Connaissez-vous les treize?”. Shake of the head, money is offered to Leaud, hurled away and he storms out.  

The longest sequence in the episode is devoted to a rehearsal of a scene from Aeschylus’s ‘Prometheus’. It lasts, exhaustingly for both actors and audience, for about 45 minutes and involves a scene with a female actor playing Prometheus and being fawned upon by faithful retainers and then granting audiences to three random people who are allowed to ask her a single question each.

Meanwhile Frédérique continues her perambulations round the cafes of Paris looking for victims. She wanders into the entrance of perhaps France’s most iconic and highly regarded restaurant Le Tour d'Argent  and eventually fleeces a drunken patron in a downstairs bar/reception area before fleeing.

Now I have never been, or even seen, inside Le Tour d’Argent. I only know one person who has dined there. Its reputation is astonishing and its history colourful. It began in 1582 and the history on its website stops at 1936 apparently when the shape of the place was renovated to what it remains today. Memorable perhaps is the story of how as the Germans approached Paris in June 1940, the restaurant built a false wall in the wine cellar behind which all its great wines remained stored until the war was over. It is very difficult to get a booking. Long term planning is required though I was once at a meeting of the OECD in Paris and heard a man approach another, the latter, it turned out, the American in charge of hospitality at the US Embassy, and say “I’m told you can get me a booking tonight at Le Tour d’Argent”. “What time?” said the American. Rivette’s film does not give its audience even a glimpse of the views available in the dining room but you can find them if you click on the link above.

But I digress....

Juliet Berto (and knives) Out 1
After Frederique leaves the Tour D'Argent she returns to her room and begins to play with two daggers. No meaning emerges but we can wait.

The first group don’t seem to be getting anywhere. Rivette repeats their opening warm-up exercise and then cuts away to one of the major revelations thus far, or maybe the only revelation thus far. Leaud can in fact speak. He rings his parents and has a brusque conversation with them while asking for his father to help him obtain a press pass from a friendly journalist.

Bernadette Lafont, Michel Lonsdale, Out 1
Thomas (Michel Lonsdale), curled up on a sofa with one of the female actors from his troupe, suggests he needs to get some outside perspective on the production. He tells his actress girlfriend he won’t be free the next day as he stuff to do. After the actress goes home he rings Sarah to arrange a visit. The visit is to some place on the Atlantic Coast and a remarkable house facing the beach. Sarah (Bernadette Lafont) is the sole occupant. She is a writer who has had a success with her first book but can’t get anywhere with her second. 

Over a leisurely lunch Thomas convinces Sarah to come back to Paris and observe his group’s work.

Next… I’m starting to feel the ghost of Feuillade…

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