Friday 8 September 2017

On Blu-ray - A Journey through Jacques Rivette's OUT 1 - Episode 8. Final and then some skeleton keys via THE MYSTERIES OF PARIS

Editor’s Note: Click on the links for episode 1,  episode 2,  episode 3episode 4episode 5episode 6,  and episode 7

Huitième episode/Episode 8.  "From Lucie to Marie"

Aaah. Marie. The character played by gorgeous, tousled-haired Hermine Karagheuz about whom I have previously made a declaration is listed in an episode title. Anticipation rises.

Thomas (2nd l) gets drunk with Emilie (r)
Meanwhile, in what will prove to be the shortest of the eight episodes, 73 minutes, we pick up the action at the Obade  on the Normandy coast. Thomas (Michel Lonsdale) and his two acolytes have ensconced themselves and Thomas especially appears to be drunk. At least he and the male acolyte do that thing that drunks do where everything they say seems, at least to them, hilarious. Emilie (Bulle Ogier) puts up with their ramblings stoically, most especially having to listen to a story about the ugliest man in Mongolia.

"Why are you looking at me like that?
"I'm just looking at you in a normal manner."
Igor’s name comes up when a scarf is found which might belong to him. The drunken group head off to bed and Emilie heads off for a talk with Sarah (Bernadette Lafont). Little is said but many things are repeated. “Why are you looking at me like that?” says Emilie. “I’m just looking at you in a normal manner" replies Sarah. They say it on any number of occasions. It turns out however, from information given to us in the remarkable documentary which comes as part of disc four of the set, which contains episodes seven and eight, that Bulle Ogier and Bernadette Lafont were not at all proficient in improvising dialogue. Lafont in particular was rendered near-mute by the experience. In other scenes with Lonsdale she is the beneficiary of that actor’s skills. Here though, the stumbling attempt to say something meaningful degenerated into banal repetition. We might have picked this up by the number of times a moment of black leader appears and then the film resumes from the same shot or at least the same angle. Still Rivette and his editor sallied on through the sequence by which at its end, the two women are at loggerheads

That small revelation is only one of a plethora of insights into the film, its conditions of production, its film-making method and its fate that are scattered through what amounts to the greatest ‘making of’ doco I’ve ever seen. I hesitate to dub it the greatest ever for I am conscious that on many occasions I have been taken to or ingested the 'greatest' (coffee and gelato, especially). It surely must rate right up there. More later.

At the end of these two sequences Emilie receives a phone call from Pierre whom, along with Igor, remains simply a name.

Meanwhile the other constant but peripheral presence Frederique (Juliet Berto) has returned to her room to find a note: “If you want to know the secret of the Companions of Duty be at Impasse Veron tomorrow morning at 6.00 o’clock. Renaud” She gets out the letters she is still holding, finds one with a reference to both the Companions and the “Devourers”

'The most beautiful shot in the film' Emilie in the
'secret room'.
Back at the Obade, Emilie explores a hitherto secret room and gives DOP Pierre-William Glenn the chance to make one of the most beautiful shots in the film. She stares into a series of endlessly reflecting mirrors. Outside Thomas and Lili (Michèle Moretti) have another of those long beach walks. Presumably Thomas is hung over. He is wearing shades. Lily makes clear her feelings about Thomas: “I haven’t missed you…I don’t intend to work again. I’m going into politics."

Lucie (Francoise Fabian), still or again in her slit to the thighs blue dress, has a conversation about the Treize with Warok (Jean Bouise). It is briefly interrupted by a visit from Colin (Jean-Pierre Leaud) who brings he says “a message of happiness”. His research indicates that the group is ‘ideologically false” and he is now giving up on it. He leaves and then Warok, falsely, tells Lucie that Colin is a disciple of the unseen Pierre and that he has just brought a message from him. Lucie complains that the group achieves nothing.

At an intersection on the Paris outskirts dominated by a large and ungainly stand alone building we can just make out the presence of Quentin still searching the streets for Renaud.

Frederique's fatal phone call
Frederique rings Lucie to ask about a friend claiming to be one of the Devourers. She is cut off, hangs up the phone and leaves.

Emilie delightedly takes a phone call from Igor. She arranges to meet him at Warok’s.

Then, the action and the Feuillade kicker. Frederique is on the rooftop at the Impasse Veron near the Moulin Rouge. She is armed with an ancient pistol and wearing a mask, a kind of masked ball affair in black. Two men arrive and talk in  a language which isn’t subtitled and they are joined by Renaud. They leave and Frederique comes out from her hiding place and calls Renaud. He turns and the camera zip pans across the rooftop to see her gunned down and in a death throe firing off a shot. Renaud comes over to the body and takes off the mask and the short-haired wig she is wearing so as to discover that it his lover.
Frederique's death

Emile drives away from the Obade and is joined in her escape by Lili.

Colin is back to begging in cafes and irritating the patrons, and the audience, with his bursts from a mouth organ.

Thomas loses it on the beach
Thomas and his acolytes lie on the beach and chant then Thomas alone staggers away. He loosens his trousers and in the manner of the ending of a number of John Huston films laughs hysterically. Who is laughing at whom. He stops and lies on the beach, arms outstretched as if awaiting crucifixion. He gets up and wanders off.

Marie, the final shot
With a single shot of Marie, lasting five seconds or so, in front of a statue the episode and the series ends. I am now indebted to a fine critical piece by 
Brad Stevens in Senses of Cinema which notes: "This briefly glimpsed image shows Marie, played by Hermine Karagheuz, standing near Léon-Ernest Drivier’s statue of Athena in the Fontaine de la Porte Dorée in Paris". The shot, or part of it, was previously briefly seen in Episode 6.

My hopes for a longer involvement on Marie’s part have been somewhat dashed.

Stephane Tchal Gadjieff
This is a film without a beginning or an end. Rivette himself says so in one of several interviews extracts of which are edited into the documentary The Mysteries of Paris (Robert Fischer & Wilfried Reichart, Germany, 2015) which is included as a bonus on Out 1 (disc 4). It is a remarkable piece of scholarship and the interviews, shot in 2015 with Bulle Ogier, Pierre-William Glenn, Michel Lonsdale, Hermine Karagheuz, Jean-Francois Stevenin and Stephane Tchal Gadjieff (as he’s spelt here, but not on the film itself) are a mine of information of just how the film got to be made, why it was made, how it was lost and how Tchal Gadjieff got himself out of bankruptcy and bought back the rights to the amazing set of films he produced in the seventies and eighties.

It was Stephane who was the driving force behind the resurrection of the film and he has shepherded it through countless difficulties, technical and financial, so that it arrives today in the splendid Arrow Films large box set edition which brings everyone up to date on just what Rivette got up to when he seemingly had an endlessly indulgent and very protective producer.  

Jean-Francois Stevenin channels Brando and Cku Galagher
Most especially we learn a lot more of the daily grind of getting the film shot, the way Rivette himself looked at the action, some onset reminiscences, how the actors themselves created their tropes (Hermine Karagheuz brought along her knitting), some of the films and actors who were reference points. Anthony Quinn crying at the end of La Strada (Federico Fellini, Italy, 1954) inspired Lonsdale’s final moments on the beach, Clu Galagher in Siegel’s The Killers, (USA, 1964)  was a handy reference point for Jean-Francois Stevenin when he had to look like Marlon Brando and then beat up Juliet Berto in the bar. They documentarists of course pick up on both the Feuillade and Franju versions of Judex, the latter of which featured Juliet Berto as the clad in black tights villainess.

Rivette describes the two outsiders played by Leaud and Berto as persons who think there are grown-ups with important things to say. Hence their pursuit of the Treize.

Petit a Petit (Jean Rouch)
Rivette himself is rather more practical than I would otherwise have guessed. He was  sufficiently inspired by an 11 hour rough cut version of Jean Rouch’s Petit a Petit as to want to make his own 13 hour (“Thirteen in the Treize, so 13 hours”) movie and to not show the disdain for making TV that Bulle Ogier recalls as a general attitude among the New Wave directors. He had as a starting point only some diagrams but the money people still gave it the OK. When the people at French television saw the final result they demurred about screening it with typical French gallantry: “It’s too good. We are not worthy of it.”! “”It’s so powerful our viewers will not be able to handle it”!!!!!

Rivette talks about the group and how it was derived from Balzac, an author he has struggled with, even though he planted references throughout and even though he actually adapted one of the three stories in “L’Histoire des Treize” in a much later film  Ne Touchez-pas la Hache (France 2007). It seems he is not a believer in conspiracies, only in the value of vague conspiracies as plot and story elements. Probably therein lies the explanation as to why the actors never talked about what the Treize might stand for, what goals it might have, what revolutionary instincts. The talk is only about the warmth and comfort that being a member of a group provides.

Finally I can report there is some explanation of the alleged title “Noli Me Tangere” (Don’t touch me) which adorns the discs’ menus but which doesn’t appear on the film, at least on the restored version which Arrow has put out. I wont go into it. Rivette himself links the phrase back to its Biblical origins.

So, after almost thirteen hours of film/series, a couple more hours watching The Mysteries of Paris, the Arrow box set has reached the half way point. The remainder includes Out 1 Spectre, the radical re-edit down to four hours (‘Plus an intermission” right after the only moment when Colin and Frederique cross paths) plus the three Tchalgadfjieff produced features from the series dubbed “Scenes de la vie parallele” – Duelle, Noroit and Merry Go Round.  I have already been warned that I have no idea how low a director’s standards can slip until I try sitting through them. Completism has its punishments according to some.

More later as the grand adventure provided by Arrow Films continues.

Jacques Rivette

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