Friday, July 26, 2013

OUT 1.4 1/2: Bernadette Lafont (Sarah)

La Beau Serge (1958, Claude Chabrol)
La Revelateur (1968, Philippe Garrel)

Out 1 (1971, Jacques Rivette); Out 1: Spectre (1974, Jacques Rivette)
The Mother and the Whore (1973, Jean Eustache)

OUT 1.4: Don't think that I am silent out of pride or stubbornness.

        One of the most notable structural features of Jacques Rivette's Out 1 (1971) is that about half of its 729-minute running time is given over to the acting exercises of two theater groups. The ostensible goal of both groups is to find fresh angles from which to approach the work of Aeschlyus, but although some of their exercises yield intellectual and emotional rewards for their participants, the groups fall apart before the plays are ever performed.

         So why on earth does Rivette make us watch, interspersed with the slightly more conventional narrative material involving Colin (Jean-Pierre Leaud) and Frederique (Juliet Berto) and, eventually, the members of the two groups, hours upon hours of these exercises? Of all the film's difficulties and eccentricities, this is the one most likely to have prevented it from being more widely seen. Presenting us with such a bulk of seemingly irrelevant and aimless material is a brazen violation of the expectations we tend to carry into even the most artistically adventurous narrative cinema.* In fact, the exercises so dominate the first several hours of the film that for long stretches it doesn't seem like we're watching narrative cinema at all, but something between a barely-edited assemblage of footage for a documentary about experimental theater techniques, and one of Warhol's conceptual films. There is no one simple answer as to why these sequences are there; however, there are multiple, complex ones:
  • The structure of Out 1 is that of a narrative gradually taking shape from chaos, a narrative in which the characters think they're uncovering a secret order underlying the random flux and tedium of life, but may in fact be generating that order themselves by searching for it. The theater exercises serve both as examples of that flux and tedium, and, particularly the exercises of Thomas's (Michael Lonsdale) group, as microcosms of the film's structure, because they involve the actors attempting to build some narrative order from their improvisations.
  • Juxtaposing them with the scenes outside of the theater has a dialectical effect, throwing light on both the performative nature of "real life" and the reality that is still present in, or heightened by, theatrical performance. One of the film's most brilliant coups is the feeling it sometimes achieves that what unfolds within the performance space is closer to the capital-R Real than what unfolds outside of it.
  • Rivette has stated that, for him, everything actors do is interesting. Other than his unorthodox approach to duration, this is the most radical aspect of his work, and Out 1 its ultimate expression. Not everything the actors do in the film (whether within the confines of the theater or in the outside world) succeeds, but by immersing us so exhaustively in process, Rivette scrambles our notions of success and failure. A scene that fails to lead anywhere narratively can be enjoyable as its own, wayward thing. Take, for example, an interminable single-take interlude involving Thomas, the woman alternately referred to as Pauline and Emile (Bulle Ogier), some toddlers and a live turtle. It seems to have been intended initially to advance the conspiracy plot, but the dialogue Lonsdale and Ogier come up with is vague and repetitive and both are continually sidetracked by the behavior of the kids and the critter, the former of which don't appear to have been instructed to ignore the camera's presence and so spend stretches of the scene staring right into the lens. As exasperating as this is on one level (Christ, when will it end!), as the minutes accumulate a certain dry hilarity takes hold. In the context Rivette creates by devoting so much time to the exercises, watching the film's narrative stutter and stall becomes part of its fun.
  • By taking such a leisurely approach to connecting the lives of Colin and Frederique with that of the two theater groups, Rivette achieves a strange and potent sort of suspense. The intercutting of the exercises and the equally hermetic antics of Colin and Frederique compels us to wonder how and when connections will be drawn between them. Rivette holds off long enough that when the threads finally do overlap, we're hit with a force that belies the casual, offhand presentation and resembles the kind of payoff one might derive from a more conventional suspense thriller.**
  • Another lens through which to interpret the exercises is that of jazz. Jonathan Rosenbaum, who has been the film's most vocal American proponent since the '70s, uses Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz as a point of comparison. Both Coleman and Rivette arrange the improvisation so that performers with very different energies wind up playing off each other in interesting ways: "Much like Coleman’s thirty-eight-minute venture into group improvisation with seven other musicians, [Out 1]’s surface is dictated by accommodations, combinations, and clashes brought about by contrasting styles of 'playing.' The textures run the gamut from the purely cinematic skills of Jean-Pierre Léaud and Juliet Berto to the stage-bound techniques of Françoise Fabian; from the nervousness of Michel Lonsdale to the placidity of Jacques Doniol-Valcroze; from the reticence of Bulle Ogier to the garrulity of Bernadette Lafont."*** The exercises especially could be said to resemble warts-and-all jazz sessions.
         Certainly, a couple of the theater exercises will try the patience of even the most Buddhistic of audiences. But one exercise, in the first episode, is one of the most transporting sequences in all of cinema. To find a way into the language of Prometheus Bound, Thomas's group enacts, in miniature, the development of language itself. We follow the actors as they move from silence and stillness, to primitive yowlings and insensate gestures, to the development of art and myth, before, after about half an hour, one of the actors begins, haltingly, to speak a line from the play: "Don't think… that I am silent… out of pride or stubbornness…"
         Much of the sequence is so extreme you might want to recoil from it, consisting as it does of dozens of minutes of people rolling about and pawing each other like condemned spirits writhing in the pits of Hades, their screams forming the vocal equivalent of an assaultive recording by the Peter Brötzmann Quartet, yet it's hard to look away from. Even though we know on some level that it's a theater exercise and not a group of Gallic hippies going insane before our eyes (that comes later), there's a sense that what we're witnessing is tunneling much deeper than we thought screen acting could go (was permitted to go) into the primordial stuff underlying human experience. As a sense of what's happening before us begins to dawn, we start to root for them, and by the end of the sequence, as the line from the play is finally spoken, repeated, broken down, and subsumed back into the mass of inchoate burbling, bleating, and moaning, we feel like we've become one with them. When they finally break out of the exercise to sit down and rap about the experience, we're as curious as anyone onscreen as to how they'll make sense of what they've just done. Out 1 hits several pinnacles as it progresses; this is the first, and maybe the highest.

This clip, while a useful illustration, probably doesn't give one a sense of the incredible power of this sequence. 
Experiencing the full duration of it is necessary.

*Compare it, for instance, with another monument of durational cinema, Bela Tarr's 432-minute film Satantango (1994), which consists of 150 extremely lengthy and slow-moving shots. These often linger beyond the point of narrative necessity, but each ultimately advances the film's plot.
**One of the reasons I love long-form cinema is its capacity to make two characters simply passing each other in a store as thrilling as twenty car chases.
***Rosenbaum's actually writing here about Out 1: Spectre (1974), a 250-minute cut of Out 1 which I have yet to see, but anticipate doing so before this cycle of pieces concludes. Though Spectre's reputedly a very different film, this passage seems equally applicable to the longer version (which sometimes is referred to as Noli Me Tangere (Don't Touch Me)).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

OUT 1.3: what's in a name?

         Jacques Rivette's Out 1 (1971) was lent its name because it was too immense an undertaking to have a more specific one. Rivette didn't want us to think one thread or theme in the teeming flow of ideas, plots and counterplots is more important than any other, so he gave it something more along the lines of codename for a military operation* than the name of a film. But the name seems not entirely arbitrary. In 1, for instance, wouldn't have the same resonance, though the characters' attempts to find a way Out, to puncture through the veil of banal reality Into a magical world of conspiracy and all-connectedness, only leave them trapped further Inside their little solipsistic bubbles. While that occurs In the fiction, the film that contains the fiction is another matter. The dreams of the characters fizzle and implode, while the dream In which they're figured expands ever Outward. The final shot of the film, returning to a character abandoned hours earlier, right where it left her, at once completes the structure** of the final episode In completely unexpected fashion, and suggests that the film could keep going Indefinitely, taking any number of directions. There are sequences In Out 1 that are so claustrophobic as to feel purgatorial, but its last several seconds open Out to embrace everything.
         The film scholar Sally Shafto, in her introduction to the film, has another take on the meaning of the title: "The first half plays off of the popular American adjective in the late 60s and early 70s: 'in.' If something was 'in,' it was hip, cool, or groovy, to use other qualifiers of that time. Rivette intuitively and lucidly sensed that his film, originally done for French television, would exceed all norms and indeed the film was rejected by the ORTF."
         While one of the points I was attempting (in cheeky fashion) to make in the second post in this series was how the film's revolutionary potential has been limited by its lack of distribution, it's also fitting that the film has been so elusive for the past 42 years, in that it has put cinephiles on Rivette's wavelength (raises hand) in the same position as the film's characters, longing and searching for our own way out, which in this case constitutes an escape from the viewing practices and expectations that commercial cinema imposes upon us. What is miraculous about the film is that it largely manages to live up to our dream of it, and delivers a satisfaction that eludes its characters.
         That said, once the glow of the film has faded (to the extent that it ever does), we're left in a curious place. Once we've been out, there are few places to go but back in, back to the way most movies have been doing it for a century. Even Rivette never went quite this far out on a limb again. Many of his subsequent films are uncommercial in their demands on one's time and intellect (Duelle (1976) and Noroit (1976) are more esoteric, the latter so much so that it was denied theatrical distribution), but they all restore one or two of the supports that he kicks away in Out 1. As for us, do we spend our days pining away for our next chance to enter the labyrinth? Do we let our Out 1 experience color our viewing of Sharknado (2013)? Do we try to grapple with and unpack our experience of it, on a blog, say? All of the above?
         The position in which Out 1's viewers find themselves after the film's conclusion parallels the position of the bohemian left in France after May '68--the film's never explicitly stated but obvious context--or, more broadly, the position of the counterculture in the aftermath of the upheavals of the '60s, or, yet more broadly, the aftermath of any promising-but-failed movement against the status quo, from the Paris Commune to Occupy.*** Having glimpsed another way, where do we go from here?
         As for the "1," I think it's a clear message to every other filmmaker. Now that Out 1 is on DVD in reasonably good quality, is it naive of me to hope a few of them will heed it?
         But then another part of me, the part that really feels for the plight of Colin (Jean-Pierre Leaud), wants to believe that "Out 1" is actually a very obscure term used in film production, whose meaning only a handful of filmmakers have ever known, and which, if discovered, will explain to us what Rivette was truly getting at here. But if Rivette hasn't forgotten it by now, he'll never tell it. His love of mystery is too strong. He'll happily take the secret to his grave.

*An impression further encouraged by the name of the shorter and reputedly very different version of the film, Spectre (1974). (Jacques Rivette's Out 1: Spectre is an Xbox game waiting to happen.)
**The titles of the film's 8 episodes each draw a connection between two of the characters: "From Lili to Thomas," "From Sarah to Colin," and so on. In some, the connection being drawn is straightforward, in others it's more obscure.
***The film is by no means politically didactic, but if anything it's more politically radical than the more overtly political films Godard was making around the same time, because it doesn't talk about its politics, but puts them into action. It was truly a communal effort, with the actors developing their own characters and dialogue. And the space it creates for viewers is something like the spectatorial equivalent of a Situationist dérive. Claire Denis, who, in addition to being one of our finest living filmmakers and the director of a very fine documentary on Rivette, was present both on set and at the first screening of Out 1, says of it: "Everything was political then. Making the film was political. So was watching it."

Sunday, July 21, 2013

one shots (7/22/13)

Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives (2013) has been dissed across the board, but Drive (2011), his previous, mostly well-received collaboration with Ryan Gosling, wasn't any more meaningful; it simply simulated meaning more convincingly, or at least more artfully: the plot was pro forma, but there were lively supporting turns by Albert Brooks and Bryan Cranston to distract, and though the taciturnity of Gosling's Driver may have been an empty Kitano/Leone pose, there was at least a narrative context in which it made something like sense; here, we have little to distract us from the yawning nullity at the core of Refn's ostentatious vision, which has been anointed by some cinephiles (willing to give Refn exactly the praise he wants) as Kubrickian, and which Kubrickian vision here consists of revenge as an endless cycle of pointless bloodletting (where have I heard this one before...), enacted by hollow men who, between acts of sadism (too calculated to actually shock anybody in Refn's target demo), stand motionless in dark red rooms while Cliff Martinez's spiff soundtrack groans and throbs, and stare longingly at women and swords, either because mommy doesn't wuv dem or because they're Asian and so ipso facto all in tune with the mystic or something.

Phenomenologically speaking, Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers (2012) is the most exciting American movie of the year thus far, a druggy neon fantasia that subjects gangsta culture detritus and copious T&A to the same sort of enraptured gaze Terrence Malick trains on nature and the cosmos; intellectually, it's so blunt about its satirical intentions (e.g.: "This is the fuckin' American dream, y'all") that one wonders if they're to be taken at face value, and hazy in its execution of those intentions, which depending on how much one trusts Korine, scans as either productively ambivalent, or cowardly in a way all too common in contemporary American movies (a commitment-averse landscape in which even many of our best and brightest take care to avoid or reduce to a muddle the politics of their subjects); I generally like Korine, sometimes lots--the dada humor, scattered moments of real lyricism, a punkish disregard for taste and structure--but I'm not sure that's tantamount to trusting him.

The ideal audience for Nobuhiko Obayashi's House (1977) is a gaggle of hyperactive posthuman nymphets who live in clouds, subsist entirely on a diet of mescaline truffles, and will never know hardship or death; for us all-too-human earthwalkers its wild stylistic inventions can get a little wearying after a while, though it does serve as a useful illustration of how tenuous the boundary is between candy-coated J-pop and psychosis.

Monday, July 8, 2013

OUT 1.2: ...and that would be intolerable!

        When Jacques Rivette's 12 1/2 hour serial, Out 1: Noli Me Tangere, premiered on French television in 1971, no one expected the film to be any great commercial success. It was, after all, a highly demanding and complex piece of work that stripped away most of the certainties viewers carried into filmed entertainment. Even Rivette himself secretly expected disaster. But one broadcaster eloquently stood up for the film, going so far as to stake his career on it, all the while knowing it was likely a suicidal move.
        Yet the first episode drew 12 million viewers, and as the film's enigmatic narrative slowly began to emerge from entropic improvisations, the ratings climbed still higher. By some miracle, the film literally had something for every single demographic. Young children couldn't follow most of the dialogue, but sat entranced at the sight of adults behaving just like them. Teenagers instinctively responded to the quirky Jean-Pierre Leaud and Juliet Berto characters. (Harmonica-related hearing damage and petty theft in Paris cafes skyrocketed accordingly.) The intelligentsia loved the film's literary references and formal adventurousness. Working men and women proved amenable to the film's dramatization of the search for meaning in a chaotic and random universe. Seniors found the amount of screaming somewhat off-putting, but greatly appreciated the slow pace and lack of nudity or extreme violence.

        And the waning counterculture found in the film a revealing mirror image of their situation, and were able as a result of the film's insights to course correct, resulting in a wave of mass political protests that eventually led to a peaceful overthrow of Pompidou's government, and the establishment of a neo-socialist republic, which avoided many of the pitfalls of other socialist experiments by decentralizing power among a group of thirteen individuals from various tiers of society. Some of those involved in the uprising refer to the month of Out 1's initial airing as "The Second May," though it aired in March. Among the first acts of the new regime were the establishment of a channel that played nothing but Out 1, the canonization of Jacques Rivette as a national hero, and the full subsidization of his subsequent efforts.*
        The transformative effect of Out 1 in France hardly went unnoticed by the rest of the world, and indeed wherever it received distribution (it was suppressed in China, banned outright in the USSR), the same energies were released among its viewers, though never again did it bring a nation to the point of outright political revolution. Its main political accomplishment outside of France lay in significantly increasing the worldwide membership of the Situationist International.
        The film was distributed theatrically in US arthouses and received rapturously by critics. "Remember what I said about Last Tango in Paris a couple months ago," wrote Pauline Kael, "that it was the equivalent of The Rite of Spring? Gee-whiz, was I a hasty Harriet!" US audiences took to the film as well, especially young cinephiles, a rapidly expanding demographic. Out 1 became a fixture at campus cineclubs, and posters of the film's enigmatic final shot were a staple of American dorm rooms from the mid-to-late-'70s into at least the mid-'80s. The film was also broadcast on PBS on Saturday mornings in May-June 1974. Its lead-in was Sesame Street.

        Given the political ramifications of the film's success in France, there was quite a bit of uneasiness surrounding the film's box office numbers among the rightist establishment in the US.
        "Fucking frog-loving communists and their 12 1/2 hour nickelodeon shows," Richard Nixon can be heard grousing at one point in the White House tapes.
        "And it's boring, too," responds Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, "One of my aides saw the first four or five episodes and says the whole thing's got less story than a goddamn episode of the Bonanza. That's a show folks are into, right, the Bonanza?"
        "It must be that dope or grass or whatever they're calling it now. Drug fiends just need something to nod out to after a day of stealing things from decent working people and consorting with their homosexual associates."
        Nixon actually wasn't entirely off-base. Out 1 had quickly become a seminal "head" movie, not only because of its countercultural themes, but because it lasted the average length of an LSD trip.** Although after stories spread about one lengthy theater exercise in the first episode triggering psychotic breakdowns legitimate LSD/Out 1 experiences tended to be undertaken mostly as a dare.

        Out 1's influence on the development of the arts in the English-speaking world was especially profound. Some highlights:
  1. Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey's 12 1/2 hour film, Joe Dallesandro Watches Out 1 In Chaps (1973)became one of Warhol's most well-known and highly-regarded productions. 
  2. Having heard good things about Out 1 from George Harrison, John Lennon invited Paul McCartney to a screening of it in New York, partly as a mea culpa for "How Do You Sleep?" Both emerged so invigorated that they immediately set out to reform The Beatles for an Out 1-themed concept album, Corner of Chance, which many place on par with Sgt. Pepper's (Ringo Starr's jaunty contribution, "The Croissant Meet-Cute" is widely considered the best thing he ever did). The Beatles quickly disbanded again, though all showed a continuing fascinating with Out 1 in their solo careers.***
  3. Allen Ginsberg saw Out 1 in 1973, and composed a tripartite poem about the experience, "By Out 1 An Ode Won," which culminates in a powerful series of exhortations: "Hours! pass through me electric in wild fevered dance! / Conspiracy! tickle my buddhabelly and laugh through my bones!"
  4. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas--after a string of financial failures (Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978), and Adventures of Luke Starkiller, As Taken From the Journal of the Whills, Saga 1: The Star Wars (1977)****) that were too literal-minded, plot-dependent, emotionally manipulative, and quickly paced for America's challenge-hungry audiences--finally saw Out 1 in 1979, shortly after the premiere of their friend Francis Coppola's Out 1-inspired, 192-hour magnum opus, Apocalypse Now (1979).***** Spielberg and Lucas were inspired by the film's debt to the serials of Louis Feuillade to make their own tribute to classic serials, featuring a world-traveling adventurer named Indiana Jones. The resulting film, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), was the box office hit they needed to sustain their careers, though some critics complained that hours six through nine (in which Indiana Jones doesn't appear and instead only exists as a series of contradictory rumors and tall tales being bandied about by Nazi officers as they play a seemingly endless game of faro in the basement of an Egyptian brothel) were a bit overextended. 
  5. Bob Dylan denies ever having seen a single Rivette film, saying in a 1978 interview with Esquire,  "I don't got that kind of time, man. I'm on the lam. Here, could you hold this novelty totem pole for me? Gotta get back to Cheyenne." But most scholars tend to peg his Renaldo and Clara (1978) as being clearly among Out 1's progeny.

        By the early '80s, the vogue for epic-length improvisatory experimental films began to wane. What was initially received as a liberation of filmmaking from commercially-imposed narrative and durational standards had, for all its countercultural cache and political importance, become just another marketable commodity.****** Indeed, a Harvard study in 1982 showed that TV commercials themselves had become on average three times longer and generally more tantalizingly ambiguous than the programs they interrupted. Clearly, something had to change.
        Thus, just as the blunt concision of punk in the late '70s shoved aside the bloated pseudo-symphonic excess of prog, brief and blisteringly fast films became the new vanguard of film culture. An early masterpiece of the movement was the ever-iconoclastic Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1983 adaptation of Alfred Doblin's modernist novel Berlin Alexanderplatz, which manages to boil the trials and tribulations of its hero Franz Biberkopf into four gobsmackingly dense minutes. Many other filmmakers followed suit, most notably the Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr, who can compress an amazing number of bleakly comic portraits of post-communist squalor into the length of a pre-Out 1 TV commercial. This movement has in turn received its backlash in recent years*******, and this backlash will inevitably receive its own backlash, and so on and so forth. Such is cinema history.
        Regardless of where cinema goes next, Out 1 will always be talked about and embraced or rejected by each successive generation of filmmakers and cinephiles. And though Rivette and his collaborators deserve much of the credit for the film's brilliance, we have one anonymous, courageous broadcaster in pre-Revolutionary France to thank for its being among the handful of films to change the course of cinema, and the world at large.******** 

*Which largely consisted of his smash-hit Celine and Julie franchise, beginning with Celine and Julie Go Boating in 1974 and followed in quick succession by Celine and Julie Go Skiing (1975), Celine and Julie Go America (1975), Celine and Julie A-Go-Go (1976), and so on for a total of 28 3-hour films, each chronicling the whimsy-laden metafictional exploits of the titular protagonists, an achievement referred to in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide as "France's equivalent of the Bond or Tora-san series, only like way better than either of those."
**Ads in The Village Voice for the film proclaimed "Turn on, tune in, drop Out 1!"
***George and Ringo turn up as space rangers in one of the few less than successful Celine and Julie films, Celine and Julie Go Across The Universe (1979), where things get a bit too lumpy and twee for their own good.
****The last was so unsuccessful after its first run that Lucas had all but one print destroyed, which was only recently discovered in Lucas's attic and given a bare bones DVD release.
*****A film that at once updates Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness to the Vietnam era and chronicles the near-breakdown of a film production trying to do the same. Not even Coppola has seen it in its entirety, but the film is nonetheless still very popular, in that it's an ongoing tradition among contemporary cinephiles to pretend to have seen it front-to-back at a formative period in their lives.
******Many contemporary cinephiles point to Spielberg/Lucas as its death knell (the nadir of their Out 1 infatuation being Lucas's animatronic vanity project, Duck 1 (1988)), but most historians trace it to the resounding commercial success of Out 1 itself.
*******Fueled in part by a largely unsubstantiated theory that corporate and political interests sanctioned the movement for fear that unions would soon demand shortened workweeks to accommodate the size of filmed entertainments.
********"But [its all being false] would mean that the magical, mysterious world I've been living in is nothing but an illusion...and that would be intolerable!"--Colin, Out 1

one shots (7/8/13)

What's finally enduring about Last Tango in Paris (1972) is not Brando, nor is it Schneider, Bertolucci+Storaro's autumnal images, and certainly not the sex, but the sense that all its mismatched and discordant pieces are alike straining towards a greatness that finally eludes it; not "the movie breakthrough," per Kael, but a dream of it, still hanging in the air above us like opium-smoke, ever-present but irrecoverable.

Dramatic credibility makes like an encephalograph in Sidney J. Furie's The Entity (1982), mostly depending on who's sharing the screen with Barbara Hershey (extraordinary here as a single mother beset by a sexually malicious demon), but it all adds up to a singular and gonzoid melange (decried upon its release as distasteful and exploitive, though actually about as tasteful as it can be while still being frank about its subject matter), which veers arrhythmically between blunt, almost unbearable horror, grown-up intelligence, and so-totally-'80s pulp goofiness, before ending on a note that, on paper, is as pro forma as all get out, but as it plays is deeply strange and refuses anything like typical horror movie satisfactions.

Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie (1971) takes everything wrong with his Easy Rider (1969)--the air of male privilege common to first-wave counterculture films, the outsized Generational Statement-type gestures, the instantly dated aesthetics--and ups the ante on all of it, while simultaneously subjecting itself to laborious autocritique, resulting in an experience that often feels formless and misguided in the moment, even as the spirits of Godard, Cassavetes, Rivette, and Malick (in utero) waft through, but which, in the final, 4th wall-demolishing ten minutes, snaps into haunting clarity, as Hopper surrenders completely to the void his narrative was only flimsily papering over.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

OUT 1.1: great lengths

This is the first of what will be at least an 8-part series about Jacques Rivette's legendary 12-hour serial Out 1, which thanks to an imported DVD from Germany I was recently able to see. The experience thoroughly baked my noodle and this is, in part, my attempt to come to terms with it.

"The 'unjustified' length of the films, then, represents an act of cultural transgression. The question, 'Why this length?,' should immediately provoke a reciprocal one: Why the standard length? Why should we automatically expect our movies to last between 90 minutes and two hours, feel cheated if they are less and demand particular justifications if they are more? Rivette not only demands our time, he demands our patience. We have to sit through long stretches of film in which nothing much (in terms of the conventional narrative expectations for which mainstream cinema has conditioned us, leading us point by logical point through the traditional process of order--disturbance-restoration/replacement) seems to be happening, or much the same thing seems to go on happening or to happen again. Yet few people who have sat through Rivette's films from beginning to end wish them any shorter. (Some reject them altogether, but even they seem not to question that the length is somehow part of the point, an essential component of the films' 'signifying practice,' their function within culture.) It is the very fact that the length is unnecessary that renders it indispensable. The apparent longueurs (the films seem shorter every time one re-sees them) are the most effective means of forcing us to question the experiences mainstream cinema offers us, the positions in which it places us. As with the question, 'Why this length?,' the question 'Why are we being asked to watch this?' raises a reciprocal one: Why are we 'normally' asked to watch the particular patterns that 'this' transgresses? Further questions immediately follow: What makes a narrative 'interesting'? Are we conditioned to apply only very limited criteria of 'interestingness'? Can we learn to be interested by other narrative procedures? The issues are radical, and as political as you want to make them."--Robin Wood

"Of course, length changes everything. And the reactions were more emphatic, subjective, and individual than for a film of normal length. Some people left before it was over, some arrived after the beginning; and among those who followed it from beginning to end, there were some who wanted to see it as a test of endurance, others because they gradually got interested. But in any case, it was impossible to judge. After you've gotten over the hump of the first four hours, you mainly feel inclined to stay and see it through. But that's a facile solution, because all of one's criteria for what is good or bad disappear, and one is experiencing purely the dure. There are some sequences which I think are failures, but after a certain number of hours, the whole idea of success and failure ceases to have any significance."--Jacques Rivette

a.    1. Hard; harsh; severe; rough; toilsome
           The winter is severe, and life is dure and rude.
           - W. H. Russell
v.i.  1. To last; to continue; to endure.
           Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while.
           - Matt. xiii. 21.
--The Free Dictionary

"What a crazy film! It lasts 12(!)urs and you don't understand who these people are and what are they doing!The main plot is about a bunch of clueless actors trying to bring on scene 'Prometheus' ,but there are lots of sub-plots,like the disappearing of Thomas and a crazy guy looking for Monsieur Warok....what's the meaning of all this???"--IMDB user "XopenairX," who gives Out 1 a 9 out of 10