evilbjork’s review published on Letterboxd:
Few films are as righteously post-modern as Out 1. This is a film that couldn’t care less if you’re there to view it. It exists as a document of life, almost breathing on its own. It’s astounding that this was released in 1971. I consider watching this to be one of the most ambitious ventures I’ve ever accomplished with film, and that’s coming from someone who’s favorite directors are Wang Bing and Lav Diaz.
I really loved this movie, although I probably love the thought of it more than the experience watching it. For such a dense monolithic film on paper, the actual experience of viewing Out 1 feels like nothing is happening. It’s like being a wandering fly on a wall, viewing unguided interactions, maybe something interesting will happening or maybe not. I feel like that’s the most important thing to have in mind when viewing this, it’s like being in the room with real people, totally different than the normal experience you gain from watching a movie.
I’ve read Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and I totally understand the constant comparisons Out 1 gets to Pynchon’s novels. Besides the overwhelming sense of paranoia and overabundance of characters, the way characters move from one interaction to another reminds me so much of Pynchon. The way that mysteries are uncovered and decisions are made are so similar. The main difference, of course, is that one is working with words and the other film, and film doesn’t have the same luxuries that novels do. With a novel you can describe mundane situations with such intensity that anything can be compelling, whereas with film the same scene can lose a lot of its gusto. So much of Out 1 is watching characters slowly make decisions with nothing else happening, maybe a full conversation between two people where it feels like they’re saying nothing at all. It’s only well after that it happens that you can take in the importance of what you saw. It makes the actual experience of viewing this kind of frustrating. I found myself constantly trying to find greater meaning in moments where there wasn’t any but then missing the most important moments, but like many great art films, it's only once your start reflecting on the experience that you realize how amazing it really was.
I feel like I just spewed a bunch of flowery words describing how great the film is without actually talking about what makes it great, and maybe that's the perfect way to describe it. It's a dense, confusing experience that, although you might not be able to put it into words why, you can feel the greatness radiating off of it. I know I’ll have to rewatch this and spend a lot more time thinking about it before I have any real ability to understand what makes it so great. There’s really nothing else like Out 1.