This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Gail’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
2/13/17: I started watching this on Friday the 10th of February, and so far have seen the first three parts, watching on Netflix, which is magical in my opinion. I love the astonishing availability of films that used to be nearly impossible to see. Hooray for internet, making the long tail of niche interests so accessible to people who have internet access and money to spend on the things they're into. :)
I wanted to record some impressions as I watch this, since it'll probably be a week or so until it's all seen and it's a lot to keep in mind.
The first episode, I thought Lili was in both of the avant guard theater troupes, but it's a different redhead in the second, more out-there troupe. The stuff that more out-there troupe does... sometimes it's really hard to watch because I think about what I would do, how I would feel, in that situation. Being not-an-actor appears to be the right choice for me. The first episode's exercise for the out-there troupe reminded me a lot of the beginning, not-space part of 2001. The first episode's exercise for the less out-there troupe reminded me sometimes very much of the opening credits of a Mizoguchi film, or of the THX sound that rattles my bones when I watch a movie in theaters. (They might've changed that sound; it's been a while since I saw a movie in theaters.)
The 'be dead' exercise was sooooo upsetting. Mostly because I couldn't imagine being still during all that; they referred to her as the victim when they were discussing how it went, but she was ok with putting herself in that situation and experiencing whatever they came up with.
The first episode, I don't recall if I even wondered if Jean-Pierre Leaud's character was really deaf and mute, but the second episode somebody talks to him and has an edge of exasperation with his gestures. I had been thinking about what it would be like to be deaf and mute and perhaps not know sign language, how thinking about the discomfort of being unable to communicate verbally (does sign count as verbal? I feel like yes.. sort of, since it's hands and all... but maybe no?) mirrors my extreme discomfort with being illiterate (I was an exchange student in high school to a country that doesn't use our alphabet, and I only knew how to say and read the word 'hello' when I arrived. I'm a reader, to the point that I half-kiddingly consider I have a book problem. It was enlightening to feel how uncomfortable I was when I couldn't read most of the signs.) but then that edge of exasperation from the woman who wanted to clean his room, and if I hadn't been wondering if he was a bit of a con artist too, or maybe a performance artist, that interaction got me wondering if he was actually pretending to be deaf and mute. Now in episode three, his character (it's hard for me to figure out what people's names are) clearly was pretending, and he reminds me of something but I can't put my finger on it, his story I mean. And people saying things to I think it was Lili, it seems like there's some small gaslighting going on. "Georges isn't doing anything weird," and then the conversation with the brunette in the car. It just feels off, and maybe it connects to the stuff Leaud's character is trying to sort out.
I'm worried about the con artist. Things went a little pear-shaped in episode one, and she was thrown out of a place in episode two, and now a man, who looked like the man who had the cute dog and maybe wanted her to get in trouble when she was thrown out of the cafe, that man or a man who looked like him fought her when she tried to grab his money. It feels like Vivre sa Vie. I feel like tragedy is coming for her.
2/18/17: I watched part 4 in two chunks, the second half last night. It's a little weird seeing people from the two theater groups and Colin, Leaud's character, running into each other. I tend to have discrete groups of friends and acquaintances rather than Venn diagrams of social interaction, so that might be part of the reason it was so odd-feeling. It's also really interesting seeing all the little bits flying around and not taking shape yet. From the other Rivette movies I've seen, I don't actually expect it to take a definite shape, but having more clues about the Thirteen, and some ideas about Pierre and Igor, and wondering how the really surrealist theater troupe connects. Wondering all kinds of things. If Colin had the letters Frederique lifted from the random chess player... but the odds of that are vanishingly small. And how does that random chess playing businessman fit into the swirl of intrigue.
When the more surrealist of the two theater troupes was sitting in chairs in a semicircle talking about how to do a scene, it was interesting how that felt way odder than all the odd stuff they had done. People can adjust to anything, and I had fully adjusted to them doing all kinds of out-there theatric exercises.
I'm relieved nothing untoward happened to Frederique this time. I've just got a feeling about her.
2/20/17 (I'm not going back and rereading what I wrote before until the end, so possibly this is choppy/disjointed in addition to being quite long.)
We watched episode 5 and nearly all of episode 6 before sleep became imperative. I like how the 'previously on Out 1' is handled. It threw me for a loop at the beginning of episode 2, I admit, but I like it a lot.
Watching the theater troupe that seems to badly need a director try to find Renaud who stole Quentin's gambling win seemed like some of the actors regarded it as another acting exercise. It also struck me, I wonder if the pedestrians and motorists they accost are actors who know this is going to happen or if Rivette just sent them out with photographs and a camera trailing behind to see what would happen, which in turn got me wondering what it was like during the counterculture if you weren't in it and you ran up against people doing all kinds of random things as you went about your day. Maybe it's just being urban, the slightly weary refusal to look at the picture, but maybe it's 'oh lord, what are those weirdos doing now' as you're trying to get to work or get home again.
Frederique's new look is kind of amazing. She went from flower child to something like the Thin White Duke, pixie cut and an ascot. Her new demeanor is surprising too. I feel like she's stuck between wanting to shake people down and wanting to know what the heck is going on and perhaps join whatever the Thirteen is.
The scene with Sarah standing behind Thomas and Colin while Colin was trying to tease out the connection between Prometheus and Balzac, she seemed so sinister. When Thomas was talking her into coming to Paris she seemed like she was going to be the lost fading flower or something, but now she seems quietly malevolent (not really based on anything overt as far as I can recall, just a feeling). And then she and Pauline knocked whoever that was over the head. Wasn't expecting that at all.
The scene between Sarah, Thomas, and I think her name is Beatrice, that was so strange. I felt like he was hoping the women would be like 'oh hey, let's have a threesome!' without him having to say anything, but maybe that's just his avant guard/surrealist way of trying to make new friends, or make his friends be friends with each other.
I didn't expect Lili to be so involved in covert activities either.
Nearly everyone feels like an unreliable narrator at this point... or not narrator I guess, but not straightforward. Everyone has an angle and nobody wants to be the first to say what they want.
Warok seemed refreshing. Not sure who he really is or how he's involved, but he seems ok with just playing along with whatever nonsense Frederique is trying to pull, humoring her without wishing her harm.
2/22/17 The end came tonight. Holy cow. I need to think about this.