Sam B.’s review published on Letterboxd:
So about 4 hours into Jacque Rivette's 13-hour magnum opus, my legs had gone numb, my head had started to hurt, I had begun to perspire, my mouth felt dry, and I was just about having the time of my life.
"Out 1," released for the first time in U.S. this weekend after spending over 40 years with only a scattered few showings, is unlike anything I've ever experienced; it's the cinephile's dream, nightmare, reality.
The plot isn't really important, but just for some context, the film circles around 1970 France, concerning two competing avant-garde theater troups putting on their interpretations of a Greek tragedy, while a deaf-dumb man crosses paths with a woman who seduces and robs men throughout the city while he's tracking down a Balzac-esque secret society. In any more conventional film, either in length or technique, this would be overstuffed, rushed, and ultimately too pretentious in its constant swirl of literary references to warrant the critical discussion necessary.
But not only does it surpass these obstacles, it challenges the very validity of its ideas; it's as if the French New Wave is stuck in limbo between dreams and consciousness, the "real world" of the film revealing France at this point to be a world rich with paranoia and pathos and hidden desires and scrambling fear of the limits of the imagination.
You've never actually seen a 13-hour movie; Even if the movie finds a way to exist with its confines and fill it in a way that justifies its entire runtime, the audience is in no way accustomed to actually sitting in a theater for 13 hours. They weren't built for that. By throwing that all out, it becomes baffling, a sublime kind of endurance test, like some sort of non-chemical hallucinogenic.
The film is constructed out of typical scenes extended so far into improvisation, that, sort of like the Cassavettes equivalent of a Monty Python sketch, have this totally bizzare weight added to them by the voyeuristic qualities of the film.
Yet this isn't trying to breach that impossible gap between simulation and reality; the cinema here isn't grounded in realism of the most traditional sense, but rather operating on the classic terms of accepting cinema as a wholly different world, like a seeing-eye glass that transforms everything around us. The storytelling here is one of intense immersive ambiguity, but the experimental natur eof the film, at a certain point, gets forgotten simply because of how commited it all is. You realize at a certain point that this is the only way this piece of art could have been created, and that it's notable not for its length but for what the film accomplishes by replacing the outside world for a large screen in a dark room for 13 hours. By inhabiting this film of performance where nothing is ever real and everyone is always pretending to some impossible to discern degree, not only does "Out 1" reflect the feelings of the country at the time, but also illustrates the magnificent power of cinema to change the way we experience the way. The film is nothing less than the most monumental, unique, and magical film I've seen this year, a powerful testament to experience and culture and life and storytelling. "Out 1" is in every way a masterpiece, required viewing for any lover of film (preferably in a theater, and most certainly with lengthy viewing periods).
So anyway, after 13 hours of Jacque Rivette's deep dive into a culture lost almost entirely to time, preserved only by the voices of the camera, I stumbled out of the theater at one in the morning, trembling and exhausted and giddy, and waltzed all the way home through the beautiful world, because it looked different now, like something had...shifted...been bent out of familiarity...into the spectacular.