Tommy’s review published on Letterboxd:
Going into this, I had a preconceived notion that this would be incredible surreal after hearing of Rivette's other films, in particular Celine and Julie Go Boating. To my surprise, however, it has a lot more in common with a certain little film called Nashville, as both are slowly unfolding improvisational dramas of near epic proportions. But where to start with talking about it? Do I delve into the plight of Colin, the closest thing to a protagonist this film has? Or will I speak of the theatre groups, whom we spend copious amounts of time with during their improvisational rehearsals? Analyzing a movie like this in particular is hard, as there is more than likely something I missed through its 12 hour runtime.
If the actors playing the characters are improvising, are they acting at all, or just being themselves, to an extent? And, since most of the characters are actors, who themselves are improvising in the context of the film, are we seeing their improvisations or the improvisations of the actors behind them? Does it even matter whether or not they are being themselves? After all, cinema itself is a lie. But here, the lies and the truth, art and artifice, are blended perfectly, and the last question has no real importance. Cinema verite in the most twisted way, perhaps.
And then, we go on a hunt of secret societies, straight out of the pages of a truly expansive book. But, alas! Our guide, despite his determination and perception, fails to see the obvious truths around him: secret societies of the modern era are the theatre troupe and other similar collectives, seeking power through artistic fulfillment. Or maybe, in this modern age, artistic fulfillment is power. These groups may never know, as they endlessly repeat bonding improv exercises, never moving past the conceptual stages of art. But, in a way, that is their conception of art- the true, immediate expression of what one wants to do at any given time, with all its bluntness and subtleties laid bare to the world.
Some may mistake the central theme for being "the meaninglessness of life", or "how we try to make meaning out of nothing", especially when referring to Colin's quixotic mission. In saying this, they forget that The Thirteen was real within the film- a forgotten, half-assed dream of a thing- but still real, just right under our noses. Then, what does it say about searching for "the meaning of life"? It states that there is one, but it is unfortunately just out of our reach, rendering it futile to try.
Nor does it say not to try to do anything in your life. Then, we end up as Frederique is: dead, without a single thing of value to our vain, forgotten forever. Failing to contribute to the betterment of humanity, even when presented with opportunities to (helping the man in café with his party date), and abusing/scamming those in need is condemning. Go out there, do something! Don't waste your life sitting around, aiming guns down hallways to satisfy some petty notion of doing no work.
As tragic as that part of the story is, far more heart-wrenching is Thomas's breakdown on the shore in the end. Realizing the weight of the world falls heavy on his shoulders, he can handle his experiences no longer and gives in the world's wallowing with his despaired laughter. Is there any hope for him? Who can say. There is more to the tale, as evidenced by the abrupt cut to credits at the end, but that's not what mattered, really: it was a specific time in some specific people's lives, and what has come before or after only matters in its influence on the present.
Out 1 is far beyond a masterpiece: it transcends that into being an extensive mosaic of life, one depicting the celebration of it and art. Its length, while formidable, is used exceptionally well to depict all facets of the world and make us feel every moment like a real life event. To those who say this has no plot, I must dispute this claim, as it is clear to me that it does have one. In the case, though, it comes at the pacing of real life, creating something that is and is not real.