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A Very (Very) Long Engagement

12-plus-hour Out 1 returns to MOMI. Bring snacks.

Out 1 begins as an endurance test. The vaguely Dionysian regressions and mad Cassavetes theatrics hold sway for the movie's first three stupefying hours. Intermittently another, more welcome, sort of vérité intrudes as Jean-Pierre Leaud and Juliet Berto separately undertake some enigmatic tasks that involve mixing it up with and annoying the "real" people of Paris. In every marathon, there is a moment when one cedes one's life to allow the experience to click in. For me, Out 1 didn't begin to cast even a minor spell until late in the fourth hour after Rivette introduces the idea of the mysterious Thirteen and Leaud discovers an entropic hippie emporia that might be a Thirteen headquarters or at least a Parisian head shop, operated by a delightfully cannabisated Bulle Ogier.

Although Out 1's first four episodes establish a mild mood of free-floating paranoia, returning for the final four episodes requires a leap of faith. But it is only with the fifth episode that the sense of a world and its inhabitants truly coalesces out of the earlier chaos. Was it all necessary? In any case, the longeurs pass; rapt fascination sets in and increases exponentially. Crimes are committed and intrigues compound. One theater group moves its activities from the day-room into the flux of the street. Moreover, the movie—so heavily invested in improvisation—begins to suggest that, operating under their individual imperatives, Leaud and Berto have precipitated a narrative into existence by either intuiting or imagined a real conspiracy (or, perhaps, it's the entranced viewer who has forced the plot). Events achieve hyper-drive with the seventh episode as Leaud believes that he is carrying a message from the Thirteen and, thwarted in his attempt to deliver it, acts to protect the "magical, mystical world" in which he (and now we) are living.

Sit a spell: Juliet Berto in Out 1
Photofest/Museum of the Moving Image
Sit a spell: Juliet Berto in Out 1

The final episode is the richest in terms of action and revelation. Can this all-consuming spectacle really be ending? Rivette's last shot is an extraordinary throwaway that provoked spontaneous applause for being at once completely ordinary, totally unexpected, and positively diabolical in shifting the meaning of the entire previous 12 1/2 hours. But of course, I'd have to see Out 1 again to be sure.

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