By Jonty Tiplady
Bowie, Rickman, Rivette. ‘We’re losing them all’, Masha Tupitsyn emails me, in one of those quick messages that accumulate like lightning dabs when someone disappears, when you are still checking, seeing if it can be real . . .
The moment of death of someone you don’t know but spent hours with.
The moment of death of someone who perhaps made more hours possible in film (and not just as duration, but in duration) than anyone else.
The cut of Rivettian duration in 2016.
The new wave.
The secret of the new wave.
I first saw Rivette’s Out 1 in about 2006 in London with Sarah Wood, and I had that stupid sense at the time that it was ‘the best film I would ever see’. As far as I can remember, Sarah and I agreed on this. I still somehow stubbornly agree with this. I still think I can believe that Out 1 was the film one can’t make but which got made. The film which we cannot make.
The film that slipped out, like a genie.
Out 1 was made in 1971. It is famous for its length of twelve hours and forty minutes, and is also known as Out 1: Noli me tangere. In my head I often describe it as the single longest narrative film ever made (like Colin in the film, played by Jean-Pierre Léaud, I sometimes like childish exaggeration), but of course there are others. We now have True Detective, The Sopranos, and so on, box sets in the tradition of extension Rivette might have been the first to oversee.
Jacques Rivette was secret. Secret not in the sense that some felt David Bowie was ‘their secret’ when he died. Rivette had instead something secret in his films. Rivette is secret. I write an email to Masha, picking up on her reference to the Claire Denis documentary about him:
Yeah I love that Denis doc. I always remember the bit where he takes her to some deserted quadrant between derelict railway lines, as an example of ‘where one might shoot’, and it’s just perfect. I loved the way she seemed drawn to him but not as a female groupie, since he was almost the female one, the pictures of him on the set of Celine and Julie Go Boating with the girls on skates where he is one of the girls effectively. I mean, Celine and Julie hands itself over to that non-male space (despite the sort of Oedipal spirals in the house). It’s all about how one imagines he was on and off set or something, in the space around the film. And it’s weird because sometimes he is a little too pompous for sure (very ‘French’), but he had the whole thing. When Colin fakes being deaf and mute for the first two hours of Out 1 it’s the funniest thing in the whole of cinema (except perhaps Airplane).
On secret, then, in secret. It’s not by mistake that one of the best books on Rivette refers to this secret, Hélène Frappat’s Jacques Rivette, Secret Compris. I read it at the height of my Rivette obsession, in 2003, when I went to Paris just to see The Story of Marie and Julien (I found the film slightly boring, but also unique in its magnetism and static). I was obsessed from about 2003 to 2007. I even remember making the first plans to form a journal – like the one I now edit, TITLE – and to call it OUT or OUT 2. Rivette explained his title as follows, ‘I chose “Out” as the opposite of the vogue word “in”, which had caught on in France and which I thought was silly. The action of the film is rather like a serial which could continue through several episodes, so I gave it the number “One”.’ The inversion was complete, the available had to come from elsewhere. In was already out because not out enough. The film was shown at the very edge of the city. Or rather, Rivette’s ‘out’ already names an alternative to the avant-garde itself (1969 failed as a way ‘out’ that was ‘in’, social progressivism inverted at least from that point on). A shorter version of the film also exists, titled Out 1: Spectre. Does Out 1 have the power, even on YouTube, to remain secret and to play the secret of the title, to serialise to us? What would Out 2 look like? The play of title and subtitling seems important here, as if what Rivette might have filmed or wanted to film, at least in 1971, was what Bernard Stiegler calls ‘arche-cinema’. This title isn’t even a title, and mimics what Masha Tupitsyn has done recently with her Love Sounds (2015), which also exists in two cuts, and which stays with the blank screen, before cinema, out, intertitling, 1:
For Rivette, it was as if after 1969 there was nothing left, and all the troupe could do was move to the edge of the city and show this film, totally out, totally separate to the alternative culture that had already failed, predicting predictable melancholy Marxist recalls. ‘Out’ was perhaps what Derrida calls in a less well known essay on Roger Laporte, something ‘preceding every guard, avant-garde in its non-coded concept’. Is that what Rivette filmed, for hours and hours, that sheer emotional static of out, of adults reeling on a beach, with something too hard to contemplate dragging them down from the future? The story of sheer number, enumeration, black and total mourning, legitimate paranoia, the 13, Balzac’s Histoire des Treize on which the film was based. 1971. 2016.
I remember taking a glow-in-the-dark pen (also known as a dream recall pen) into the South Bank cinema with Sarah because I felt maybe the film wouldn’t be shown again or ever become available on DVD (it now is). I wanted to be able to archive it. I was worried I would disturb her or others with the light but somehow I managed to jot things down. From the notes I produced the first poems I had written in my adult life, small scraps, about 50 I think, and Sarah was the first to read and encourage them. A tiny splinter of them survived in my book Zam Bonk Dip (Salt, 2009) in the section ‘Manic Milk’, and my first actual poetry book, At the School of Metaphysics (Fly-by-Night Press, 2007), had a screenshot of Juliet Berto (Fred) from Out 1 crossing knifes on its cover: the swords of female counter-magic. I identified with Fred massively. It was one of my first ‘trans-’ moments.
I have no absolute sense of what it was about Rivette in particular that made me take notes in the dark, and want to write. But maybe I can now figure out what that cinematic bioluminescence meant. My poems were born from OUT, a sense of out, and so it hurts that Rivette has gone.
Je suis sourd-muet et vous offre le ‘Message du Destin’. Merci.
Jonty Tiplady, 29 Jan, 2016
Jonty Tiplady has two new theory books coming out with Open Humanities Press, one with Claire Colebrook called ‘The Semiotics of Isis’, and the other his own, called ‘2014: Theory, Poetry and Art in the FKA-Anthropocene’. Most recent online text here. He is also the editor of TITLE.