Out 1, noli me tangere is one of the crowning achievements of Jacques Rivette’s remarkable career. Conceived as a television mini-series, this near-thirteen-hour monolith consists of eight feature-length episodes revolving around two theatre troupes, blackmail and conspiracy. Multiple characters introduce multiple plotlines, weaving a rich tapestry across an epic runtime.
If there is a movie equivalent of reading Proust it’s likely to be found in the films of the French New Wave veteran Jacques Rivette. And in the annals of monumental cinema there are few objects more sacred than Out 1, noli me tangere. Shot in the spring of 1970, this fabled colossus owes its stature not just to its immodest duration but also to its rarity. Commissioned and then rejected by French television, the film had its premiere in september 1971, at the Maison de la Culture in Le Havre before receding into obscurity. Rivette uses documentary techniques – uninflected observation, unscripted situations – not to capture reality but to generate fiction. For Rivette, narratives – or, more precisely, our hunger for them – can be dangerous. His fondness for shadowy conspiracies and paranoid fantasies, which owes a debt to Balzac and the sinister daydreams of the silent-era serialist Louis Feuillade, dates to his first feature, Paris nous appartient (1960). With Out 1 he found the perfect match of form and content, an outsize canvas for a narrative too vast to apprehend. (Dennis Lim)