‘Out 1’ at 50 (or: What Happened When I Watched a 13 Hour French Film)

Back in July 2020 I saw a post from Kidcassidyfilms, over on Instagram, that immediately peaked my interest. That post was about Jacques Rivette’s Out 1. Specifically talking about the film’s gargantuan length of around 13 hours, as well as the film’s critical reception. Reading how long it was and how great it was supposed to be, I became obsessed with the idea of watching this movie. The more research I did on the film, the more I wanted to see it, even despite its massive runtime. 

First shown as a work in progress in France’s Maison de la Culture, the film was very quickly cut down from it’s arguably inaccessible 13 hours to a 4 hour “short” version known as Out 1: Spectre. After this initial release, Out 1 was never released or shown again until it was restored and screened at both Berlin International Film Festival and International Film Festival Rotterdam in 1990. It would then not be shown again for another fourteen years until Out 1: Spectre and Out 1: Noli Me Tangere (the 13 hour cut) were shown at multiple film festivals between 2004 and 2007. It would once again fade into obscurity before both versions were finally released on DVD and Blu Ray in 2015.

The rarity of the film’s exhibition, despite now being fifty years old, intrigued me further. The story of the film is so fascinating but knowing that I would be a part of a small minority of people who had actually seen the full thirteen hour cut, of what is considered to be a masterpiece, appealed to me and may have even been what made me so determined to watch it.

Long story short, I bought it. 

For months Out 1 sat on one of my many Blu-ray shelves, taunting me. The thought of taking 13 hours out of my life to watch it seemed too daunting a task to take. Many argue that films such as Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia and The Irishman are too long; imagine attempting to watch a film longer than all 3 combined!

But, today is the day.

According to Rivette himself, Out 1 is meant to be seen on the big screen, and apparently he hates the idea of the film being watched on a television. So I am sure he will be happy to know that I am watching Out 1 on my 23” TV in my bedroom. Luckily the 13 hour cut has been broken up into eight parts, which should make the experience a little easier.

I decided to keep a diary throughout the day of my thoughts and feelings, so that you, the reader, can bear witness to my marathon-like experience…




6:06am

Woke up with a headache. Great start. Gonna get some more sleep. 

10am

Dammit!

10:10am

Beginning Part 1 of Out 1… From Lili to Thomas. 

11:03am

My mother’s alarm has been going off for 10 minutes now. Does this woman not understand what I am trying to attempt today!? 

11:40am

I’ve just finished part 1. 90 minutes down, only 10 and a half hours to go.

When I write that down it seem like there is so long left, but luckily for me this film is split into 8 parts.

1 down, only 7 to go…

(Part 1 was very good. It set up numerous characters, all of whom I am very interested in, though it didn’t tell much of a story so I am still incredibly unsure of what is to come.)

11:55am

I’ve made myself some lunch.

I’m now beginning Part 2 of Out 1: From Thomas to Frédérique.

Part 2 starts with a brief recap of part 1. I am unsure if this technique was used in the original or just for this restoration which has been cut into 8 parts. Either way, it is a good idea to keep the events of the film fresh in the mind.

12.30pm

My brother phoned me. I’m starting to think my family don’t understand me. 

12.38pm

2 hours and 13 minutes in. Finally some semblance of a story…

1:42pm

Just finished Part 2.

Due to the film’s length, the main characters and stories of each subplot are stretched out over such a long period of time, meaning that progression in either respect is rather slow. It can make for a difficult and slow watch sometimes but is overall still very good.

By far my favourite character so far is Colin (played by Jean-Pierre Léaud, most famous for portraying Antoine Doinel in François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows). His character’s story is somewhat similar to that of Andrew Garfield’s in Under the Silver Lake.

2:06pm

I took a longer break than intended, but now I’m starting part 3 of Out 1: From Frédérique to Sarah. 

2:46pm

Took my inhaler. Did I accidentally stick on Breathless?

3:06pm

The film is beginning to grain on me a little. The performances are all very good, cinematography and costumes are nice to look at and it is directed very well, but the subplots with both drama groups seem to have added very little to the film so far and I am roughly 4 hours in. Their scenes are good, but they’re also very long, and it makes it difficult to give the film my full attention. 

3:53pm

Finished part 3 of Out 1. Roughly 8 more hours to go.

The film is very good but very testing. Similar to Andrei Tarkovsky, who would linger on shots just long enough that the viewer would want it to end before he would change to a new shot just in time to keep the viewer’s attention, this is what Rivette does throughout Out 1. Just when we reach the end of our investment in a story, a new character or a new direction for the story is introduced.

It can be challenging but it works. I was at a stage where I became worried that I would dislike this film and would have to painfully make my way through the final 8 hours.

4.13pm

I ordered myself a pizza for later tonight (from the Caprice restaurant/takeaway in Musselburgh, Scotland. Best pizza I have ever had, I highly recommend… no, I am not sponsored by them, why do you ask?).

Now starting Part 4 of Out 1: From Sarah to Colin. 

5.28pm

Resist. Urge. To pee. 

5.32pm

Resistance is futile. Pee break!

5.33pm

Back to the movie. 

6.11pm

Pizza arrived! Just in time to start Part 5: From Colin to Pauline.

Halfway through now. 

6.33pm

Damn fine pizza! 

7.41pm

Finished Part 5. So far it was probably the weakest section of the film.

Whereas every subplot had gone in a different directions previously, this section seemed to slow them down almost to a halt. It did pick up again near the end, admittedly, but it was so slow my dog has even given up. I had to let her out. I guess she isn’t a fan of French cinema… or 13 hour movies… 

8.09pm

I’ve just taken a way longer break than I expected, but I think that I needed it after a fairly underwhelming Part 5.

Now on to Part 6. Out 1: From Pauline to Émilie. 

9.53pm

Part 6 felt like a slog to get through.

It wasn’t bad – no parts of the film have been – but similar to Part 5 it felt incredibly slow.

I have found myself worried numerous times throughout this journey that by the end I will not be a fan, but I think judging this early is far too difficult and things are more than likely to change in the 3(ish) hours that I have left. 

10.13pm

One of my best friends has been texting me throughout the day, seeing how I am doing and how the film is going. Talk about great moral support! 

10.14pm

Is it noticeable that the further into the film I am the longer my breaks become? 

10.20pm

Now on to Part 7. Out 1: From Émilie to Lucie.

Although there are roughly 3 hours left, having only two more parts to go feels incredibly gratifying.

Here’s hoping I can make it. 

????

I messed up. I was so excited to be moving on to the final section of the film that I forgot to note down when it even happened.

12:22am

The final part. Out 1: From Lucie to Marie.

Just over an hour left of this film and, no matter what my opinion is, I am so excited to be this close to finishing it 

1:35am

It’s over!

It’s finally over. After 13 hours (far more including breaks), I have finished Out 1 and can say I successfully watched it in one sitting.

This beats the previous record holder for the longest film I have ever seen – The Irishman, 3hrs 29mins – by a rather large margin!

Having spent so long watching, and with so much to take in, it is difficult to collect my thoughts on the film. It doesn’t help that, as I write this, it is damn near 2am. I was not blown away by it – it isn’t quite the masterpiece that many critics praise it to be – and in a lot of ways this is disappointing, but I did not dislike it and at no point was I bored or reacting negatively to what I was seeing on screen. Of course, keeping such a consistent level of quality for around 13 hours is incredibly impressive, I am just not yet sure how much I liked the film. I’m going to sleep on it and take some time when I wake up to really decide what I thought of Out 1

9.15am

It’s my brother’s birthday today.

How selfish of him to be born today.

I must spend my morning pondering Rivette’s Out 1, not singing happy birthday!

9:36am

Although much of the time in between was spent asleep, I have not been able to get this movie out of my mind. My initial reaction to the film was, admittedly, that it was underwhelming. But, the more I think about it and the more I understand it, the more I love it.

No matter how much you read up on Out 1 you can’t quite prepare yourself for what is to come. With that in mind, for the best viewing experience you really have to keep an open mind and try not to let expectations rule your viewing experience.

When the film was over I had felt like it left me with more questions than answers, but in reality the whole film ties itself up in a neat little bow, although the stories themselves and the directions they take are often unconventional.

It isn’t that the film leaves you with more questions than answers, it is that I was asking the wrong questions and therefore expecting the wrong answers. 

10.19am

Struggling to pinpoint just what my rating of the film would be.

11.30am

25 hours since starting Out 1, I feel as though I can safely say that I really liked the film.

It was great!

Although slow moving, challenging and a difficult watch due to its runtime, the end result is incredibly rewarding. Not only can you leave saying you watched a 13 hour movie, but the film itself is incredibly good. Great performances (Jean-Pierre Léaud steals the show in his role as Colin), wonderful costumes, a brilliantly subtle use of colour and wonderful directing from Jacques Rivette.

Although its length implies that the film is epic, it is not on a grand-scale like Lawrence of Arabia or Cleopatra, although it certainly is epic in what it achieves. 




I have said multiple times that the film may not be the masterpiece that many say it is, but I think it comes pretty damn close. The movie’s script replicates an image often seen in the film; a Paris intersection. It is easy to see it simply as traffic but there are so many mechanics in play that allow the traffic to intersect so smoothly, and that is what is going on with Out 1. Rivette has crafted an incredibly complex world in which its characters are constantly crossing into one another’s lives and impacting their worlds in many ways. The result seems simple, but the complexity behind it is astonishing, and Rivette’s ability to maintain it, as well as to execute it, is masterful. 

That being said, was it worth it?

13 hours is a long time.

Not just for a film, but for anything.

Including the breaks I took throughout my viewing, the overall time I spent watching the film was 15 hours and 25 minutes. Including an average of 8 hours sleep on top of that amount of time, I would have 35 minutes left available of a full 24 hour cycle. A full day. So in theory, watching Out 1 took an entire day out of my schedule; a full day that I can now never have back, no matter how I feel about the film.

Time is precious, everybody only gets so much time in life, so what you do with it is incredibly important.

However, everybody also has their own passion.

For me, that is film.

I love film (clearly, considering I watched a 13 hour movie), but not everyone likes films, especially not so much to even humour watching something even close to the length of Out 1, but they do have a passion that they would do something equally drastic for.

Yes, we only have so little time on this earth, and yes I took damn near a whole day out of mine for one movie, but we have to do what makes us happy and for me that is watching movies.

So, once again, was it worth it?

I think to ask such a question implies that my watching such lengthy pictures is or will ever be a recurring event. It was very much a challenge to myself to see if I could do it and I did. I am overjoyed to see that I successfully managed one full sitting of this film and for that alone it was worth it.

Will I watch Out 1 again? I think so.

Would I ever watch it again in one sitting? No way.

Is Out 1 worthy of your time? Yes it is.

Would I suggest watching it in one sitting like I did? No.

It was incredibly tough and was even harder to schedule, but it also affected me negatively in the fact that it physically exhausted me, and sitting in such a posture for over 15 hours is not overly comfortable in any regard. Screenings of this film all over the world take place over two days, and for good reason. If you plan to watch this movie, doing so in one sitting is not the best experience.

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