This is spurred by reading Why Finish Books? by Tim parks in New York Review of Books (13 March 2012). It’s one of those you’ll lose the argument but have fun in the trying ones.
The New Wave: Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer, Rivette. Rivette?
My first dabble with Rivette was Jeanne la Pucelle (two disc set, Artificial Eye).
Where before have you seen a whole article dedicated to the idea of finishing a book? This is a kind of verboten in the world of culture. Not exactly a taboo, but admitting to failing with Tolstoy’s War and Peace, or more likely Proust, is so much about exposing one’s failings as a work from the literary canon. Though there are a few brave well-known souls who have admitted to finding a book everyone else says was a master-work everyone has to read as dry and dull as ditch water and that they gave up before page 50. (O.k, I admit to finding quite a few of William Golding hard to get into. Though there will come a time when the wind is up and in the right direction when they will seem like a good read.)
Feeling a little more confident after being urged to consider not finishing books, I’m getting to thinking there could be an equivalent for film. Even not to watch something at all. But hey, we do that for books too. Not read them. Ironically, we might read reams about a film’s qualities or failings or confusions or pointlessnesses, and then decide not to watch it. Or, that in the great scheme of things, and limited time, we have to make decisions about what to watch and what not to. Let’s leave out films we watch by mistake.
I don’t have a great deal of interest in films predominantly about people rehearsing plays. Truffaut’s Le Dernier Metro is an exception. But that wasn’t really all about play rehearsing.
I have this sinking feeling about the just over 12 hours of Rivette’s 01 which is deemed by many his master work.
Seeing the point of using film to portray rehearsals is not quite the same as being prepared to endure the filmic portrayal of them. Particularly perhaps starring Ben Gazzara in a improvisation. Did he do a play one? No idea. Mind you the more I read about 01 the more intriguing it becomes. That’s not to say the full 12 hours is high on my list of priorities.
Rivette: Out 1 (Volume 1) and Rivette: Out 1 (Volume 2) a dialogue (in two parts) by James Crawford and Michael Joshua Rowin, is a very interesting way to convince yourself not to bother with 01. Interesting ideas and clever quotes, my favourite so far is:
All of the Nouvelle Vague directors I hold dear address cinema from its first principles, like students learning the grammar of a foreign language—and then proceed to break, bend, twist, and ignore the ones they find the most limiting. Rivette finds displeasure in the strictures of storytelling soi-disant, and so, furthering his use of the vehicle as metaphor, lets his narrative motor idle, sputter, and eventually stall while he drifts over to the stuff he finds more intriguing. The problem is thus bequeathed to the spectators, who are asked to cast off their ossified conceptions of film’s ontological categories, and let the film resonate and wash about like music.
Writing this and working my way through both essays on 01 at the same time, it’s looking decidedly like the more I read about the film, the more I’m tempted to look at some of it. Strange to think reading about books, films, art, music, means you rarely if ever come to a work with your own eyes first, but after someone much cleverer and more articulate than you has thoroughly dissected it, broken it down, built it up again for you. A reason perhaps why the able few both do the study and then go out and make one of their own, ensuring the authentic first time experience. You thought it up. if you do – novel, play, film – you’re excused being suffused with intertextuality and referentiality and reflexivity. There’s really no escape from them.