In the New York Times, Dennis Lim writes about his pilgrimage to London to see the unheard-of two-day screening of a "cinephile’s holy grail" â€” Jacques Rivette‘s 12 1/2-hour "Out 1: Noli Me Tangere."
So just how rare is the original "Out 1"? The National Film Theater program claimed it had been "unseen since its one and only screening in Le Havre." David Thomson, in his Biographical Dictionary of Film, notes that it was "never shown properly without mechanical breakdown." The critic Jonathan Rosenbaum reported a sighting at the 1989 Rotterdam Film Festival, where 45 minutes of its soundtrack was missing. Mr. Rosenbaum said that Mr. Rivette cut 10 minutes from the film after Rotterdam. That 750-minute version quietly surfaced at a few European festivals and on French cable television, then disappeared again.
Lim is rapturous in describing the film â€” though of course, part of the thrill must come from the singularity of the occasion…the phantom film! People traveling from far-off places to see it!
"Out 1: Noli Me Tangere" will make its US debut at the Museum of the Moving Image’s Rivette retrospective in November. Meanwhile, we, sitting in a near-packed theater on the passing damp Friday at a screening of "Army of Shadows," had to wonder about the power of the appeal of the rarity. Like any good cinephile, we take our Melville stylish and fatalistic, but doubt that "Army of Shadows" would have garnered such beatific reviews and an extended run at Film Forum if it had actually first been released back in 1969, rather than making the triumphant arthouse rounds today as the "great, forgetten Melville masterpiece." There’s something suffocating in its tone â€” Melville applying his sense of morose cool to an already inherently grim subject makes for something almost unbearably cruel. His austere Resistance members scrabble away against the walls of the occupation and achieve nothing except betrayals and death; their main cause seems to be the mere continued existence of their operation, and the overwhelming sense of futility that builds throughout the film dwarfs the suspense of the scattered, small-scale setpieces.
In his piece on bootleg rarity DVDs at Slate, John DeFore dredges up (or, actually, fails to) the holy grail of anyone with a sense of cinematic kitsch: "the legendary Jerry Lewis-meets-the-Holocaust title ‘The Day the Clown Cried,’" in which Lewis plays Helmut Doork, a Nazi clown who leads children into the gas chamber. In an age where fewer things are genuinely out of reach (the Criterion "SalÃ²" may be out of print, but dozens of bootleg copies â€” and the occasional legit one â€” are a mere eBay search away), "The Day the Clown Cried" doesn’t seem to turn up anywhere. It just lurks there in the popular consciousness, a myth of terrible taste.
At Looker, a sharp-eyed Lawrence Levi spots a gem in the June issue of Harper’s, which offers up unsigned clips of letters written in support of Jack Abramoff to Judge Paul Huck of Federal District Court in Miami:
One of the excerpts, appearing just below one asserting that "the Abramoffs held up their share of the car-pool duties," stated:
Jack made every effort possible to secure funding for a film entitled The Day the Clown Cried, a movie about the importance of taking care of children, set in a WWII concentration camp.
Levi traces the letter to a Michael Barclay, "who fifteen years ago was president of a short-lived independent production company called Rainbow Ridge Films," and gives him a call. It’s solid gold.
Incidentally, in the Slate article DeFore mentions "Lost & Found Video Night #6," part of a series of collections of the sort of video oddities that, as he admits, were practically what YouTube and similar sites were created for. Some of the clips he mentions: Siskel and Ebert bickering while the camera runs and they try to shoot a promo; a drug-addled James Brown interview; and for the true sadists, those outtakes of an apparently smashed Orson Welles at a Paul Masson commercial shoot: "uaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaaahhhthe French champagne…"
+ An Elusive All-Day Film and the Bug-Eyed Few Who Have Seen It (NY Times)
+ Bootleg Movies (Slate)
+ The Clown, Still Crying (Looker)