In 1974, Rivette recut and reinvented his Out 1 into the retitled Out 1: Spectre. In 1981, he reshaped his feature film La pont du nord into a short film called Paris s'en va. In 1991, he recut his La belle noiseuse into the retitled Divertimento. These are six completely different films culled from the same wells of footage. There are select isolated incidents in cinema history when material is used over again in only slightly reinvented versions, but no one seems to think as deeply about the ramifications of this as Rivette does. One such example is Alain Robbe-Grillet, who helmed N. a pris les dés (1971) using footage from his previous year’s Eden and After (1970). Robbe-Grillet later did the same in literature, reworking his early novel Le reprise into a late-career novel called Les gommes. In the music world, the late musician Arthur Russell conceived many of his most haunting cello/vocal songs using worked-over riffs, repeated, sharpened then softened again with a shuffling of moods and audio motifs. Russell meditates on these elements, in some sense reinventing them in succession over the course of entire albums. Filmmaker Alain Resnais also toyed with a similar notion of meta-reinvention with his 1993 diptych Smoking/No Smoking.
Time Out London critic and film scholar Jonathan Romney writes of Divertimento, “Rivette here remodels La belle noiseuse into another film entirely, using alternative takes, recutting to a much brisker rhythm, and bookending it with a discretely but crucially different beginning and ending. The film makes more of a mystery out of the artist-model relationship; the emphasis now shifts radically onto the artist’s wife, who now witnesses the proceedings from outside, much as we do. It’s a lighter film, but by no means slighter; it’s more like the difference between a Henry James short story and an extended performance piece.” Romney also writes that Out 1: Spectre is “not so much a digest of Rivette’s legendary original Out 1 as a ghost and a reworking of some of the same material (‘a critique,’ Rivette himself says). Cinema will never be the same, and neither will we.” I cannot undersell how enterprising and fascinating this is. This idea of a film critiquing itself within the outlines of a reinvention of itself is truly revolutionary, and not even Godard at his most deconstructively fiery could reach these heights. Of this, Rivette says, “Film is not granite or stone. It lives. A general release of one version does nothing to change that.”
Jonathan Rosenbaum writes, "Complicating the textual status of Out 1 still further is the 255-minute Out 1: Spectre, which Rivette spent the better part of a year editing out of the original material. Part of the fascinating difference between the two films can be seen in the ways that identical footage can often carry disparate meanings and perform radically different dramatic and narrative functions according to its separate placement in each film. (The opening shot of Spectre, for instance, occurs almost three hours into the serial. One of the more striking differences in the long version is that Michel Lonsdale, the director of one of the film's two theater groups, emerges as the central character -- not only because of his role in guiding his group's improvisations and psychic self-explorations, but also because his ambiguous role as a rather infantile patriarch becomes pivotal to the overall movement of the plot.)"
Not every film warrants reinvention, however, and some films warrant it more than others. For instance, in the creatively fertile early 70’s, it seems that shooting ratios (i.e. the ratio of raw film shot to film elements used in the final cut) were at the most “insane” for American film. It was not uncommon for filmmakers to shoot almost a million feet of film for a 90-minute motion picture. In perhaps the most exploratory and intensely probing period for actual film production, when single scenes became encounter sessions and epic-scale improvisatory wonder-reels, and when the editing process became something akin to active sculpting of the unwieldy moving parts, the possibilities for re-toolings works of this nature are endless.
Similarly, The Idiotmaker’s Gravity Tour, a film which pays homage to many of the pictures of that period, was simply a constant discovery in that the cameras just rolled often with only the vague outline of a game-plan, ending up with a prodigiously large shooting ratio and material at which I ultimately chizzeled away for over a year. As a result, I have one finished film and loads of unused material that I’ve been turning over in my head for some time, and I now believe I can tell another story (or at least another side of the same story) with this wealth of rushes. The new work will be titled Teschlock’s Whale.
Below are some other films which, to me, are the most promising candidates for Rivettian re-imaginings, by sheer virtue of the nature of the projects and the rumors of their shooting ratios.