Six months ago, I undertook a video essay collaboration on Jacques Rivette's 13-hour magnum opus Out 1: noli me tangere with Covadonga G. Lahera (whose other work can be found on Vimeo). This was the fifth entry in the Out 1 Video Essay Project created by Chris Luscri for the Melbourne International Film Festival. Earlier participants included Kevin B. Lee, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Adrian Martin, Cristina Álvarez López, David Heslin, and Chris himself. Right off the bat, Covi and I decided to take a slightly different approach. We noticed that both of us enjoyed creating non-narrated videos, establishing links between various moments via montage, superimposition, and manipulation of the image. We also frequently liked to let clips play out, so that the viewer could experience a small section of a film out of context.
We decided to design a "video letter" exchange (divided into 8 parts, just like the film itself), taking advantage of our geographical distance to establish a back-and-forth dynamic. It would begin by featuring long, unedited clips and conclude by heavily "interfering," sonically and visually, with the material from the film (and even incorporating footage from outside the film). Not only would this be a fun game, it would echo the actual film's structure since Rivette and his co-director Suzanne Schiffman slowly built improvisations and standalone ideas into a narrative of conspiracy and interconnection, escalating the pace of the cutting and experimentation as both the production and the presentation of the film advanced. I'm not sure I've had as much fun working on a video before as I did with this project and - after logistical delays throughout the fall - I'm thrilled to see it up and out there. Thanks so much to Covi, Chris, and to Danny Kasman from MUBI for making this possible.
Here is (the beginning of) what Covi and I had to say about our collaboration on MUBI (you should definitely follow this link to get a full scope of the project, both our contribution and others'):
COVI: "Our mission, as we chose to accept it, consisted of a game of exchange between strangers. Each was to give the other a video lettre which would then be returned in sequence, the final structure of the work a literal replication of this back-and-forth dialectic. In order to facilitate a wider dialogue, each letter was to be about a minute long, and constructed mostly through images and sounds from Rivette’s Out 1: noli me tangere. ..."To continue reading our introductions, visit MUBI's presentation of the video.
JOEL: "When Covi and I first exchanged emails, we toyed with different video essay formats. We decided pretty quickly that we did not want to use narration, but then we went even further—deciding that, at least initially, we would avoid dialogue altogether, though words would inevitably sneak their way into our “Language of Birds" within a few chapters. ..."
If you enjoy this strange brew, please share it with others!
And if you like seeing clips from Rivette, check out my recent montage pairing Duelle and Out 1 with Brian Eno's "Golden Hours."