"After completing the four-hour L’amour fou in 1969, Jacques Rivette became interested in the idea of making a cycle of interrelated films that would intersect with each other in a variety of ways to create a kind of narrative maze. And reacting in part to L’amour fou’s deliberately obsessive focus on a single pair of lovers, as well as to contemporary experiments in communal living, he decided to make a film with a huge ensemble cast. Rivette ultimately combined both impulses, and the result, shot on 16mm in order to make its epic length affordable, was the thirteen-hour Out 1.
One way to understand Out 1 is as a product of the dawning realization, at the beginning of the 1970s, that the utopian hopes of the previous decade were not going to be realized. Always one to express himself playfully and indirectly, Rivette builds this sprawling epic around the vague notion of a vast conspiracy that may control everything or nothing. The quest of two eccentric loners and self-appointed investigators seeking to ferret out the truth about largely hidden forces is contrasted with the rehearsals of two theater troupes.
Much of the film unfolds almost like a board game: the moves of various characters were set up to produce episodic encounters whose exact content was often not determined in advance. What gradually emerges is a filmic labyrinth whose cumulative force is received not so much as a unified narrative or accrued meaning, but rather as a vast reflection on the seemingly aleatory nature of modern life and cinema’s potential to intersect with it in a ludic fashion. As Rivette himself put it, ""play", in all senses of the word, was the only idea."
The film screened publicly one time in 1971; knowing that theatrical distribution would be near impossible, Rivette had structured the film in eight episodes in the hope of having it televised. When this never happened, Rivette edited the same footage down to a very different four-hour film, known as Out 1: Spectre […]. (To distinguish between the two films, the 13-hour version is sometimes called Out 1: Noli me tangere, after a label that Rivette affixed to the original print, although this title appears nowhere in the film itself.) But the original Out 1 became a legend – almost never seen in its original version, since venues willing to show it were scarce, as were prints, and subtitled prints were basically nonexistent." – David Pendleton