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FROM BREATHLESS

TO FILM SOCIALISME

MULTIPLE
PLUS: GODARD’S EIGHTIES JEANS
INTERVIEWS COMMERCIALS ANALYZED

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A D I G I TA L A N T H O LO GY | O C TO B E R 2 0 1 4 | P U B L I S H E D B Y T H E F I L M S O C I E T Y O F L I N C O L N C E N T E R

THE
GODARD
COLLECTION

contents

Published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center/A Digital Anthology October 2014

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THREE FILMS FROM PARIS BY FREDERICK WELLINGTON
Three concurrent New Wave tales of adultery, including Godard’s Une Femme Mariée, are contrasted and examined as studies of contemporary mores (from Summer 1965, pgs. 30-33)

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WIND FROM THE EAST BY JOAN MELLEN
A review of this Maoist micro-epic provides a framework for discussion of Godard’s newly politicized work and
stances on other artists attempting to document revolution (from Fall 1971, pgs. 65-67)

11 JOURNAL: PARIS BY JONATHAN R OSENBAUM
A meditation on the appeal of Jerry Lewis and particularly Lewis’s mentor, Frank Tashlin, to French cinéastes—
including Godard, who considers them stylistic innovators par excellence (from March/April 1973, pgs. 2, 4 & 6)
13 TOUT VA BIEN BY STE VEN SIMMONS
Godard’s struggle to achieve a revolutionary film grammar in the 1972 work is discussed alongside reflections
on the political utility of advanced art (from May/June 1974, pgs. 54-59)
19 IN DEFENSE OF ART BY R OBIN W OOD
A probing of the Marxist-semiologist school as embodied by Godard, exposing its dogmatism and contradictions, such as the outwardly revolutionary Vertov group’s resolve to make films for a small, educated Marxist
elite (from July/August 1975, pgs. 44-51)
27 REALISM AND REVOLUTION BY R OBIN W OOD
Godard’s Numéro Deux and fellow Cahiers du Cinéma critic Jean-Louis Camolli’s La Cecilia are compared with
regard to attitudes toward bourgeois tradition (from May/June 1977, pgs. 17-23)
34 JOURNAL: LONDON BY GILBER T ADAIR
Two epic-length television productions by Godard are subjected to close analysis of his methods, from his visual
signatures to his epigrammatic scripting (from May/June 1981, pgs. 4, 6)
36 BLUEJEAN-LUC GODARD BY H.A. R ODCHENKO
In his inimitable style, Godard takes on the advertising industry from the inside by making jean commercials for
Girbaud (from November/December 1987, pgs. 2-4)
38 SOUND TRACK: OPERATUNITIES BY MICHAEL WALSH
In the omnibus film Aria, 10 directors return to the original mass entertainment—opera. Godard’s features models flitting around bodybuilders in a gym (from May/June 1988, pgs. 76-77)
40 AWARD-WINNING CORRESPONDENCE BY JEAN-LUC GODARD
After declining to accept a Special Award from the New York Film Critics Circle, Godard provides a short list of
grievances against the film industry (from March/April 1995, pg. 2)
41 DOUBLE-HELIX BY ARMOND WHITE
A softer, spiritual, more humane side of the enfant terrible of the New Wave emerges in his video works Nouvelle Vague, Hélas pour moi, JLG/JLG, and Histoire(s) du cinéma (from March/April 1996, pgs. 26-30)
46 JEAN-LUC GODARD INTERVIEWED BY GAVIN SMITH
In an extended interview, the director discusses video as an art form, his revulsion for Spielberg, getting old,
painting, and how filmmakers aren’t as good as they were in the Forties (from March/April 1996, pgs. 31-41)
55 GODS IN THE DETAILS: GODARD’S CONTEMPT BY DAVE KEHR
Contempt is one of the director’s most penetrating works about gender, the film industry, mythology, and the
relationship between words and cinema (from September/October 1997, pgs. 18-24)
61 PLAGIARIZING THE PLAGIARIST: GODARD MEETS THE SITUATIONISTS BY BRIAN PRICE
Godard’s appropriation of Situationist aesthetics infuriated Guy Debord, but was the director actually a more
faithful critic of the society of the spectacle than Debord? (from November/December 1997, pgs. 66-69)

filmcomment A Digital Anthology 2014

contents

Published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center/A Digital Anthology October 2014

65 GODARD IN THE NINETIES: AN INTERVIEW, ARGUMENT, AND SCRAPBOOK BY JONATHAN R OSENBAUM
JLG answers questions about the various shift in focus in his work throughout the Nineties—a special concern
with aesthetic beauty in war, theater, painting, and women; the dance between reality and fiction; the use of
video over film; and changing values in film criticism and culture (from September/October 1998, pgs. 52-63)
73 (SOUND) TRACKING GODARD BY KENT JONES
When a blind woman wrote a poignant essay about Nouvelle Vague, Godard released a copy of it with the
soundtrack; for Histoire(s), EMC publishes five volumes of text and the full soundtrack on five CDs (from September/October 2000, pgs. 17-18)
75 GODARD’S IN PRAISE OF LOVE BY CHRIS NORRIS
Godard’s soundtracks can be jarring and cerebral, but, on a deeper level, they are carefully composed and more
akin to Debussy than Schoenberg (from November/December 2001, pg. 14)
76 IN THE SHADOW OF MEMORY BY AMY TAUBIN
In Praise of Love articulates the limitations of an artist’s vision (from January/February 2002, pgs. 50-52)
79 HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL BY JEAN-Y VES GAILLAC, TISSY MOR GUE & JEAN-PHILIPPE GUERAND
A brief interview about In Praise of Love touches upon memory and genocide, and reveals what happened to
Juliette Binoche’s voiceover (from January/February 2002, pgs. 53-54)
81 STUCK ON LAKE GENEVA WITH THE PARIS BLUES AGAIN BY KENT JONES
In Praise of Love traps visual beauty in the frame, though his handle on philosophy is a little shaky (from January/February 2002, pg. 55)
82 FROM PROJECTOR TO PARADE BY SER GE DANEY
A 1989 essay on how movie spectatorship has changed, and a discussion of Godard’s return to the freeze-frame
and his theories on montage (from July/August 2002, pgs. 36-39)
86 THE JOY OF BEING SWISS BY FRÉDÉRIC BONNAUD
Godard blends mediums—the paintings of Aimé Pache, the music of Beethoven, and film clips of the Vaud countryside—in his new video essay Liberty and Homeland (from September/October 2003, pgs. 14-15)
88 VIVE LA RÉSISTANCE! BY J. HOBERMAN
Colin MacCabe’s biography offers a unique portrait (from January/February 2004, pg. 76)
90 CHAPTER AND VERSE BY RI CHARD COMBS & RAYMOND DUR GNAT
How to pick apart Godard’s approach and reconfigure it through an analytical lens (from January/February
2005, pgs. 35-36, 39, 42-43)
95 OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS BY FRÉDÉRIC BONNAUD
A glimpse of JLG behind the scenes as he films Notre musique (from January/February 2005, pgs. 37, 40-41)
98 HEAD TRIP BY AMY TAUBIN
Chaotic enclosures: Godard’s installation for the Pompidou Center (from July/August 2006, pg. 17)
99 AN IDEAL FOR LIVING BY GEOFFREY O’BRIEN
A masterpiece through the ages: tracing Godard’s Breathless back to its origins (from May/June 2010, pgs. 28-33)
105 WIPING THE SLATE CLEAN BY AMY TAUBIN
Sonatas and socialism: Godard takes high command of digital media in Film Socialisme, a film in three movements shot entirely in HD video (from September/October 2010, pgs. 44-46)

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” ■ . not because he slept in it or because it might resemble his actual bed but rather because the installation is as autobiographical as the film JLG/JLG and as much a personal essay on image/sound.Welles. in the face of his mortality. an internment camp for art and ideas. it was almost inevitable that he would bring his version of Malraux into the bastion of the museum itself. subtitled À la recherche d’un théorème perdu. generic home furnishing including the aforementioned bed. There are monitors ranging in size from two to 60 inches running clips from films by Godard’s favorite directors (Bresson. and by some loathed directors as well. Voyage(s) en utopie. and that Godard wanted the public to know that the Pompidou had played Jack Palance to the artist’s Fritz Lang. the installation Godard created for the Pompidou Center in Paris. and as detailed as Joseph Cornell box collages.Toy electric freight trains run on tracks that tunnel through the wall between room -2 and room 3—how can you see a freight train and not remember the Holocaust. Since Malraux’s concept of the “museum without walls” is the touchstone for all of Godard’s cinema. as if one were an editor cutting between angles. spilling on to the nearby floor? And then there is Collage(s) de France. like a cinematic title sequence. Godard had proposed another installation. a bag of potting soil that’s part of a video garden (shades of Nam June Paik).To look inside their glass enclosures.FC_16-17_SoundVision. and the cacophony from the speakers of several dozen monitors adds to the assault. and positioned just outside the entrance to the museum’s mezzanine-level south gallery where Voyage(s) en utopie is housed. cropped from photographic reproductions of master paintings—among them a Godard favorite. in the form of maquettes. as a preview of the elements and strategies involved in the work proper. Initially. and strewn not the illusionistic space of film but an actual space with the objects and ideas of his 75-year-old imaginary museum. archéologie du cinéma d’après JLG. small ladders.qxd 6/21/06 5:52 PM Page 17 Head Trip PHOTO BY GAVIN SMITH A recent Godard installation expands an already massive oeuvre into infinite dimensions BY A M Y TAU B I N I wrote most of what follows sitting on Jean-Luc Godard’s bed in Voyage(s) en utopie. fences. rejected for whatever reason but smuggled into Voyage(s) en utopie nevertheless. The space of Voyage(s) en utopie is divided into three rooms. and floor. but the Pompidou rejected it because of “artistic. I say Godard’s bed. is not one installation but two. The poster is part of a grouping of images and objects that function. Chaplin). and ideology/politics as Histoire(s) du cinéma. one of several negations to come. big ladders. especially with a sentence from Bergson’s Matter and Memory. history/memory. titled Collage(s) de France. and books nailed to tables.There’s no way to enter the museum without raising his ghost.” wrote Malraux.“is the presence in life of what ought to belong to death. suggesting that arguments continued even as the show was being installed. because of the many wire and wooden fences. The play of projections and reflections summons The Large Glass of Marcel Duchamp.The effect is of a circus gone out of control or. and financial difficulties. including half a dozen made specifically for this installation. one sees through the glass walls so that the interiors of the model rooms are superimposed onto the exterior space. Godard is so successful at setting a tone of anger and frustration at the front door that it’s not until you’ve immersed yourself in the piece that you sense the improvisational energy and formal discovery involved in exchanging cinema’s linearity for simultaneity and threedimensional relationships. had split open his head.” Visitors enter “-2”first. According to the mock-up poster.There are wires attached everywhere. Renoir. one of the nailed books.”The words “technical and financial” are crossed out.”“3. The other key object here is a collage of four female heads in closeup. It is as if Godard. one inside the other. Miniatures of the nine rooms Godard originally proposed.“The real museum. the installation seems visually chaotic. by Godard himself. technical. they are handmade and hand-painted. Girl with a Pearl Earring—all vision of them illustrations in André Malraux’s The Voices of Silence.”and “1. one has to keep shifting positions. hand-lettered and designed in Godard’s deliberately schoolboy style.The sheer number of “things”—most of them familiar Godard fetishes—is overwhelming. Some have films running on tiny video screens. labeled in order of access:“-2. And from certain angles.

qxd:028FC 4/21/10 4:01 PM Page 28 Breathless will always be more than a movie ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF RIALTO PICTURES/STUDIOCANAL. EXCEPT OPPOSITE: COURTESY OF THE CRITERION COLLECTION AN IDEAL FOR LIVING For Geoffrey O’Brien. .FC_28-33_Breathless.

qxd:028FC 4/21/10 4:02 PM Page 29 .FC_28-33_Breathless.

but it’s the best that movies can do. . in part because it serves to remind just how much time has passed since I first saw it. To those of us entering adolescence. most recently in a pristine Criterion restoration. years later. Griffith and Louis Feuillade (who had not yet even hit their stride). attentive not only to plot or dialogue or deliberately grand composition but to everything that came. At the time it seemed to promise an era of wonders to come— unimaginable movies. (The restored DVD makes the film clearer but at the cost of some of those cherished associations. exhilarating. To have come upon Seberg and Belmondo exactly as they were may not be quite like getting youth back. bracing. it has remained continuously available. There was perhaps more magic in the anticipation than in all that followed—there generally is. Breathless was like the trailer for what we hoped our lives would be: hilarious. it still feels that way. it was a wonderland constructed from pieces of what was then just beginning to be described as “pop culture. The first time I saw Breathless on video—on a tape that looked as if it had been struck from the very print that had made the rounds of Manhattan revival houses in the Sixties—I was amazed to recognize each flaw and scratch.) Pauline Kael perceived something not altogether dissimilar. I cannot report on Breathless as it looks now because it will never lose for me its original mesmeric fascination. when at age 12 I was just getting immersed in movies. Everything seemed potentially important. even now. unrestrainedly vicious. It is emphatically. but likewise impossible not to be once again taken over by her just as she takes over her supposedly hardboiled lover. It was not like watching a movie of the world. I find it easier to reconstruct my own first take on Breathless than to grasp. finding Belmondo and Seberg “as shallow and empty as the shining young faces you see in sports cars and in suburban supermarkets. and in newspapers after unmotivated. Breathless was more like Alice in Wonderland than like Scarface. . And you’re left with the horrible suspicion that this is a new race. pointless crimes. then my contemporaries must belong to it. and so relatively little since? Breathless still seems very much a live influence.” I f it was a new race. after a few moments of initial detachment—but then that opening car theft in Marseille was always disorienting—the deeply ingrained associations begin to kick in.” The phrase had not yet worn out its welcome. concerned mainly with eroticism and the restless drives of a cruel young punk to get along. finally realize it had been the voice of Gene Tierney crying out in that Parisian movie theater: “You don’t want to know the truth—you won’t let me tell it—you think I’m lying!” These bits of Godardian citation were talismanic street signs. and will be re-released theatrically this month. for instance. had I looked back half a century in 1960. That the iconic images of Jean-Paul Belmondo in hat and shades and Jean Seberg in New York Herald Tribune T-shirt have never gone away make it easy to pretend it was all the day before yesterday. How could so much have changed in that earlier 50-year span. Every peripheral glimpse or overheard fragment of conversation was somehow indispensable. promenades and parties and love scenes (real or attempted) were for a long time all more or less remakes of Breathless. The tiniest peculiarities of film grain were like old friends. In the same way that every photograph in Robert Frank’s The Americans (another overwhelming product of that moment) was both offhand and monumental. It became part of the furniture of life. but rather as if the world itself had forced its way into the movie theater. F or me. inventions. of the later history of Jean Seberg. On a fresh viewing. Reading Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key one might come upon the same line about not wearing silk socks with tweeds. Every second of its running time—every stray reference and physical gesture and cinematic device—would be shared and parsed and rehashed. . from a glimpse of wall poster or comic strip to the expression on the face of a passerby on the fringe of the frame. It is also more than a little unsettling to think that. Breathless turned any courtyard or café into a site as resonant as the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. To look back to Bosley Crowther’s New York Times review is to re-enter a lost world: “[S]ordid is really a mild word for its pile-up of gross indecencies . W. more or less accurately. completely devoid of moral tone.” (He might have been describing. as Godard said in a 1961 interview. watching Otto Preminger’s Whirlpool. into the audiovisual field. and.) Breathless was the first film I had watched that way. as doubtless for many who caught it the first time around.FC_28-33_Breathless. or rather inextricably embedded in them.qxd:028FC 4/21/10 4:02 PM Page 30 that Breathless should have reached its 50th anniversary is a bit hard to accept. I don’t so much recollect my first reactions to Breathless as find myself involuntarily possessed by them. It’s impossible to watch it now without thinking. pointing toward hidden alternate worlds: if. its effect on my elders. however briefly or marginally. Breathless became the indispensable text to which anyone who had not already seen it had to be dragged. We took Breathless as a manual of how to move through the > > i n f o c u s : The 50th anniversary restoration tour of Breathless kicks off at New York’s Film Forum on May 28. bred in chaos. a drive-in movie of the same period like The Beat Generation or Platinum High School. I would have been contemplating an inconceivably remote film world whose pathbreaking work was being done by the likes of D. although in subtler and more suggestive terms. and filled with allusions you could happily spend a lifetime tracking down. pleasures—with Jean-Luc Godard a new name for astonishment. That first viewing was followed by many more. and the movie itself. within a year of its New York opening.

FC_28-33_Breathless. .qxd:028FC 4/21/10 4:02 PM Page 31 WHAT SEEMED TO BE HAPPENING IN BREATHLESS AMOUNTED TO A REVOLU- TION: THE PEOPLE WATCHING THE MOVIES HAD ASSERTED CONTROL OVER THEM.

leapfrogging from jump cut to jump cut.qxd:028FC 4/21/10 4:02 PM Page 32 world in cool balletic fashion. Make faces in the mirror. How many times would we emulate the staring contest in which Seberg gazes at Belmondo “to know what’s behind your face”? The answer to her question might well be “nothing. Smoke cigarettes (as many as required to give every interior an elegantly evanescent haze). All rights reserved. This constant discovering of expressions and gestures. Parvulesco’s credo—“To become immortal and then to die”—represented a perfect fusion of Walter Pater’s injunction to “burn always with this hard. it was a nihilism that looked very much like fun. And aspire to the company of someone just like Jean Seberg. pausing for brief indelible poses. with the hope that she would not finally betray you to the police—or. Inc. all the others merely orbiting around it—we imagined the possibility of love as play.” opted decisively for nothing: “Le chagrin c’est idiot. all that other business of murder and betrayal and final brutal rejection seemed likewise a game. as if your movements were continually underscored by the endlessly repeated phrases of Martial Solal’s score.” If you didn’t want to be Belmondo’s Michel Poiccard—that is. We were duly jolted when Michel. Each character consisted of a series of moves. In the long central scene between Belmondo and Seberg—the scene that in retrospect was the movie.” (“Grief is idiotic. and leave a good-looking corpse. S08/19880 . especially the ones with Humphrey Bogart. I’d choose nothingness. carefully measured takes. Back then I don’t think I believed for a moment that the Michel who gunned down the cop and mugged the unfortunate fellow in the men’s room was the same Michel who clowned so charmingly and was moved by Mozart—no more than I believed that the Patricia who slept her way to journalistic success and ratted on her boyfriend was the same Patricia whose Americanaccented French was so indescribably charming. Go to the movies. Behave. and dropping the occasional gnomic observation after the fashion of JeanPierre Melville as the aphoristic novelist Parvulesco. and hardly Proud Supporter of the Film Society of Lincoln Center Dolby and the double-D symbol are registered trademarks of Dolby Laboratories. Play a favorite piece of music with the understated reverence of Belmondo for the Mozart clarinet concerto.”) But if this was nihilism. Learn French (if only to find out what dégueulasse really meant). in response to Faulkner’s “Between grief and nothing I will take grief.” perhaps. when moving among the spaces of the city. Wear hats indoors. Each role could be tried on and reversed and changed for another. die young.FC_28-33_Breathless. Live in discrete. Breathless figured as a series of directives: wear sunglasses. © 2008 Dolby Laboratories. if the romance of self-destruction was not altogether tempting—you could always aim for Parvulesco’s exquisite contempt. G iven the advanced level of game-playing going on. was what life was to be about. betray you with a rival like the mysteriously creepy Herald Tribune editor incarnated by Van Doude. Je choisis le néant. perversely changeable. this deployment of hats and posters and quotations from Faulkner in the service of some ineffable higher communication between lovers. Go to Paris. gemlike flame” and the teen punk epigram of Knock on Any Door: “Live fast. more plausibly.

psychologically nuanced” film. and where he had gone any of us might follow. Bob Hope. Movies had always provided materials for improvisational role-playing. In Godard. As kids we had played Lost Patrol or King Kong in the back yard. replaying fantasies brought to us courtesy of “Million Dollar Movie”—scripts for the imagination. The moment-to-moment exchanges of Breathless were not exotic or extraordinary in themselves. it was because he had reversed the power relationship between mesmerized viewer and entrancing spectacle. ■ Geoffrey O’Brien is editor-in-chief for The Library of America.scriptapalooza. They were free to make themselves up as they went along. It wasn’t that he addressed the audience directly (Groucho Marx. and Red Sky Café. the moviegoer had taken over the movie. they became so because they had been filmed—or rather.com . it was only in order to retain as much as possible for subsequent use.654. Sonata for Jukebox: An Autobiography of My Ears. This was not film as a record of ordinary life but as cinematic utopia: a continuous process of inventing the world by turning it into a movie.5809 office www.FC_28-33_Breathless. If we had learned to stare attentively at movies. that was in fact their chief function. all the more powerful because in pre-video days they had to be reconstructed from memory. the freedom not to be a character in what Bosley Crowther might have called a “threedimensional. scriptapalooza 12th Annual screenplay competition regular deadline March 5 FINAL deadline April 15 $10. His books include Hardboiled America. right from the moment when Belmondo launched into monologue mode while driving along in his stolen car. The flitting. If Godard became an immediate hero. What seemed to be happening in Breathless amounted to a revolution: the people watching the movies had asserted control over them. and others had done that for comic effect) but that he didn’t: he treated the screen as a space in which a private freedom might be indulged. The wall separating movie from audience had been smashed. Dream Time.qxd:028FC 4/21/10 4:02 PM Page 33 adding up to anything like a coherent personality.com info@scriptapalooza. and this promised to be no game but the most serious thing in the world.000 first place prize Over 90 production companies reading all the entered scripts and the top 30 winners get software from Write Brothers 323. they existed in the first place in order to be filmed. whimsical zigzags that Michel and Patricia engaged in with every move looked like supreme freedom.

The chaotically pulsing pixels and overly saturated. (A note about viewing circumstance: absent from Cannes this year. e l i o t.e. The phrase des choses comme ça (“things like that”) is repeated throughout. their relationship. But if indeed this is an ending. Greece. and a third that is faster and shorter than the first. Barcelona—largely by scavenging through banked images of 20th-century horror. I missed the opportunity to see Film Socialisme projected on the big screen.” — t. . and they seem to have wielded every variety of video camera from cell phone to state-of-the-art HD. it is not a summation. less than satisfactory as cinematic experience. are credited. s . particularly in terms of tempo and the statement and recapitulation of themes. here are some things—pitifully few—about des choses comme ça as chosen by Godard in what might or might not be his last film. flattened fields of fauve blues and yellows. relative—not ideal.and low-tech digital. depicting places where what Godard terms “our humanities” were born—Egypt. approximate. Odessa. bisected and trisected like lessons in geometry or. The second movement is confined to a small house and an adjacent gas station somewhere in the south of France. smeared colors of the low-tech images result in busy.qxd:044FC 8/18/10 8:44 PM Page 44 Wiping the Slate Clean With Film Socialisme. All T >> in focus: Film Socialisme will be screened on September 29 in the 48th New York Film Festival. While he has often fashioned a dialectic with film and video. The third recapitulates the Mediterranean journey of the first. What follows is based on DVD viewing—useful for analysis. applied specifically to the movie rumored to be the last by Jean-Luc Godard. Hellas (i.FC_44-47_FilmSocialisme. Naples. and when they collide with the hightech images—hyperreal. a slow second. corresponding more or less to classical sonata form: a fast-paced first movement.) Film Socialisme is a movie in three movements. The Waste Land think i ’ ve used this quotation before—perhaps in relation to Histoire(s) du cinéma—but it has never seemed as appropriate as it does now. relatively little overlapping sound) of high. This is the work of art as provisional. filling the entire screen with eddies and waves of blues and whites—the visual drama is extraordinary. The opening movement takes I place on a huge ocean liner cruising the Mediterranean. his is the first feature-length movie that godard has made entirely on video. according to one of several interviews he gave prior to the premiere. Godard among them. with brief side trips in various ports of call. Film Socialisme. Jean-Luc Godard embarks on an unsentimental journey—and asks “Quo Vadis?” by Amy Taubin “These fragments I have shored against my ruins. garish near-abstractions. here the kinetic montage of the cruise ship section is created through abrupt juxtapositions (straight cuts. hélas). in the case of the overhead shots of the sea. Four principal cameramen. Godard’s preference. Palestine. And so.

qxd:044FC 8/19/10 3:02 PM Page 45 is representation. And yet. communicate far better with each other and with us than do the humans. gnomic pronouncements. Arabic. and bursts of music. Most of the film’s text is in French with a smattering of German. owing Europe anything at all. In response. For the Cannes screening. Nothing in Film Socialisme. The cruise ship is a floating Las Vegas. which were as unhelpful as they were meant to be. Learning from Las Vegas. Godard added subtitles in what he termed “Navajo English” at the bottom of the frame. Indeed. Hebrew. Which is to say that . drink. chains of associations broken off before they’ve barely begun—is spoken by about a dozen actors. Generous as the movie is with visual beauty. the cacophony of the passengers. and Ariswithholding of lintotle—rather than Greece guistic meaning. posed in various parts of the ship.” They are making a putative tour of the roots of Western civilization as a way of escaping the pressures of capitalism in its final throes. Good luck to those last two. is incapable of entertaining the possibility of socialism because they can neither communicate with one another nor reflect on themselves or the reflections of themselves they mindlessly produce. the philosopher Alain Badiou is shown lecturing on geometry and philosophy to an empty auditorium. and more. has the clarity and wit of Godard’s argument that if you believe in intellectual property rights. unwittingly. It is the breathtaking HD images that prove Godard as much a master colorist in digital media as he has been in celluloid. and Greek. Godard cites Fernand Braudel’s great history of the Mediterranean as a source. but one might also think of Venturi. Brown. in a movie that went into production four years ago. the serious young African who says she doesn’t want to die until she sees Europe happy. and they constantly record their activities with all manner of cameras. as “extras. is that the artificial community formed aboard the boat. but not all representation is equal. The fragmented text—which largely consists of non sequiturs. makes glancing references to the global financial meltdown. however. pre-credit image—their iridescent feathers a hint of visual splendors to come—and the pair of cats. exercise. and Izenour’s pivotal 1972 text on postmodernism. it is equally Pericles. the economic crisis in Greece. it is equally withholding of linguistic meaning.FC_44-47_FilmSocialisme. ever the Cassandra. solely for the purpose of R&R. As far as one can discern. Godard throws the Latin title “Abii Ne Viderem” (“I departed lest I see”) in block letters across the screen. Sophocles. but no one came. you may think you have an advantage. Russian. (Godard explained in an interview that he placed an announcement of the lecture in the ship’s daily activities calendar. and another serious young woman who says the same about Russia. gamble. their voices often masked by the sounds of wind whistling across unshielded microphones. and they are seldom seen engaged in conversation. then logiGenerous as the cally the entire Western world owes a thousand bilmovie is with visual lion dollars to Greece—for beauty. the pair of parrots in the opening. If you are fluent in French. The several thousand actual passengers on the cruise liner commandeered by Godard function. The actors present themselves less as characters than as familiar Godardian mouthpieces and archetypes: the war-criminal hunter. and watch movies together. pray. but you don’t because this is a film about the failure of language and meaning. Godard. meowing in unison in a YouTube video that we see slightly later. the Jewish banker. At one point. the young woman accompanying the powerful and much older man. which remains “obscure” (to use one of Godard’s favorite words) to the very end. Latin. They eat. the destruction of the waterways by deep-sea drilling.) One interpretation of the movie’s title. they never look at what they’ve recorded.

“A last film?” is a film about the The reply: “Only the title. “No comment. The Martins keep a llama on a painfully short leash. The boy then sits on a couch alone. It is the unsparing proof of Freud’s theory of the death instinct and repetition compulsion. but you press book that accompanied the Cannes screening. off-putting. They come at the end of the third movement. making it likely that this film brings to a close at last his extended raids on the image bank. you may camera and three photos. in the insistence on putting children first. ravishing Film Socialisme—but to all the Godard films that preceded it.qxd:044FC 8/19/10 3:04 PM Page 46 . There are echoes of Wind from the East (70) and. asks the boy what he’s thinking about and he answers. the mood is ominous and despairing. Their bare arms seem illuminated as in a de la Tour painting. to which he answers. painful. But he has also hinted at starting again If you are fluent from zero “with a pencil in French. referring back not only to this enigmatic. especially since the few seconds of black that follow the title give way to an empty field of white. Gradually you might realize that these scenes of rare tenderness and exquisite beauty are fragments of a portrait of the filmmaker as a young boy.” and meaning. scratching his arm as if to confirm its corporeality. then a political debate. When he slams the door on Film Socialisme with two words. a stunning African woman. (Braudel wrote the first volume of his history of the Mediterranean from memory during the years he spent in a German prison camp. don’t because this he queries.despite the visual pyrotechnics of the first section. failure of language Farewell to Language.” “Does that really interest you?” she asks. painting an early Renoir from memory. including his own reedit of Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps sequence. white makes one think about what nothing means. tethered in front of their gas station. the flesh made light—an HD miracle indeed. mother.” written in large letters. until a shot in which the boy is holding onto his mother as she washes the dishes. the extended fixed-camera positions of this adagio section seem a bit too grounded. The wife’s decision to run for local office brings a two-person TV crew to their door. the television series France/tour/détour/deux/enfants (77). “Your ass. it comes as a relief. first spoken as a joke by a cheeky boy (English. it turns out. But is that not the movie I’ve just described? ■ ALL PHOTOS © WILD BUNCH FC_44-47_FilmSocialisme. which reiterates the Mediterranean journey of the first in the form of a montage of footage of the horrors of the 20th century. Part of the slow movement of a Beethoven piano sonata plays on the radio. Otherwise they seem like nice people. Godard revisits footage of wars and atrocities. is good for something). That we’ve seen this film before is precisely the point. How could it be otherwise? he title “ quo vadis europe ” is the segue from the first to the second section. are also the words T that conclude the film. an idea confirmed somewhat later during a scene in which the boy sits on an outdoor staircase. Is this a last film? Godard claims he has given up his production studio and is in the process of dismantling his library of videos and books. “No comment” is a shifter. in which we find ourselves in the modest home of the Martin family—father.) The TV reporter. After the razzledazzle of the opening movement. along with the llama’s donkey sidekick. 10-year-old boy. and teenage girl. Yet one can’t help but feel that it also refers to what is to come.” think you have an Interviewing himself for the advantage.” “No comment. Black signifies nothing. then a bit of Chet Baker.

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