My Godardventure

Love him or hate him but I got the Jean-Luc Godard bug and can't help myself but to admire his tireless exploration into cinematic medium both in form and substance. I still have a lot to go through. There are some of his 60s films I've seen but don't have written logs in here. Please recommend, comment, and join me on the Godardventure!!


This is my collection of ever growing Godard viewing log in order of my preferences:


Je Vous Salue, Marie/Hail Mary (1985) - Godard
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Godard's take on Virgin Mary might have been seen as an assault on Christianity and the idea of Immaculate Conception but it's actually about one of his usual themes- body/soul dichotomy. What's refreshing about Hail Mary is it's also about relationship between two young people being tested: can they love one another without touching? I can see the film's influence on many younger filmmakers whom I once religiously followed, namely Leos Carax and Hal Hartley with their brooding anti-heroic archetypes.


Hail Mary is perhaps the most beautiful color film I've ever seen. Punctuated by amazingly graceful nature photography and anchored by Myriem Roussel's Marie, a high school basketball player and a virgin who finds herself being pregnant. Marie's questioning "what is flesh alone...?" and her struggle to keep herself chaste is touching and deeply felt. It's the presence of Roussel that differentiates Hail Mary from Godard's post-Anna Karina cynicism.


From what I hear, Hail Mary is one of the last films before Godard turned his direction toward visual essays of the 90s which I find dry and uninteresting. Call me old fashioned, but for me ideas are still best conveyed through stories and characters, not in the lecture halls(movie theaters) that Godard still seems to preside over. Cinematically no one can top Godard's playfulness in the 60s, not even Godard himself. But this is a gorgeous stuff. Easily a top ten material for me.


Nouvelle Vague (1990) - Godard Nouvelle Vague 1 Nouvelle Vague Nouvelle Vague 2 Nouvelle Vague 7 Nouvelle Vague 3 Nouvelle Vague 6 Nouvelle Vague 5 Nouvelle Vague 8 Nouvelle Vague 4
Could Nouvelle Vague be perhaps the most romantic and hopeful Godard film I've seen so far? With stunning visuals and constant, beautiful soundtrack, this new new wave tells a love story between Elena, a rich industrialist (Domiziana Giodarno) and Roger/Richard, a bum (Alain Delon), whom she picks up in her red sports car on the side of the road. She offers him a helping hand. This theme repeats throughout the film. At first, Roger is a quiet fellow and a confused fool who is buried in the background of a giant mansion by the lake filled with the crowd of business people who mostly converse in quotes and business jargons. This scruffy sage becomes an anchor of Elena's hectic life. But when they go boating, Roger falls in the water and Elena refuses to help him. He drowns and comes back as Richard- a business genius overseeing acquiring Warner Bros. Now it's Elena who needs to be saved.

Nouvelle Vague concerns many of Godard's usual themes: masters and servants, rich and poor, dualism, etc. Beautifully realized and impeccably put together (with the forever autumnal Switzerland countryside background and a constant, beautiful soundtrack), the film boasts a lot of stunning images, even for Godard's standard. The rebirth aspect of the film has multiple meanings here- paralleling lives, positive and negative making a whole, repetition of the waves (hence the apt title, not only referring to French New Wave Godard started in the sixties), resurrection of an old icon (Delon, his sharp features and beauty dulled by age), and perhaps the renewal of the First World in the last decade of the century, letting go of its ugly past and prejudices, lending a hand to the world in turmoil. Nouvelle Vague is an engrossing film and certainly is one of the most beautiful Godard films.

 *Just found this article about Nouvelle Vague Soundtrack. The soundtrack itself (entire film- sound, dialog in two discs), is put out by ECM. It's a magnificent record.

Click here for the article

Visit ECM Records for ordering CD


Notre Musique/Our Music (2004) - Godard
Part essay, part narrative, part lecture, this short elegy to Europe is perhaps the most definitive culmination of all Godard's work I've seen so far. Taking cues from Dante's Divine Comedy, the film is in 3 parts: Hell, Purgatory and Paradise (first and last parts are 10 minutes or so and Purgatory is the longest and the meat of the film).
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The first ten minutes is rapidly cut reels of horrors of war- both real and imagined (clips from Hollywood movies) and in both black & White and color. Colors are wildly distorted into almost an abstraction.
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Set in bullet riddled Sarajevo in winter, Purgatory mainly concerns the Israeli/Palestine conflict. Judith Lerner (Sarah Adler), a journalist from Tel Aviv is in town for a literary conference where Godard (as himself) is set to give a lecture on image/text relationship. Like a tourist in a new city, Judith is constantly visible taking pictures in the war-torn but now reviving city. While interviewing and talking to many people- a Palestinian poet, Spanish architect and so on, who appear as themselves, she is there to be assured/bare witness to, that a reconciliation is possible between bitter enemies somewhere, that the bridge (the famed Mostar bridge, built by the Ottomans in the 15th century and had been standing the test of time until was destroyed in the Bosnian War) can be rebuilt.
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Then there is Olga Brodsky (Nade Dieu), a Russian Jew, planning to off herself in a sensational manner in the name of peace. In the Paradise part of the film, Olga walks through the green forest and ends up in water's edge where it is heavily guarded by American GIs.
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Godard plays with complex ideas through series of images and sound. The film devotes considerable amount of time to Godard's lecture on misinterpretation of images. There is light then there is dark. There is a shot, then there is a reverse shot. As usual, this dichotomic world view that has been consistent throughout his career is pronounced. Similar images can contrast each other side by side but an image without context can be misleading.
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The two women- Judith and Olga (both rather plain looking and not particularly noticeable) are mirroring each other. So are damaged, faded fresco of Saint Mary and Olga. The most devastating/hopeful image in Notre Musique is not of a pile of dead bodies or Mostar but close up of Olga's face at the end.

I have to admit that seeing a Godard film requires a bit of effort and get-used-to (visually, since he is not going to give you traditional looking beauty shots). Sometimes his usual heavy Euro-centric references get in the way of viewing. It also feels like a visual literacy class, albeit an exciting one.
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Notre Musique is a serious film. His image association games don't feel like tricks. Gone are his youthful glee and silly satiric humor that has been generally perceived as reductive and contradictory, that alienated many filmgoers over the years. The film doesn't give the audience any easy answers. Godard merely suggests that there are things that need to be investigated further: what you can see is not necessarily the truth. Then I realized that Godard has always been paying the highest respect to the audience- to think for themselves. It's also the most non-combative and relatively easy-to-digest Godard film I've encountered so far. Also it's thrilling.

Only misstep (if I call it that) I consider is the appearance of American Indians. The idea of imperialistic America is pretty well pronounced throughout all JLG films. But I find the inclusion of them in the streets of Sarajevo a little more than distracting. Sure they are underrepresented and their stories seldom told. But it feels like harkening back to his old silly self in otherwise somber film.


Détective (1985) - Godard
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This all-star cast hard hitting noir riff is perhaps Godard's most playful film from the 80s. It concerns monsieur Jim (Johnny Holliday), a two-bit boxing promoter who owes money around town and a lonely wife, Françoise/Geneviéve (Natalie Baye) of a sad faced pilot (Claude Brasseur) of whom Jim owes money to. They are closely monitored 'with the shitty little Japanese video camera' by a gang of amateur inspectors - uncle Prospero, Neveu (Jean-Pierre Leaud) with the help of a perky little thing/would be Neveu's fiancée after she takes the school exam, Arielle (Aurelle Doazan). Jim has his posse of his own - Tiger Jones, a young boxer whose worst enemy is himself, princess of Barbados (Emmanuelle Seigner) and a young botticelli beauty (Julie Delpy) and an accountant who literally asks computer for solutions to every problem.

Jim not only owes money to the couple but also to a mafioso boss called Prince (Alain Cuny) who happens to be staying at the same opulent Paris hotel where everybody seems to be staying in. Actually, the whole film takes place in and around the hotel. The plot is way too discombobulating to follow along. There are some slight comments on technology and porn, but it's all about characters interactions, funny lines ('Damn Italian legs!'), mad slapstick energy (thanks to Leaud) and beauty of youth. Détective is an unabashedly silly, fun film reminiscent of Breathless.


Film Socialisme (2010) - Godard
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Intentional or not, Film Socialisme coming out just before the Arab Spring and the collapse of the Greek economy (the ship sails from Egypt to Greece along various ports) is a hearty validation of Godard's acute observations of Europe and its colonial past over his long career. Here Godard sees a giant cruise ship as a metaphor for Europe- decadent, crass, greedy people enjoying luxury largely serviced by non-European workers, sailing an uncharted territory surrounded by ominous, choppy water. But like always, everything is double edged sword in JLG world. Like the British leaving Palestine and Quo Vadis. But the film is much more than that. Incorporating 35mm, grainy videophone, HD stills and youtube videos, he envisions the filmmaking as a democratic medium, hence the title. Does it always work? No. But it's still darn interesting.
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Typical Godard techniques are present. But he puts even more emphasis on visual storytelling by putting fractured Navaho English subtitle. One might see this as just another Godard snub against English speaking viewers, but when one watches a Godard film, most of the dialog goes over his head anyway. I thought this was brilliant and a vast improvement from the irritating presence of actual American Indians in Notre Musique. The next text after above screenshot is ...killing Blacks. When watching a JLG film, one can't take his loaded images and texts at face value, for that is not his actual opinions. They are archetypes in a movie, like Gary Cooper in High Noon.
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Strangely, a token American featured is singer/poet Patti Smith. Why would she be on a cruise ship? He's just a big fan?
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My classical music knowledge is very limited and I don't really know when people talk about symphony in three movements and Film Socialisme. Yes the film is in three parts (but not your typical, concise three act structure). After the first act at sea on a cruise ship, we are introduced to a family in a remote gas station. TV reporters armed with a small video camera hounds every movement of the family. This thinly disguised as Reality TV parody segment features some of the most visually stimulating and perhaps most hopeful scenes.
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Always at the dead center of the frame, youth- always epitomized by beautiful teenage girls in his films, are curious, smart, funny and willing companions in discussions who are not 'corrupted by suffering and humiliated by liberty' while acknowledging the past.
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The third part of the film starts with montages of war atrocities. There are still much I don't really get- his notion of Nazi gold and Soviets and Odessa Steps are lost on me. Film Socialisme starts out strongly but kind of fizzles at the end. But as always, watching JLG films is always an invigorating experience.


Élogie de l'amour/In Praise of Love (2001) - Godard
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Termed as Godard's third-first film (after Breathless and Sauve qui peut (la vie)), Élogie de l'amour/Ode to Love is an unusually elegant film for his standard. The structure is pretty lean - first hour or so is shot on crisp monochrome 35mm film, the rest is shot on high contrast, saturated video. First part takes place two years after the second. But unlike some of his other films, he avoids his usual diptych sermons. It does concern the usual Godard themes - memories, representation of memories, American hegemony, the war and love. But the film is much more sophisticated and measured than that.

The first part follows a good looking young director Edgar (Bruno Putzulu) as he tries to get things moving on his film about childhood, adulthood and twilight years. He is talking to his art dealer financier M. Forlani and tirelessly pursuing a woman (Cécile Camp) whom he met two years earlier, to star in his film. She in turn refuses repeatedly.

The second part of Élogie concerns largely on Godard's preoccupation with Spielberg's Schindler's List and its representation of Holocaust. His disdain for American culture dominance worldwide hasn't really been a secret, but Schindler's List was such a clutch for him to expound on his hatred fully. There are a pair of arrogant American producers buying off the rights to two old former WWII resistance fighters' stories. The script will be written by a famous American writer (William Styron) and there will be scenes of their younger nude bodies rolling together. But in order to save the historic hotel they own, the old couple cash the check given by Americans in two days.

Love is an interesting subject for Godard since he never dealt with it realistically in his films. It's almost an uncharted territory for him. But I was taken aback by his presentation. It is done so naturally and tenderly without his usual cynicism. The glimpse of the woman's smile on the phone and tender exchanges are the extent of the love story Godard provides- there are no shot/reverse shot for this scene. We only hear one side of the conversation (hers). The woman in question, the grand daughter of the resistance fighters, who later commits suicide, is never fully shown.

Godard's video images are out of this world. It seems Élogie is the culmination of all his interests and obsessions over the years - video technology, Anne-Marie Mieville's influence, Kosovo, the notion of adulthood or lack there of, etc. It's heady, quotation heavy, and spectacularly beautiful.


Oh, Woe is Me/Hellas Pour Moi (1993) - Godard
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I can't decide which Godard films have more beautiful images, as I go through his catalog. Oh, Woe is Me is certainly stunning, but proves to be one of the most inscrutable. Godard seems to suggest that there are limits to the image/film portraying the truth (and faith in god). As one character says, "I'm still touched by words." The film is in book chapters, its characters constantly talking about the existence of god in the modern world and representation of the truth. He ties the idea of faithlessness in the modern world with the limits of the imagery (now I think I understand better about nature images in his films). Then there is light/darkness dichotomy. In a stunning sequence, he closes the lens iris on a portrait shot of a beautiful model from overly exposed to complete black gradually, against undulating lake backdrop. The body gets easily overshadowed by darkness, but our spirit? "The night is for everyone, therefore more democratic," one character says in the beginning of the film. For everyone because they can hide their sins in darkness. God switches bodies with Simon (Gerard Depardieu) to be with Simon's beautiful, redhead school teacher wife, Rachel (Laurence Masliah). Is he pretending to be god or is it all her dream? Contemplative, invigorating, enthralling...just what the doctor ordered. This needs a definite rewatch or two.


Adieu au Langage (2014) - Godard
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3D seems like it is here to stay, for now. It was a gimmick to win back the audiences the film industry lost to the emergence of TV in the 50s', now it is revived as a last ditch effort to save the ailing industry, probably until TV starts broadcasting its contents in 3D (as we all know, it's only a matter of time that we'd be enjoying our football games and movies at home with silly glasses on). But can this new/old technology be elevated onto an art form, rather than being used exclusively to show us a mangled hunk of metal/asteroid as it hurtles toward us? If Herzog's awe inspiring Cave of Forgotten Dreams and now Godard's Goodbye to Language were any indications, the answer is yes. Yes it can.

Always on the forefront of visual experiment and testing the limits of cinema, 3D seems to be a logical next step for Jean-Luc Godard to sink his teeth in. After his test run with the technology in a short Three disasters (his contribution to an omnibus project, 3X3D), JLG, at 83, is fully committing to the 3D technology with Goodbye to Language.

The film starts with a quote, "Those lacking imagination take refuge in reality." With that, there is a slight narrative, concerning a couple (or two) as they bicker and contemplate murder. Women in the film are very much alike (a typical Godard heroine archetype- brunette with dark eyes) and tend to shed their clothes often. An outdoor book market becomes the flash point for the old and new. While browsing for books by Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, people furiously text and exchange their mobile devices. The bookseller shouts from his chair, "Don't bother googling Solzhenitsyn!"

"One day everyone will need an interpreter for what he says." One of the characters utters in the film. Its biblical implication of the world in chaos aside, the film is packed to the brim with visuals. Divided in 2 parts or at least in that Godard's typical chapter headings - Nature and Metaphor, the film grimly/comically announces the death of language.

The most vivid character is perhaps a dog named Roxy (Godard's beloved mutt), who graces the screen with his adorable face in about half of the 70 minute feature, playing around in nature, in all four seasons - near lake Geneva I'm assuming, generally having a good time. 

Godard's contemplation of war is there, but this time, not as specific or pointy as in his earlier films. Still, playing cinema's enfant terrible, he includes shots of burning bodies, and even graphic sex images. The sporadic, jumbled subtitles and dialog appear and repeat, accompanied by equally disjointed soundtrack - Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.

Layering clear HD, pixelated DV, and other grainy archival footage as thick as Dostoevsky novel, Goodbye is denser, more uncompromising, more impenetrable and less coherent than Godard's last outing, Film Socialisme (which I adored). But it's still a marvelous trip. OK. let's talk about the 3D aspect of the film. There is the usual JLG droll word games with his trademark bold titles-- Adieu (in Adieu au Langage) becomes AH, DIEU (Oh, God). Only this time, it's in 3D! People's everyday actions and nature scenes, like drinking from outdoor water faucet or a sunset or sunflower field on a windy day, become cinematic events.

Imagine some of the most visually sumptuous JLG films from his later period. Nouvelle Vague (1990) or Hellas Pour Moi (1993) for example - the ship sailing by in the background, the foggy field, swinging light bulb overhead, a long dolly shot looking through the window. Now picture them in 3D. This is what Goodbye to Langauge is like. It's a thrilling visual experience and I thank god for JLG embracing the gimmicky technology and using it in his tireless exploration of the boundaries of cinema. Ah-Dieu indeed. It's certainly one of the year's best.

Goodbye to Language made its debut at this year's Cannes Film Fest, then TIFF. It is playing at NYFF on 9/27 and 10/1. Please visit FSLC's website for more info.



For Ever Mozart (1997) - Godard
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An old director Vicky (Vicky Messica) is about to direct a film called Fatal Bolero, about a war and suffering. It is largely financed by a seedy old gambling mogul who makes his girlfriend transcribe anal porn, word by word for his pleasure. Vicky holds a large audition for roles and rejects every one of them before they even finish one word from the line they were given. He doesn't want acting, he wants reality. In the mean time, his idealistic daughter Camile (Madeleine Assas), a philosophy professor, decides to go to war torn Sarajevo and put up some romantic play. Her lovelorn cousin Jérome (Frédéric Pierrot) and her Arab maid Rose (Ghalia Lacroix) follow her to her journey. Before they even get to Sarajevo, they are captured by Serb forces and anally raped and forced to dig their own grave and die during heavy bombardment. Rose escapes with one of the fighters who takes a shine to.

After getting the exhausted "Oui" from the actress (Bérangère Allaux of whom Godard was infatuated at the time) the non-acting acting he wanted, Vicky finishes Fatal Bolero with a huge boxy ancient film camera. The words get around that the film is shot on black and white and it's about war and suffering, the movie goers who lined up outside the theater peters out saying, "Let's go see Terminator 4 instead!"

It ends with a Mozart concert by a young orchestra. The audience take their seat, softly debating the weightiness of Wagner and light-heartedness of Mozart, having too many notes, etc. They are all waiting for a pianist to arrive. And he happens to be an effete young man with a long hair, playing beautifully. One of Vicky's overwhelmed (by the pianist's beauty) crewmember unwittingly becomes a page turner for the pianist. Exhausted Vicky listens to the concert at the top of the stair case he just reached.

Godard's condemns the passivity of France and Europe in general about another genocide taking place in their backyard, Bosnia-Herzegovina. He also plays with the theme of differences experiencing existence through body and spirit, representation of real events with a movie camera being nothing but a shadow, a generation (grand children of WWII generation) not purified but corrupted by suffering and guilt of their fathers weighing on them (Camile, a granddaughter of Camus). For Ever Mozart is not a heartless all out satire of Weekend. Camile & Co.'s action doesn't play out like a farce and characters drawn sympathetically. But Godard admits the limit to the power of art- that in the face of horror, even art is not enough to save the day. There is overwhelming sense of sadness and defeatism throughout the film.


Passion (1982) - Godard
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Film financing is a bitch. After reading Richard Brody's book on Godard, funding seems especially messy and difficult every time Godard have made his films. And many of his films are about, in some ways or another, making films. Passion is also one. Jerzy the Polish film director (played by Polish actor in exile, Jerzy Radziwilowicz) is trying to make a film in the West. Taking cues from the masters of western art- Rembrandt, Goya, Delacroix in a TV studio setting, he is trying to conjure up the opening scene. The production is stalled because of some unknown lighting problems and already 4 million over budget. With civil unrest in Poland in mind and under pressure by the film's Italian financiers while keeping his German wife Hanna (luminous Hanna Schygulla) happy and entertaining the possibility of getting involved with a beguiling, Wałęsa inspired factory worker Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), Jerzy's struggling to keep everything under control. There are talks of censorship, public appeasement and subversiveness in art, in relations to those masters work and film. Is going to the USA, just like his producer and only friend (László Szabó)'s suggestion, the end of all problems or end of creative freedom?

As usual, Godard mixes up current political affairs with his lifelong examination of film medium, the rise of video technology, beauty, representation of truth in art. The usual slapstick comedy is there along with discordant soundtrack and out of sync dialog. The other Godard regulars include Michel Piccoli as the ruthless and greedy factory boss, Miriem Roussel as deaf-mute ingenue. Again, Raoul Coutard provides some beautiful images and there are so many babes/boobs in this movie. Another delicious concoction.



Two or Three Things I Know about Her (1967) - Godard
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Not as angry as Weekend, but as cynical as Godard can be, Two or Three Things attacks American style consumerism relentlessly in Paris projects background. In Godard's eyes, Paris of 1966 is one whole construction site not dissimilar to Antonioni's world.
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In order to afford all the comfort of modern living, or name brand dress, a low-class housewife and mother of two, Juliette Jesen (Marina Vlady) resorts to prostitution. Raoul Cotard's cinematography (in anamorphic format and technicolor) here is all pop.
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It seems Godard is not really interested in actors despite Vlady's lovely hot mama. It probably had to do with Godard's breakup with Anna Karina and Vlady's rejection of his marriage proposal still fresh right before shooting of this film. But objects in this film, as he narrates in hushed whispers about objects and subjects and objects and people, has more importance. At one points he whispers that 'objects are more alive and people are already dead'. With that, a cup of black coffee becomes our galaxy.
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Godard's idea of language vs images is strong in this film. He plays with iconic posters, brand names and signs to illustrate the easily malleable nature of words.
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With Vietnam War still raging, Godard has a lot to say about American Imperialism and rampant capitalism it represents. 'America über alles' as one of the characters says.
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19-year old Juliette Berto is a stand in for Anna Karina in an extended cafe dialog scene as she flirts with the intellectual garage worker husband of Jesen (Vlady).
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Trapped in crude capitalist system, everyone has to prostitute himself to live. Vlady's Juliette remains distant as she addresses directly to the camera, emotionlessly. She is not a hapless victim but a willing collaborator in the monstrous system and therefore deserves Godard's contempt.


Prénom Carmen/First Name: Carmen (1983) - Godard
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Godard himself stars as uncle Jean, a burnt out movie director in a mental asylum and the uncle of a beautiful girl named Carmen (Maruschka Detmers), just like the femme fatale in Bizet's opera. Here Godard equates filmmaking to armed robbery and playing a piece of music. During a bank job, Carmen falls in love with the security guard Joseph (Jacques Bonnaffé) and they run away to the coast and lay low before the gang reunites. There is parallel storyline simultaneously happening- a quartet is rehearsing a Beethoven. They constantly stop and readjust because they make mistakes, are not playing violent enough, too slow, inaudible, etc,. It's the usual Godard stuff- fragmented, playful narrative with the mesh up soundtrack of tides, trains, Beethoven and Tom Waits.

It's Godard's reflection on filmmaking in the 80s where video ruled -there are constant references to videotapes and video cameras. It's not quite successful as his later attempts looking at art, film, the world. Here he tries many different things. It has a lot of physical slapstick comedy in it. Too bad I'm not really a big fan of that. But Godard is funny here in a similar way Woody Allen is in his films. All in all, Carmen plays out like a rehearsal for better things to come.


Sauve Qui Peut/Every Man for Himself (1980) - Godard
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While his usual themes- capitalism/prostitution/filmmaking are still present, this film is a giant leap forward from his sixties stuff which are filled with grand, in your face metaphors and loud political ideology that I constantly find prolonged and boring (but I still have soft spot for Week End). Every Man for Himself, with its 87 minute running time is more concise and extremely watchable (whether it was Godard's intention or not). It concerns a tv producer Paul Godard (Jacques Dutronc) and a prostitute, Isabelle (Isabelle Hupert). Paul is juggling with his ex-wife and daughter, girlfriend (Natalie Baye) and work. He is a pretty typical modern male in Godardian universe - an asshole who can't express love and when he does, it only comes out violently (to be fair, he gets his hair pulled, slapped in public and meets a grisly death).


Godard's sardonic tendencies are still very much pronounced, especially in a frank and graphic voice-over conversation between two fathers about their daughters over the image of a pre-adolescent girl (Paul's daughter). Isabelle and her younger sister's 'getting into business' talk is also effectively disgusting. Then there is 'aye-ah-hey' human Rube Goldberg sex contraption- the visualization of capitalism and commerce, which is hilarious and sickening at the same time (sicker than Human Centipede).


Godard's use of the slow motion is intentionally abrupt and disjointed. Rather than using it to smooth the action or show time passing, he accentuates the violence. Soundtrack is used in the same way, whenever characters are trying to draw conclusions or about to say something meaningful to each other, they are interrupted by phone calls, sudden music, train, etc. Endlessly amusing and very watchable, Every Man for Himself is a good introduction for me to get in to more 80s Godard.


Alphaville (1965) - Godard
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Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine), a hard-boiled spy from outland arrives in the Orwellian city of Alphaville, where people are controlled by a super computer named Alpha 60. The all the girls have numbers tattooed on their body and have no emotions. Words are disappearing every day and people get executed if they behave 'illogically'. Caution meets his predecessor Henry (Akim Tamiroff) who dies mysteriously after feeding him a bit of information on Prof. Von Braun (Howard Vernon) who invented the Death X-ray. Then he meets enchanting Natasha Von Braun (Anna Karina) who gets intrigued by the unpredictable outlander.

The setting is minimal. The 60s Paris doubles as the modern megalopolis. Godard's mash-up of noir and B-grade sci-fi films has its moments, especially the pool execution scene with the knife wielding synchronized swimmers. For a Godard film, it's surprisingly accessible, thanks in parts to constant narration by the gravelly voiced supercomputer. Yet it's a complex film. It's a satire on the advanced, soulless capitalist society and mainstream movies. It also examines the question 'what makes us human?' Caution is not your regular straight-up 'good' man. He says gold and women when asked about his desire at the interrogation. But he also reads surrealist poetry, so.... I didn't care for the 'love conquers all' ending (has a lot of similarities with Blade Runner) but it's an interesting little film nonetheless.


Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (1991) - Godard
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The film is Godard's contemplation of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The aged Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) from Alphaville, slated as the last spy, marooned in East Germany, wanders across grey landscapes asking in French, "Which way is the west?" to equally confused bystanders. There are no similarities between the two films. Godard merely re-appropriates Caution as the archetype of cold war (in itself a parody) whose stone carved face stood on a solid ground and even more solid philosophy. Some thirty years later, he is nothing more than a relic and out of his element.

Godard is as critical of the failure of communism in the East as the Germany's Fascist past and rampant capitalism of the West. With jarring grey old film clips playing constantly sped up or slowed down and the classical music soundtrack by the greats- Liszt, Mozart, Bach, 90 Nine Zero is also contemplates the decline of culture and art. It works better in the last third when Caution finally reaches the West. He notices an East German girl he saw before, working as a maid in a fancy hotel he is staying in. He asks, "So you wanted to be free, huh?" and she answers, "Work makes you free (Arbeit macht frei)," which was the trademark of the concentration camp slogan. It is fitting even in the opulent west. With the soundtrack by Mozart, Liszt and Bach, 90 Nine Zero is yet another beautiful, biting one by Godard.


Keep Your Right Up/Soigne ta droite (1987) - Godard
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Godard presents himself as Prince Mishkin in Keep Your Right Up. He is a director who needs to deliver a finished film in a breakneck pace to some philosopher quoting industrialist who will pay top dollars for it. The director is seen as a bumbling idiot who doesn't know which way is up or down or east or west. But as always, he deals with grander themes - mortality, nature vs technology and of course, cinema.
The film has three distinctive narratives running concurrently, cutting back and forth. One is with the Buster Keaton-ish idiot's journey on the road, the other one is about musicians, the 80s French pop band Les Rita Mitsouko (Fred Chichin and Catherine Ringer) as they compose and rehearse their musical numbers and lastly people going somewhere by car, plane and train, immobile and mobile at the same time.

Music is great. Les Rita Mitsouko's synth, rhythm box heavy pop is very catchy and Ringer's deep, sexy voice is infectious. Godard manipulates the sound like he does with images, using Mitsouko's recording sessions- playing with layers of studio recording. It's the creative process he is equating with music, as he had done since the beginning of his career, albeit crudely arranging two tracks of optical audio (as you remember dialog cutting off abruptly and replaced by music and vice versa). The later more sophisticated examples are Forever Mozart, Nouvelle Vague. This film would be a more polished/improved version of that experimentation. Bright primary colors are there, so as madcap slapstick, clusterfuck comedies of yesteryears. Keep Your Right Up feels freer and even more energetic than Godard's other films in the 80s- playing a fool and not taking himself seriously probably helped. It might be minor Godard, but no less fun.


King Lear (1987) - Godard
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"Instead of King Lear having three daughters, Cordelia has three fathers - a writer, writer playing the role of the writer and myself, the director" quips Godard in a gravelly voice. The writer in this case is Norman Mailer. He says he can only do King Lear as a gangster film. Thus Lear becomes Don Learo. Learo is sniveling Burgess Meredith and Cordelia is Molly Ringwald. The setting is Nyon, a lakeside Swiss town. Chernobyl happened and wiped out the whole civilization. Movies and art are lost. The 'image' needs to be reinvented. A Shakespeare's descendent (theater director Peter Sellars), is trying to rediscover all the great plays of his ancestor and he finds an inspiration from the old man (Meredith) and his young daughter (Ringwald). In the meantime Prof. Pluggy (videowire dreadlocked Godard, gruffing in English from the side of his mouth and sounds like as if Meredith had a stroke, plays basically a cultural shaman) with his young minions, Edgar (Leos Carax) and Virginia (Julie Delpy), is trying to create the image with the help of sound (multiple voiceovers, waves, seagulls overlapping and interrupting dialog). Sound is important because it relates to the silence of Cordelia. There is a parallel rediscovering 'movie' and 'art'.

Godard juxtaposes old men's penchant for young beautiful girls, from Renoir the painter to Renoir the director with King Lear, the powerful, dying, demented and Cordelia, the young, virtuous but untender and a bloody bedsheet, suggesting incest (hence the appearance of Woody Allen at the end or pure coincidence?). The words are cheap and Cordelia doesn't wear her heart on her tongue. He also comments on the doomsday scenarios (Chernobyl just a year before) and dominant video technology vs film - there is a scene where a reel of film discarded in the forest being rescued by Carax. It's less cinematic and messier than his other 80s films and a little jarring to hear everyone speaking English in this Godard's first and only English feature, but his playfulness is there and the choice of 80s teenqueen Ringwald as Cordelia makes a lot of sense here.

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