Tuesday, October 3, 2023

No More Moving Picture: Godard's Last Film

Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: Phony Wars (2023) - Godard ezgif.com-webp-to-jpg It's hard to believe that it's been a year since Jean-Luc Godard left us forever in his own volition. His last moving picture, a twenty-minute preview of his contemplation on the state of the world we live right now, Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: Phony Wars, is a testament to his legacy as the most unique film director ever lived in cinema history. Originally wanting to adapt a communist Belgian writer, Charles Plisnier's Faux Passport in 2020, Godard began to create a book of collages based on the book's six chapters. But the project stalled because of Covid pandemic. So, he decided to make a trailer for the project, a snapshot of a film to come, according to Godard's close collaborator Fabrice Argano.

It's a series of his hand made collages on A5 Canon glossy printing paper with sporadic sound. With no sound for first five minutes, I was yearning to hear his gravelly voice one last time and was relieved to hear it again when he narrates about Carlotta, a heroine of short story by Plisnier, which he wanted to adapt. He says that the writer made portraits and it intercuts with the Olga Brodsky's face in the scene from his 2004 masterpiece, Notre Musique. And it turns out that that's the only 'moving image' we see in this short preliminary image book for a film that will never be made. It's also a rare glance into Godard's process in constructing his films. It's hand-made images - with pens, markers and underlined words and instructions, with photos, paintings glued on. And with sound, film, video clips and music combined, building/constructing thoughts for his essay films. And it's fascinating.

Plisnier turned his back on communism and Stalinism and became a Roman Catholic in his later years. Through the sound clips from Notre Musique, you hear the character replying to a Russian soldier, "I don't understand what you are saying, I do not trust that language." And I can't help him connecting it to the current situation in Ukraine. Godard had always been a keen observer, an oracle, and an ardent critic of the aggressors of the world. He knew which side he was standing on. It would have been great to see what his take on the whole situation with more elaboration.

Because he always charted his own course from the very beginning, Godard had no disciples or imitators. Each of his films were borne out of his unique method and technique and there's no substitute for his filmmaking. As the twenty-minute Trailer ends, realizing that this is the final official release of his moving-picture (even though I know for a fact that there is wealth of materials he left behind), that this is indeed the end of it, filled me with great sadness. No more Godard. This is it.

Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: Phony Wars, plays along with Wang Bing's Man in Black and Pedro Costa's Daughters of Fire at NYFF.