Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Screen Test

Grandeur et décadence d'un petit commerce de cinéma/Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company (1986) - Godard Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 8.31.20 AM Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 8.39.29 AM Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 9.22.31 AM Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 9.20.31 AM Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 9.58.24 AM Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 10.08.58 AM Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 10.27.56 AM Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 10.33.10 AM Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 10.34.23 AM Screen Shot 2024-05-29 at 10.34.38 AM Godard was commissioned to make a TV film as a part of Série noire, a monthly film noir series, based on pulp fictions. His was supposed to be based on James Hadley Chase's Soft Centre. But it being adapted by Godard, obviously, wildly went off the rail. With the little success and financial stability from Hail Mary (thanks to Nicolas Seydoux, the head of French film studio Gaumont, who hired Godard on salary for his future film rights), Godard had established a small film company, dabbled in mini-industrial film production. But because of this little business venture, he had to deal with tax collectors scrutinizing every receipt and every financial record keeping for his highly unorthodox filmmaking activities. So instead of making an adaptation, Godard made Grandeur et décadence into, yet again, a deeply personal reflection on his filmmaking process and art. This video shot production is about a film producer Jean Almereyda (Jean Pierre Mocky, assuming Jean Vigo's real name), trying to keep his production company afloat, while dodging the German mob whom he owes huge amount of deutschmarks to, and a film director Gaspard Bazin, yes, Bazin (Jean Pierre-Léaud), embarking on a noir project based on Chase's novel with 'authentic' actors.

You can trace Godard's standard preoccupations - word play: "You know where the word secretary originates? 'Secret'," "Original...origin," and so forth. - experiments with video technology: rewinding and slowing down images, the glitches, etc. - beauty and authenticity of actors: revolving door of a screen test, an accidental actress, fame. - Cinema's place in the age of television and nostalgia: "Everything is going backwards today- fashion, politics, and whatnot. The cinema is going backwards too... So maybe since she (Eurydice, played by Marie Valera) is old-fashioned, she has a chance. To each his own freedom, after all. But you have to land in the right place. It's not a question of time or of era, it's a question of tempo." - classics: Western culture and Greek mythology.

In the end, Eurydice looks back and Jean meets his untimely end despite his disguise as a babushka to ward off the mobsters. Léaud, donning a dirty moustache, does his utmost best as an arrogant auteur whose casting antics - where auditioning each actor says the snippet of the words from Faulkner like an assembly line of word generators, get comeuppanced by auditioning for fashionable group of young people who took over Jean's office after his untimely death.

Again, as the title suggests, Godard bites the hand that feeds him. His plunge into Histoire(s) du Cinema only 4 years away, Grandeur et décadence shows him and his new cinematographer Caroline Champentier (who is in the film also as the wife of the director) experiment with video - slow zoom in, multi-layered dissolves, playing the defects of tape-based technology on images. It's a fun film.