Godard's GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE at the American Cinematheque


(70 min., 2014, Kino Lorber) At last, Jean-Luc Godard’s highly anticipated Cannes Film Festival Jury prize winner hits the big screen in a rare American Cinematheque theatrical run! The protean French director’s latest (43rd film) is a vibrant visual essay as well as a narrative – a married woman’s relationship with a single man (and Godard’s dog, Roxy) is just the jumping-off point. Both beautiful and mischievous, this Godard masterpiece is bold in its disregard for the conventions of 3-D filmmaking, challenging the audience to discover hidden layers of imagery, and making this a unique film that can only be savored in a theater.
The idea is simple: A married woman and a single man meet. They love, they argue, fists fly. A dog strays between town and country. The seasons pass. The man and woman meet again. The dog finds itself between them. The other is in one, the one is in the other and they are three. The former husband shatters everything. A second film begins: the same as the first, and yet not. From the human race we pass to metaphor. This ends in barking and a baby’s cries. In the meantime, we will have seen people talking of the demise of the dollar, of truth in mathematics and of the death of a robin. Featuring Héloïse Godet, Kamel Abdelli, Richard Chevallier, Zoé Bruneau, Christian Gregori, and Jessica Erickson. In French with English subtitles.

Aero Theatre Santa Monica – 1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, 90403 
Friday, Jan 23
7:30 & 9:15 PM

Saturday, Jan 24
7:30 & 9:15 PM

Sunday, Jan 25
4:00, 7:30 & 9:15 PM

Monday, Jan 26
7:30 & 9:15 PM

Tuesday, Jan 27
7:30 & 9:15 PM

Wednesday, Jan 28
7:30 & 9:15 PM

Thursday, Jan 29
7:30 & 9:15 PM
3-D Ticket Pricing: $13 General, $11 Students/Seniors, $9 Cinematheque Members. No vouchers accepted.

A 3D mystification from the director who famously said, “Every edit is a lie.”…

“Goodbye To Language” is Godard’s first 3D feature film. Last year, Godard directed one part of 3x3D (along with Peter Greenaway and Edgar Pera). His segment, “The Three Disasters”, essayed the history of perspective in fine arts image, using his recent mash up  style. 

Once again Godard’s at play in the DNA of film. His filmography could be read as a brief or discourse, a tutorial on “What is Film, ands what is it’s function?”  Particularly since “Passion” 1985) with its reenactments of classic paintings, Godard’s films seem to be the ghost in the machine of man’s consciousness.

Godard was an early adopter of video. In 1972, Godard and wife Swiss filmmaker Anne-Marie Miéville started the alternative video production and distribution company Sonimage, and produced both “Numéro Deux” (1975) and “Sauve qui peut (la vie)” (1980). In 1976, Godard and Miéville collaborated on a series of innovative video works for European broadcast television called “Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication” (1976)] and “France/tour/détour/deux/enfants” (1978).

He continued mixing DV into features like “In Praise of Love” (2002). “Film Socialisme” (2010)  was Godard’s first film shot entirely with digital cameras

83-year-old Godard still provokes with another baffling montage essay. Taking on Man’s destructive culture, our ravaging of the Natural order, he throws his abrasive patchwork onto the screen, and it sticks. He assaults us from the get-go. Wild cuts, overlaid pseudo stereoscopic images and wild blast of music-all in the opening sequence. There is perhaps too much cacaphony.

There are moments of respite, like the night driving scene with it’s melodramatic score.  Natural sounds intersperse with the mysterious vocals.

Those who want to play enjoy Godard’s witty literary quotes and hermetic puns of a sort.

He uses images in an associative way, linking the way I imagine the unconscious works…

A fountain afloat with leafs, and used as a basin, truly satisfies its 3D mission.

Godard includes rehearsals of shots and camera devices, challenging the viewer to create his own narrative structure. In one sequence he makes the viewer decide which eye to use, as two planes, taken from a single image collide leaving a character on each side divided by a  distorted central field.

Instead of shooting from 2 cameras joined at the tripod, he plays with the convergence points. We see a man on the right of the screen and a woman on the left, his cameras spilt and each follows a character. Trying to follow both, the image blurs and layers up. We try shutting one eye or the other, we play with our options until Godard ends the sequence with the traditional balanced two-camera angle.

His use of wide-angle lenses also invites us to focus and refocus.

A white supertitle “2D” placed on the “Z” axis, battles with a red supertitle “3D”. His bright daisies are so saturated the edges burn out and vibe.

He employs a mixed media: cell phone images, Go-Pro and standard camera’s all braided into a chaotic dream-like montage. Cell phone panoramas, distort, and give digital time codes, projections; he superimposes several planes in the same frame.

Godard, mystifies, hypnotizes and repels… His anarchistic soundtrack combines dialogues and a sound design with murmured unintelligible bits of speech, and abrupt blast of distorted music.  In fact it’s sound that gives the film whatever narrative direction it has.

Distorted imagery in hot colors creates more abstraction. In “Adiux Au Language” candy bright flowers bloom in intercuts. The exquisite saturated color blocks that defined his 1963 33mm masterpiece “Contempt” are here replaced with fruity bright digital images. 

His fluorescently bright meditation-poses a two-part argument comparing Nature and Metaphor and language and “reality”. It’s an elegy on the end of reasoned thought by the man who brought written language, super titles and written queries into the visual field of his films, weaving questions and supertitles into the visual texture of his films, courting his audience’s thought processes and imaginations as an antidote to straight ahead narrative.

Godard switches between numerous narrators and pairs of characters in stagy conversations. . Godard’s dog Roxy Miéville, another narrator, represents nature in harmony. Shot on a cell phone, he rambles through the seasons: rolls through autumn’s dead leaves, through winter snow, rolls over Godard’s living room rug, and goes mad for summer. Each time he rolls, like a perpetual motion machine, alive in the unmediated now.

Godard switches between two couples: Josette and Gédéon and Ivitch and Marcus, connecting them by a doubling strategy, each pair lives through similar scenes, metaphorizing the idea of stereoscopic imagery.

“Oh Gods”- “To Gods” (the translation of Adieu is to the God).”Ah Language “.  Several couples argue, casually naked, and live banal moments in full view. One man addresses his woman from the toilet, and Godard finally resorts to a fart joke, deconstructing a shot of a woman’s nude buttocks. Annoyed by her remark about equality, stating that “caca”, taking a shit, is where true equality is found.

A bouquiniste (bookseller) tries to sell worn copies of Dostoevsky or Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelego” to passersby who Google the authors on the cell phones. There’s an associative leap between a pair of contemporary artists, and a sequence with Byron or Polidori and Percy and Mary Shelley, who’s hard at work on Frankenstein.

There’s an Alphaville like kidnapping. Godard links Nazi violence with the rise of violence in “globalized” underdeveloped countries. Godard questions our trust in the State, which relies on institutional acts of terrorism.

Voices or sound effects offstage don’t link up to the central image. Words become texture, images-repetitive motifs. The characters and narrative are sacrificed to the film as object or as living entity. In Godard’s earliest film essays, the films seemed like auto-portraits of Godard’s mind. In this latest work, the film is the protagonist or host: the fragments of characters, images and sound live within the host body like parasites.

The Cannes Film Festival (2014) jury split the award for most innovative film between the youngest director in Competition, Xavier Dolan (25 years old), for his film “Mommy” and the Veteran Jean Luc Godard, 83 years.

Godard, who wasn’t at Cannes for the screening, was last at Cannes in New Wave” in 94 and “In Praise of Love” in 2001.  People who saw his filmed “Letter in Motion to Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux”, recusing himself from promoting the film at Cannes, claim it is masterful. 

“Those lacking imagination take refuge in reality” reads an early title.  What Reality?


About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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