Recommended if you like Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
Dig, Lazarus, dig!!!
Recommended if you like Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
Dig, Lazarus, dig!!!
So here we go again.
They told Beethoven it was a horrible way to begin his 5th Symphony.
With a rest.
Only the players see it.
Only the conductor pays it much mind.
So the first “note” (beat) is silent.
The conductor must give it.
But there are at least two schools of thought on how this is to be done.
First, a conductor might do as they always do and swiftly move their baton downwards to indicate visually that the first (silent) beat is occurring.
The only problem with this is that the symphony players must then abruptly jump onto the very next beat (which is an “upbeat”).
They happen in very quick succession.
The whole orchestra.
And they get one shot.
To come in together.
Like an attack.
[rest] da da da daaaaaaaaaa
[rest] da da da daaaaaaaaaa
The second school of thought is more practical.
It advises that, in this particular situation, a conductor giving a downbeat is not particularly helpful to the orchestra (because no sounds occur on that downbeat).
Therefore, the conductor motions the orchestra that the UPBEAT is happening.
When the baton (or hand(s)) come down, that is the precise time to make noise.
It is not hard to see why this might lead to a more successful outcome.
For the goal is to have the orchestra stick together.
An orchestra of individuals who are a mere microsecond off from one another creates a sound which is generally not highly-valued in Western music (at least not in the performance of Beethoven).
But this STILL leaves a problem.
The conductor of this second school, whose job it is to try and lead his orchestra to a faithful rendition of this masterwork, is thereby IGNORING what Beethoven wrote (or, more precisely, HOW Beethoven wrote it).
Godard comes back more fit and trim in this episode of his greatest work.
1a is probably the nuke.
1b is a psychological warfare manual (perhaps)
2a returns us to kinetic warfare.
More or less.
With some lulls.
But there is genuine artistry within these 26 minutes.
Like a symphony by Beethoven or Bruckner.
The beginning is weighted heavily.
1a = 51 mins. (the longest of all eight parts)
1b = 42 mins. (the second longest “movement” of the bunch)
The entire first section is, therefore (carry the zero), 1 hour and 33 minutes.
That’s the first quarter of this “ring cycle”.
And it is truly operatic.
So now we are into a bit of a scherzo.
Now you can see the influence of television.
The “producers” of this film.
Canal+ (French TV channel)
CNC (part of the French Ministry of Culture [and Godard is Swiss!])
France 3 (a French TV channel)
Gaumont (a French film studio)
La Sept (a defunct French TV channel)
Télévision Suisse Romande (a defunct, French-language Swiss TV network)
Vega Films (Godard’s production company at the time)
Enough time for eight 30-second commercials.
Arriving precisely at a sum total of 30 minutes’ programming.
It’s generous (no doubt owing to the fact that this was educational programming).
If you look at the true running time of an American half-hour sitcom these days, it is roughly 21 minutes of what you want to see.
The other 9 minutes are reserved for at least 18 30-second commercials.
In the tradition of James Joyce.
Which Hitchcock so admired.
…and the Oscar goes to.
Irishmen in France.
The recurring scene from Salò…
Literary history vs. cinematic history.
Godard has a curious frame which reads, “Your breasts are the only shells I love.”
It is a line from the poet Apollinaire.
[tes seins sont les seuls obus que j’aime]
But I must say, the exciting parts here are the “booms”!
The fighter jet exploding in midair.
Bernard Herrmann’s music from Psycho juxtaposed with scenes from Disney’s Snow White…(1937).
The agitation of Stravinsky.
Cluster chords on the piano.
Godard’s voice fed through an Echoplex.
And, just as in 1a, world-class editing!
Let me be clear.
EDITING is what makes Histoire(s) du cinéma the greatest film ever made.
It’s what makes F for Fake the second-greatest film ever made.
And what makes Dog Star Man the third-greatest film ever made.
It is more pronounced in Histoire(s) and Dog Star Man.
Orson Welles’ “editing” (montage) in F for Fake is done more at the story level.
It is a juxtaposition of content.
The Kuleshov effect with ideas rather than images.
[more or less]
Godard’s camera-pen makes some of its boldest strokes in this episode.
It rivals the 1a excerpt involving Irving Thalberg.
Which brings us to a very important point.
Godard CHOSE to use the concept of “double exposure” (two images–one on top of the other–but both seen to a greater or lesser extent) to ILLUSTRATE the subject and title of his greatest film.
Though it runs 266 minutes, that amount of time STILL wasn’t enough in which to lay out the history of cinema.
So images needed to be doubled up.
Simultaneous to that, words needed to be spoken.
And furthermore, DIFFERENT words than those being spoken NEEDED TO BE WRITTEN ON THE SCREEN.
If you are not a native French speaker, you will probably need to have the subtitles on when viewing this film.
Which gives you A-N-O-T-H-E-R visual stimulus which must be taken into account.
This film should be mandatory viewing for fighter pilots.
Practice your OODA loop here.
If you want to survive in this jungle of meaning.
Night of the hunter…
It’s all true.
That weary look.
It’s all true.
Which brings us to value (that thing which capitalism so gloriously creates…far more efficiently and in much greater abundance than with any other economic system).
“What is the value of knowing how to read this film,” you ask?
It allows you to know how to read the complexity of the world.
It is a brain teaser.
With an infinite layering of meaning.
Like Finnegans Wake.
Joyce’s masterpiece should be the only required reading for a codebreaker.
Or a codemaker.
Take heed, National Security Agency.
Your curriculum needs adjusting.
Assign only Finnegan.
And reap your gains.
And what of Histoire(s)?
Its most direct application would be for analysts.
Whether they be Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, or INSCOM.
Know how to read the image.
Know how to analyze the video.
You must think outside the box.
Sudoku the fuck out of your employees.
And thereby fight crime and keep hostile actors in check.
Which is where we musicians come in.
To analyze the phone call.
To make sense of the audio…from the video.
It cannot be taught in a bootcamp.
It has to be loved.
If you had one analyst like Godard, you would have a super-soldier equal to an entire special forces unit.
The trial of Joan of Arc.
Not to be confused with her passion.
Laurel and Hardy.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Which brings us to a very delicate situation.
What is the President planning this weekend?
And with whom is he planning it?
If Ronald Reagan was an actor (and he was), then how much more talented is Donald Trump in getting a reaction with his lines…and his gestures?
A President who has been attacked from ALL sides UNRELENTINGLY for nearly four years.
And now finds himself in the midst of the hottest biological/psychological/economic war in recorded history.
Where complexity reigns.
As globalization magnifies each twitch of activity.
And this same President STILL finds himself under attack from the same “bad actors” who have unremittingly assailed him.
As in peacetime, so in war.
These enemies of the state.
Masquerading as journalists.
And their masters above them.
Straight from the latest conclave.
“…two if by sea.”
This is a perfect, imperfect film.
Like Russell’s paradox.
And I hope director Lisa Langseth won’t go all Frege on me and jump out a window.
I have spoiled nothing.
And my words are almost completely inconsequential.
But similar things have been said about La Règle du jeu.
And I disagree with that.
In 1939, Jean Renoir made an unqualified (perfect) masterpiece with that film.
I qualified it only to distinguish from my initial example.
And so Pure (the title of this Swedish film which is currently on Netflix in the U.S.) is much like Asia Argento’s almost-masterpiece Incompresa.
I will be quite blunt.
Lisa Langseth stretches in almost the exact same dimension that Argento did with her fine film.
But the real similarity is acting perfection.
For a young child, Giulia Salerno was magnificent (really!) in Argento’s film.
And so Ms. Argento had the secret weapon.
A (very young) actress capable of cine-magic.
Ms. Langseth was blessed with more-or-less the same thing.
But even better.
[perhaps because the actress was a little older and more experienced]
Alicia Vikander makes Till det som är vackert go.
I mean, really…this is an acting performance unlike any other.
And so my only gripe with Ms. Langseth, the director, is that she stretched the story TOO FAR.
But that’s ok.
Because, you know what? Maybe I’m wrong.
Langseth and Argento both seem to be trying to tell every story they’ve ever lived…IN ONE FILM.
Argento is the guiltier party.
For most of Pure, Langseth sticks to a taut plot.
Buttressed by Vikander’s exquisite acting, the sum total is ecstasy.
And so, I find myself reacting against the Hitchcock tendency in two films.
Some directors NEED a good dose of Hitchcock.
Wes Anderson, for example.
That guy is so saccharine…that when the fingers come off in Grand Budapest, we finally have a filmmaker.
But Langseth and Argento are telling GRUELING stories throughout (in Pure and Misunderstood, respectively).
And so the heavy bass note…the one which when slammed births the 9th harmonic…it doesn’t work here.
Because the tritone.
To progress through the harmonic series.
And resolve on a tritone.
It takes a special auteur to do such.
And these two ladies are not the dodecaphonists to do so.
They have not worked out a coherent system to justify their heart-ripping atonality.
But fear not.
Pure is so, so, so worth watching!
This is as close as a film can get to masterpiece while still being flawed.
And it’s so very close, I’m wondering whether the flawed one is me.
Let me correct the record (ouch…David “Scumbag” Brock)…
We get noodles with ketchup.
I mean, this film is Gummo real.
So I want to give some BIG compliments.
Till det som är vackert is the best Swedish film ever made by anyone not named Ingmar Bergman.
In fact, it’s BETTER than several of Bergman’s films.
Shall I name names?
Pure is worlds (WORLDS) better than Fanny and Alexander.
Bergman was in poseur mode.
That flick is so overrated.
And Lisa Langseth totally smokes (eats the lunch of) Bergman.
Further, Till det som är vackert is (in my humble, masculine opinion) the greatest feminist film since 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days…and in some ways EVEN BETTER than that timeless masterpiece.
And so, in general, I bow down in worship to Pure.
We have homelessness.
We have mental illness.
We have resilience.
Naturalism. Grit. The bird-soul of music…
The only thing we needed was an editor.
About 20 minutes before the end.
Because Ms. Langseth wants to give us redemption.
She just seems to have her Raskolnikov in the wrong pocket.
I’m the daftest son of a bitch on the planet.
One last thing…
This movie moved me so much.
The bulk of this film.
Did something to me.
And sublimely enlightening.
And so I thank God for Lisa Langseth and Alicia Vikander.
God bless you.
Thank you for making this kind of art.
As Nick Cave sang,
“It’s beauty that’s gonna save the world now”.
This is the longest movie I’ve ever watched.
But at one hour and 46 minutes, that’s not a good thing.
To feel like it’s taking forever.
Which is not to say this is a bad film.
It’s a very good film.
With a very disturbing ending.
Yes, I’m warning you.
Don’t (like me) get sucked in by all the cuteness and expect our still-mediocre filmmaker to give you a good ending.
But maybe I’m wrong…
First, Asia Argento is a very talented filmmaker.
But she’s still mediocre.
There are two main problems with this film.
The editing (as in cut some of this superfluous shit out) and the ending.
My guess is that Argento could not bear to see any of her precious footage cut (to any significant degree).
So I am not complaining about the découpage (editor Filippo Barbieri does a fantastic job…especially in the palimpsest intro), but rather the montage (in the French sense).
The ending is a cheap stunt.
David Bowie predicted such excess on Ziggy Stardust…
I will leave it at that.
But suffice it to say that Asia Argento put her heart and soul into this film.
And much of it (most of it) is magical.
This was in spite of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s overwrought, tacky performance.
Charlotte is a wonderful musician.
One of the best alive.
I adore her music.
But she is a terrible actress.
Even so, Argento should have reined in Gainsbourg’s diva performance considerably.
Yet nothing can take away from the true magic contained in Misunderstood (this film’s title on Netflix).
Maybe it’s not Gainsbourg’s fault.
Maybe the role called for a soulless bitch.
But we’ve seen Charlotte in other dire films (like Melancholia).
For all of Asia Argento’s imperfections as a filmmaker (and there are a few), she is like Orson Welles compared to the utter shite that Lars von Trier churns out.
Not to mince words, but “von” Trier has to be one of the worst filmmakers working today.
And so let’s get to why Argento marginally succeeds with this film.
The answer is so very simple: Giulia Salerno.
Salerno must have been about 13 (or younger) when this film was shot [though she is ostensibly nine years old…in the context of the story].
Her acting, really, is a revelation.
The entire movie revolves around her.
She and her cat Dac.
It’s a sad story.
But Aria [Salerno] makes everything joyful.
Ah, the resilience of kids!
I was blessed with wonderful parents growing up.
Aria’s parents in this film are reprehensible in just about every way imaginable.
There is something of a Les Quatre Cents Coups to this tale.
Aria wanders back and forth.
With her little pet carrier (for the cat).
She has no stability.
Indeed, she ultimately has very little love at all.
I don’t want to spoil the story for you.
But here are the takeaways.
Asia Argento has the talent to become a world-class filmmaker.
This was an admirable and artful first effort.
It is a very special film.
Now it’s time for her to stop surrounding herself with ass kissers.
She’s not an auteur yet.
[I don’t care who her father was!]
Giulia Salerno has the brigtest future imaginable as an actress.
She is now about 15 years old.
And she’s already put a performance like this under her belt.
I hope that Hollywood and the cinema of her home country Italy take notice of her incredible thespian gift.
And I will give Argento one more compliment: she sure shocked the shit out of me with that ending.
And though it was trite and tasteless, it didn’t completely ruin what was a very fine film.
Indeed, the editor needed for the bulk of this film would have lopped it off forthwith (if they were at all worth their salt).
There is very little doubt in my mind that this is the most important film ever made.
For once in American history, someone stood up.
That man was Jim Garrison.
When I used to spend time in New Orleans I shuddered at the courage this man had.
He had the courage to take on everything.
But this epic would not have received its rightful place in history without the auteur Oliver Stone.
Making this film was an immense act of courage.
Search your heart.
Sit alone at 2:00 a.m. on the outskirts of Nola.
The deepest, darkest part of the night.
Oliver Stone captures the beauty of humanity in the story of Jim Garrison.
Few dramatic performances have ever affected me so much as Kevin Costner’s here.
But you must look deeper.
Look to Jim Marrs.
Long ago I heard Alex Jones proclaim on air that JFK was his favorite film.
Long ago I saw JFK as a first-run film in the theater.
But I didn’t see this 3-hour-8-minute version.
I’m pretty sure of that.
Because I was just a child.
I heard the drums.
I heard the moving music of John Williams.
But, alas, it was 3’08” which was before me.
It takes a lifetime to appreciate what Mr. X is getting at.
It is packed tight as a can of sardines (even at 3’08”).
Eisenhower’s farewell address.
Really listen to it.
The nervous glances aside.
What is he announcing?
Does he not have immense testicles to yell such from the tower?
But let’s take a trip…
Acting. Real fucking acting.
If Costner didn’t have the Garrison role, Pesci might have taken it.
Stole the show.
Kevin Bacon at Angola.
Leadbelly, not Neto.
IS THIS THE MPLA?
I THOUGHT IT WAS THE UK!
You can see the parallel now in Dr. Steve Pieczenik.
You gotta watch it.
Donald Sutherland gets even closer than Pesci.
It’s that moment he says, “bubba”.
Yeah, that’s the right track.
That’s a lifetime of work.
That’s putting your ass on the line.
Have you ever put your ass on the line?
Really laying it all out there and staring into the void.
That’s the encouragement.
The words you need to hear from someone who’s paying attention.
Someone who’s saying, “Don’t be afraid of the bastards. Hit ’em back.”
Contrasted with Pesci as a walking pot of coffee.
Feel that fear for a moment.
You don’t live in a bubble
You have family.
You have people you love.
You risk it all because you know it is the right thing to do.
To ask questions.
To use your mind where none dare tread.
Who’s the Jim Garrison of today?
Yes, it is Alex Jones.
He has earned that.
But it is also very much James Tracy.
Sissy Spacek cannot compete with Costner.
And she shouldn’t.
But she’s indispensable.
The back and forth in the hallway.
She ain’t walking down that hallway anymore.
Watch JFK and you’ll understand why Anderson Cooper is a coward.
Watch the hit piece directed at Garrison.
Sad, sad men (the SAD/SOG).
Come to know Lyman L. Lemnitzer. Very few LLLs in history.
Don’t stop at Operation Mongoose.
Know the much more important Operation Northwoods (otherwise known as 9/11).
For all of the bigots out there, come to understand just how many things Israel COULD NOT have done (which were essential to 9/11).
And yet they are no doubt involved.
On the wrong side.
Just like their appalling treatment of the Palestinians.
Notice I didn’t say Jews. And I didn’t say anti-Semitism.
Pesci’s character nails it.
But we still need Gary Oldman as Oswald.
What’s on the gravestone?
Maybe it’s not rogue elements after all.
It’s the whole damn thing.
But who warned us?
They were inside the machine.
Martin Luther King.
Go to Dallas.
Feel the evil.
Like a pothole filled with steaming shit.
Thanks Michael Ovitz.
Did you really convince Costner to take the part?
More importantly, thank you Costner.
Yeah, that’s some method acting.
And it’s far too important not to feel.
With every fiber of one’s being.
Stone took the right take.
There could be only one like that.
In the courtroom.
We don’t even notice the cuts.
Academy Award for editing.
Including a chap named Scalia.
Tommy Lee Jones as the incarnation of evil.
Dainty. Subtle. Shades of James Mason from NXNW.
Tommy Lee Jones from my hometown.
I seen him at a Mexican restaurant.
And we hold out hope that the planet remembers us.
Ed Asner who stood up when the shit hit the fan after 9/11.
Where were these other fuckers? Still basking in the glory of JFK?
That’s too bad because their words then ring hollow.
How about Field of Dreams? Go the distance.
Back, and to the left.
Back, and to the left.
Back, and to the left.
John Candy as perfection.
A serious role.
Fuck all you motherfuckers!
Martin Sheen is for real.
Charlie Sheen, while not in this movie, put so many social activists to shame.
Real testicular girth.
Jim Garrison as Earl Warren.
The Coke bottle disorientation.
But the erudition.
The evil erudition.
Sean Stone is what we’re fighting for.
That’s real shit.
Mohrenschildt in Pappy Bush’s pocketbook.
Not the whole Rolodex.
Just the kind of thing you’d take on an ice-skating trip in a thunderstorm to Houston.
It’s always raining.
And a little hunting.
It comes back to Cuba.
Enough to write a book.
And publish it.
A lot of work for a little piece of meat.
Oliver Stone’s not the genius. Jim Garrison is.
Always will be.
But Garrison needed Stone.
Counter gangs. Webster Tarpley.
Frank Kitson. Low intensity.
Where Jane Rusconi and Yale University come in.
I take it all back.
A dick-measuring contest about how many books one has read.
Garrison. Stone. Rusconi.
Ok, I take it back again again: Oliver Stone is a genius.
But we need it again.
There’s a moment in this film when a character says “shoot” instead of “shit”. It is the linchpin of the film. What follows is the strangest cut in James Bond history since Roger Moore abruptly went gaucho in Moonraker. But what we cut to is perhaps the first truly vicious, self-inflicted attack of self-parody the James Bond franchise has ever experienced. Yes, self-parody. Vicious. Like a postmodern vomit of confetti. This whole film. But mainly starting at the amorous activities which follow the word “shoot”.
Derrida would find his hinge for deconstruction at “shoot”. As if the film could not bear one more mild expletive and still retain its PG-13 rating.
But let’s dig a little deeper.
A series notorious for running low on creativity must have been thrilled to have the intellectual property rights to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. following the death of Kevin McClory. It was not just the death of McClory which allowed the franchise to resurrect its proto-NWO, but also the acquisition by MGM and Danjac LLC of McClory’s estate in late 2013.
And so things must have looked rosy for Eon Productions.
Sadly, they made a few blunders.
Those blunders became the ramshackle, mutilated would-be masterpiece Spectre.
And so just what were these mistakes?
My guess is that many of them occurred behind closed doors.
There are moments in this film at which a film school freshman could have done a better job reeling in the mise-en-scène than did Sam Mendes. But there’s a problem with that equation. Sam Mendes is not that bad a director. NO ONE wielding a nine-figure budget is that bad a director. And so chalk another crappy movie up to the real villains: MGM and Colombia Pictures. Credit Eon Productions likewise with rubberstamping this high-school-science-fair of a picture.
But we can’t let Mendes off that easily. I hope it was a good payday (again) Sam, because this film is generally a piece of shit.
HOWEVER…there are moments of what could have been. If the executives had kept their noses (and asses) out of the production process, this could have been a homerun.
Christopher Waltz is good when approached with Hitchcockean framing. As a silhouette. You can feel Mendes reaching for Mulholland Dr. But as per the Sony hacks, eventually you have to show the guy (or do you?). Suffice it to say that Mr. Waltz is the least-scary Bond villain ever and barely more creepy than Jar Jar Binks.
And so it becomes obvious that cost cutting has its downside. Who was the other bloke they were going to get for the villain? Who cares. Waltz sucks royally. And yet, he is more competent as an actor than the film is solid in structural integrity.
As a whole, Spectre is a disaster which should never have made it out the door of the dream factory. Anyone with an artistic bone in their body could have “fixed” this film. Mendes was apparently not allowed to actually direct.
Fix number one would have been cutting an hour’s worth of superfluous meh. I mean, really godawful, expensive, explosive meh. Jesus…this film didn’t need to try and compete with Spiderman or whatever the superhero flavor of the week is.
The writers (God, the writers…) of this film are not worth their weight in rancid butter. I heard rumors that the dialogue was bad. Truth is, it is dry-heave bad…but mainly near the end of the film (the last quarter).
Next time, spend $200 mil. on a single, competent writer (Pynchon perhaps) and <$1 mil. on stunts and CGI. This film experiences a leveraged shite effect throughout. Oh, by the way…the opening scene in Mexico City is probably the weakest part of the film. I would rather see Daniel Craig take a moist crap on a silver platter.
But let’s be fair…
This film tried. It had grand aspirations. SPECTRE…yes, bringing it all back home. Establishing credibility from New World Order to Snowden. Awesome. Well-done in that regard.
As for the execution…for fuck’s sake.
I’d rather have a clumsily-performed lobotomy than watch this film again any time soon.
The biggest upside of the film is Léa Seydoux. Ok, so casting got one thing right. It almost makes up for Christopher “The Last” Waltz.
There are very important themes addressed in this film. This could have been a light for liberty. Someone sabotaged it. Find that corporate person and you have found the real head of the real SPECTRE.
Ça va. From the year I was born.
If you search Google for “comment ca va godard,” you might get 83,000 results in 0.42 seconds. Google tacks on the time to remind us of its power.
Well, I must admit I was a bit powerless in slogging through this film. Keep in mind, the first time I saw Pierrot le fou I thought it was overrated. Also keep in mind, by that point Godard was already my favorite director (by a long shot).
I came to regard Pierrot le fou as one of Godard’s best films, but it had to grow on me.
Perhaps Comment ça va will also grow on me.
What must be remembered is that Godard loves games. For me, the end of this film is easily the most brilliant part.
Godard (or his collaborator Anne-Marie Miéville) plays with the editing program like it is Pac-Man. There is something very ATARI about the whole affair–that green console font and the playful symbolism of a wandering cursor.
But admissions on my part should be more specific here: I was really tired.
So perhaps I did not give this film a fair shake.
It should be no surprise to viewers of Godard’s mid-seventies oeuvre that this film makes little to no effort to entertain. It is, as are many of his films of this era, an investigation. In this case, the investigation is filmmaking itself. It is, in that sense, a bit like his earlier masterpiece Le Gai savoir. The role of Anne-Marie Miéville should not be underestimated here. It is as if Godard and Miéville were recalibrating their artistic sensitivities with this film. While many (most?) filmmakers would leave such a “product” on the shelf and chalk it up to practice or research, Godard had been in the habit of releasing these “attempts at film” for some time. As I have mentioned in previous articles, there is a particular connection between the French word essai (a test, an attempt) and the English usage of essay (particularly, for our purposes, the genre known as film essay).
And so this is very much a film essay which we are dealing with. As such, I feel like a teacher compelled to “grade” said essay. This is the traditional job of critics: to assess value. It is, perhaps, a far more subjective form of the S & P, Moody’s, Fitch gambit.
So yes, I dozed off briefly at a few points. I feel bad about this. One school of thought says that it was Godard’s job to entertain me, but I do not entirely subscribe to that way of thinking.
But let us consult Italian Wikipedia (the English site is slacking) to jog our memory…
It does indeed feel to be shot in Grenoble (certainly not Paris)… I could verify this, but I am very lazy on such points.
The contributors to Italian Wikipedia make a very good point in comparing the film under consideration to Godard’s earlier Letter to Jane. Indeed, the director once again fixates on a particular photo and what it means. We, as the audience, spend a great deal of time staring along with the creators at a picture from a protest in Portugal. 1976.
What is new here is that Godard employs his editing equipment in a novel way. A photo from a French protest three years previous (1973) is superimposed upon the Portuguese picture. It is a similar methodology as found in Letter to Jane when Jane Fonda’s facial expression was compared to other Hollywood actors (including her father Henry).
The story (if it can be called that) involves esoteric distinctions between “the left” and communism. Exactly.
What is not at all clear is that Odette (played by the very, very beautiful Anne-Marie Miéville) is the lady helping with the editing of a film. We see Odette’s face in her interaction with her young worker boyfriend, but we only see her hands (unless I dozed off one too many times) on the typewriter in her directorial capacity. What is significant is that her collaborator is her boyfriend’s father. We see his face. Boy do we see it. Over and over and over again. It should be noted that the typewriter is a motif in Godard’s work stretching all the way back to the machine-gun edit in Vivre sa vie and culminating is Godard’s magnum opus Histoire(s) du cinema.
In our film, the typewriter and the eyes of the dictator (as in dictation…taking dictation) frame a philosophical investigation of language. We might call it “lost in transmission.”
What is at stake are the alienated products of journalists. The father (head of a newspaper) deprives his staff of true journalistic activity when they become merely glorified secretaries. There is no time to think. Deadlines deadlines. And, as such, dead text. An anonymous caption for a photo (no byline) is the sole work of the editor. A journalist merely types. No time for discussion.
And thus the extension: why should a picture need a caption at all? Shouldn’t a picture tell a story and thereby eliminate the need for text? Is a complex picture which requires explanation inferior? And why not let the picture speak for itself in such a case? Why always explain what the reader is to feel???
A dictatorship falls. Strikes ensue. We hear a radio tell us Franco is dead. A subtle touch. From Portugal to Spain.
Carnation Revolution. Yes, I thought of Angola, but not Mozambique. And it makes sense. Mozambique. The only Marxist Western (as in horses and cowboys)…Vent d’est (1969).
Saint-Brieuc. It was a factory strike in ’72. We are one year off. 1975. Deadline deadline. Go to press.
Now television has completely won. Your show. Shows. On demand. One senses that the battle of art films vs. mass communication was [for Godard] not about format (film vs. video), but rather a question of diffusion and delivery.
The speed of news. The news cycle. “Information cascade” and Operation Mockingbird.