Letter to Jane [1972)

Fucking goddamned brilliant.

It is not surprise.  An exclamation without an exclamation point.

It is a reaffirmation.

That Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, in 1972, could dismantle the entire system imposing ill upon the world.

If their critique was not inclusive enough to include the shortcomings of communism, we must forgive them somewhat.

It really doesn’t matter that this film operates in a Chris Marker manner.

It was the right form to address a picture.  In fact, the spirit is much more akin to Antonioni’s Blow-Up.

The ontology of the image.

André Bazin.

This is the world from which Godard and Gorin emerge.

But the key touchstone may indeed be, as the filmmakers say, Uncle Bertolt.

Brecht.

Truth simple.  Telling the truth difficult.

Dziga Vertov.

Lenin.

It is a revelation to hear Godard speaking English.

Yes, there are no subtitles here (unless, perhaps, you are French and don’t understand English).

That makes this an especially important film for the English-speaking world.  Like British Sounds.

But most importantly this film encourages intellectual scrutiny of mass media.

Scrutiny of photographs.  Scrutiny of captions.  Scrutiny of context.

I think, therefore I am.

This is the acting default which we are told emerged (with sound) in the 1930s of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Beware of pity (advises Stefan Zweig).

A town without pity.  Gene Pitney.  Pithy.

No filmmaker has been more bold, in every way, than Jean-Luc Godard.

But his collaborators deserve their due for standing by him.

Gorin.  Anne-Marie Miéville.

So many ways to be bold…

To show the futility of 3-D.  Actually, to show how mundane superheroes are.

Just one aspect in the latest installment of brilliance (Adieu au langage).

His latest, Letter to Jane, Histoire(s) du cinema

They all smash to bits flailing failures like San Andreas.

It’s as if the master is saying, “Just think for a minute.”

But the master, JLG, dove into thought and grabbed handfuls of paradoxes.

That is the true artist.

That is the eternal man.

It makes me a bit emotional.

What dedication!

From Roxy the dog all the way back to Michel Poiccard.

It is hard to focus on just one episode in this immense body of work.

That said, the true message of Godard is elusive because his fame (and infamy) overshadow the meaning conveyed.

But his work says…carry on.

-PD

Octopussy [1983)

This was another childhood favorite of mine.  The intriguing geopolitical aspects were beyond me till now.  In the midst of the Soviet-Afghan War, the Bond franchise saw fit to introduce an Afghan villain.  What is more, the plot revolves around a rogue Soviet general (think Dr. Strangelove and Gen. Ripper) set on a sort of sneak attack against NATO.  The stratagem in question here is a rather more slippery bit of stealth.

Director John Glen does another admirable job and turns in a thoroughly entertaining episode for the series.  The disarming of the nuclear warhead is genuinely enthralling, but perhaps the best part of the movie is after that:  when Octopussy’s amazons besiege the villain’s hideout.

There’s a generous helping of humor and generally ridiculous set pieces in this installment.  Maud Adams makes a return to the series as the title character (having previously appeared in the excellent 1974 Eon production The Man with the Golden Gun).  The film, however, gets a bit clunky when her family history is introduced.  She pours a martini a little too fast and (voilà!) the plot becomes inexplicably convoluted at 100 miles per hour.

There is the nice reference to (one would assume) Strangers on a Train when Vijay is swatting thugs with a tennis racket.  It is cheeky, but the Bond series by this point had started to develop its own film language.  Other films simply could not get away with the hubris involved in such repeated suspension of disbelief.

Roger Moore in a gorilla suit is utterly absurd, but the whole thing works (to me) because he checks his watch while eavesdropping on a time-sensitive conversation.  On the other hand, the sequence in the jungle overdubbed with a Tarzan yell has the effect of the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope film Road to Bali.  The only problem is that Road to Bali sustained the anarchic irreverence throughout.  Bond’s life being in danger all of a sudden seems to be a laughing matter.  Somehow, John Glen gets away with it.  I don’t know if deft is the right word, but in the context of the increasingly farfetched series it works…more or less.

There are a couple of ribald excerpts which bear mentioning.  One is a cheeky cut immediately after the word asp to a lady’s rear end.  The other is far more strange.  As Q is briefing Bond (as usual) there is a strange stand off with a very distant, timid feminism.  Moore focuses a camera on a lady’s breasts (herself also an employee of MI6) and does the mondo zoom in/zoom out to generally entertaining effect.  The strangeness lays in the lady’s reaction.  She is like one of the Vietnamese in the famous picture of Jane Fonda which Godard spun out into an entire film (Letter to Jane).  The lady connected to the breasts is obviously displeased by what today would be accurately termed sexual harassment.  The fumbling mise-en-scène allows her to linger in plain sight for a long while as the joke is played out in aftermath.  I find this to be a potentially greater crack in “the fourth wall” than Vijay’s snake-charmer rendition of the 007 theme.

-PD