Z [1969)

He lives!

[in ancient Greek]

A letter was banned.

Q.

Why did Putin have the letter Z emblazoned on every military vehicle (particularly tanks) invading Ukraine?

Z mean “he lives” in ancient Greek.

Why did Putin have the letter Z emblazoned on every tank entering Ukraine?

There is no Z in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet.

There is likewise no Z in the Ukrainian Cyrillic alphabet.

If Z stands for Zelensky, why not use the Russian or Ukrainian equivalent of a Z?

Why use a Roman letter?

My gut feeling tells me this was psychological warfare.

The obvious answer would be a campaign to scare Zelensky.

But I feel there is more to this story.

Find out.

Did Vladimir Putin like movies?

Yes.

What kind of movies?

Soviet spy movies.

Is Putin a fan of the James Bond franchise?

Yes.

007.

Putin retired as a Lieutenant Colonel of the KGB in 1991 after 16 years of service.

At least five of those years were spent in East Germany.

Putin speaks German as a second language.

This film predates the start of Putin’s KGB career by six years.

Z was taken up by the followers of Yves Montand’s character after his murder in this film.

The Z was painted on the street during a clash between protestors and police.

What is Z about?

Corruption.

At the highest levels.

Durham.

Zorro.

Z.

Revenge.

Righteous vengeance.

May 2, 2014.

Trade Unions House in Odessa.

32 pro-Russian activists died of suffocation.

They were burned alive in the building.

The doors were barricaded so they could not get out.

An additional 10 pro-Russian activists jumped to their death from windows of the building as it was on fire.

Seven of those who died were women.

One was a 17-year-old boy.

As activists tried to escape, they were beaten by Ukrainian “unity” (pro-Maidan) protestors.

The pro-Russian activists were vastly-outnumbered.

46 of those killed in the fire were Ukrainians from Odessa.

The other two were Ukrainians from other towns.

The true story of Grigoris Lambrakis.

And his death in Thessaloniki.

Z.

The first letter of the Greek word, “Zi”.

“He lives”.

A graffito from 1960s Greece after the death of Lambrakis.

But Z is also the last letter of the English alphabet.

Biblical.

I am the alpha (first letter) and the omega (last letter).

The end.

The end times.

The last battle.

The last straw.

The hill to die on.

2/22/22.

The 26th letter of the English alphabet.

Invasion on the 24th of February.

What was the planetary alignment on 2/22/22?

Ezra Pound went by Z.

As you can see why.

Zorro.

An outlaw.

Who avenges the helpless, punishes cruel politicians, and aids the oppressed.

Putin on a horse.

Tornado.

Zorro is Don Diego Vega.

A fictional character created 100 years ago by Johnston McCulley.

An important detail.

Zorro’s mother is dead.

Putin’s mother died of tuberculosis when he was 18.

The dead moms club.

Zorro is a metaphorical chess master.

Intelligent.

Master of complex strategy.

Master of planning.

Planning before a battle.

But also a master of improvisation.

Zorro is not about brute force.

Zorro uses psychological warfare.

Zorro provokes his opponents into errors.

Zorro prods his opponents to seek revenge.

And be blinded by vengeful rage.

Zorro is a master of provocation and setting traps.

Zorro is a spy.

Like Putin.

Zorro provokes anger.

Like a punk rocker.

To keep his enemies off-balance.

Don Q, Son of Zorro.

1925.

Douglas Fairbanks.

Q Z.

Don Trump.

Z, son of Q.

World War Z.

Virus.

Biolabs.

Lavrov confirmed.

https://t.me/GeneralMcInerney/2400

Zombie pandemic.

The last war.

Philadelphia.

Bill Gates.

Smallpox.

Merck.

Costa-Gavras.

The most important thing about this film is Raoul Coutard.

It was just one month ago that the world lost Christos Sarzetakis.

President of Greece 1985-1990.

Let’s not forget that Greece was ruled by a military junta from 1967-1974.

So this film (1969) came at a particularly tense time in the country’s history.

And it was made in French.

Not Greek.

I agree with some of this film.

#NoMoreNATO .

Agreed.

#USAoutofNATO is my preferred tag.

Jan. 6 was a set-up.

9/11 was an inside job.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/68bDf5v7OSzGE43SWlq2Oc?si=9b6adeef05b94d4d

-PD

Kamikaze 89 [1982)

Here is a strange case.

I thought I was watching a movie by Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

The first I had ever seen.

But I was not.

And I still haven’t seen a Fassbinder movie per se.

This movie was directed by the late- Wolf Gremm.

Gremm might be most well-known for the 1980 film Fabian.

For that movie, Gremm adapted a work of Erich Kästner.

Kästner was always a bridesmaid and never a bride.

Nominated four times for the Nobel in literature, Kästner nevertheless was an important writer in that he used cinematic techniques in his literature.

Think about that for a second.

What might that mean?

Jump cuts, anyone?

‘Tis now that we pay homage to the great Jean-Paul Belmondo.

AND to my favorite drummer ever:  Charlie Watts.

Back to Kästner.

The Nazis burned his books.

These book burnings were instigated by (Psaki) Goebbels.

Kästner may not have really been a man of much integrity.

He wrote for UfA in 1942 under the pseudonym Berthold Bürger.

But you may know Kästner most for a Hollywood adaption of one of his children’s books:  The Parent Trap.

Made twice.

Which brings us to our film by Wolf Gremm.

It’s true:  Gremm and Fassbinder were close friends.

And I was tricked because Fassbinder is the all-consuming star of Gremm’s masterpiece Kamikaze 89 (alternately Kamikaze 1989).

Like a German version of Godard’s Alphaville.

Fassbinder is 100% Lemmy Caution.

But this whole thing needed a premise.

And that story was provide by Swedish author Per Wahlöö.

Before there was Stieg Larsson, there was Per Wahlöö.

Active between 1965 and 1975, and focusing on his character detective Martin Beck (a Stockholm policeman), Wahlöö collaborated with Maj Sjöwall on ten novels featuring Beck.

Like Erich Kästner, Wahlöö and Sjöwall were leftists.  

Communists.

Marxists.

Not unusual in Sweden.

You will find the same idealistic naïveté in the biographical details of Steig Larsson.

Gremm’s film did well as Fantasporto in Portugal.

And for good reason.

Because it is a fucking masterpiece!

The soundtrack is even by Tangerine Dream.

Edgar Froese.

Lester Bangs would have been proud.

Bangs died about three months after this film came out.

We see Brigitte Mira.

We see Nicole Heesters.

Someone briefly gets naked.

We might even see Fassbinder’s junk briefly.

I’ve gotta hand it to Xaver Schwarzenberger.

This film is stunning.

It pops!

Like a more punk version of Nicolas Roeg’s work on Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451.

Schwarzenberger was (and is) perhaps the equivalent of Godard’s Raoul Coutard.

So what?

The world, in general, has not heard of Wolf Gremm.

So this film must be discussed in relation to Fassbinder.

Was Fassbinder as good a director as he was an actor?

I don’t know.

Was Fassbinder as good a director as Gremm?

I don’t know.

Did Fassbinder ever make a film as good as the masterpiece Kamikaze 89?

I don’t know.

Something else should be noted.

Fassbinder himself died two months after Kamikaze 89 was released.

Which is to say, a month before Lester Bangs.

Let’s talk about New German Cinema.

I have devoted plenty of time to my favorite (the Nouvelle Vague aka French New Wave).

But I do not recall ever having broached the topic of Neuer Deutscher Film.

I will say this.

I think Werner Herzog may be the most overrated filmmaker of all-time.

Right next to Tarantino.

I hate to fucking admit it, but Tarantino (whom I hate) has WAY more talent than Herzog.

But hey:  my favorite director ever is Godard.

We first join Fassbinder about 1974 with Ali:  Fear Eats the Soul.

Eight years later, Fassbinder would be dead.

At age 37.

From a cocaine/barbiturate overdose.

I have lived seven years longer than Fassbinder.

Fassbinder crammed his career into his 30s.

Bangs died of an (accidental?) overdose of an analgesic opioid (Darvon), Valium, and cough syrup.

Bangs was 33.

Someone else important died at that age.

Bangs had a great mustache.

Fassbinder had a weird beard.

A nasty, seven-day stubble.

But Fassbinder fucking had style!

1975 saw him come out with Fox and His Friends.

Fassbinder was married for two years.

He then divorced.

I feel that.

Ingrid Caven.

A beautiful lady.

They say.

Hanna Schygulla.

Godard’s Passion.

1982.

There’s a reason I like Fassbinder.

I think.

Because Fassbinder liked Godard.

The Merchant of Four Seasons.

This precedes my earlier introduction.

1971.

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.

1972.

Fassbinder was bisexual.

He bought Günther Kauffman, who appears in Kamikaze 89, four Lamborghinis over the period of one year.

“calculatedly provocative”, they called him.

A verbal kamikaze.

I feel that.

The Tenderness of Wolves.

1973.

As actor.

I have focused on films available in the United States.

On iTunes.

I am.

Pauly Deathwish.

Twenty years coming.

10/11.

-PD

 

Redoubtable [2017)

Formidable.

Inspiring fear and respect.

Impressive.

Intense.

Capable.

That Swiss-Maoist asshole is my hero.

In many ways.

But which Godard?

If I were to say “late Godard” (and that would be my natural, truthful answer), Monsieur Godard would likely point out the merits of his early films…just to annoy me.

If I spoke lovingly of Vivre sa vie, he would probably proclaim that it is shit.

Jean-Luc Godard is a very complex individual.

And I can wholeheartedly identify with that.

A walking civil war.

This film never makes reference to Cahiers du cinéma.  

It doesn’t need to.

This film covers a period of time which Wikipedia classifies as Godard’s “revolutionary period”.

When did Godard stop writing for Cahiers?

He never stopped being a critic.

We know that.

And I see his point.

This is shit.

Because we want to invent new forms.

Breathless was like his “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”.

Or his Bolero.

He couldn’t escape it.

Couldn’t lose it.

Must be nice.

But maybe not.

“Play the hits!”

Did politics ruin Jean-Luc Godard?

Sure.

But it was necessary.

It was his process of growing up.

His process of attaining wisdom.

Trial and error.

Formative years.

But not the last word.

I don’t agree with Godard’s politics.

Perhaps at some point in my youth I did.

But not very much.

Because I never really understood them.

I dabbled.

But I too am a revolutionary.

In these days.

After the 2020 election.

You may call me a reactionary.

I don’t care what you call me.

I think George Washington is cool.

I think the United States of America is worth saving.

And the American Revolution has recommenced.

Same goals as the founders had.

Love it or leave it.

Godard did not show up in 2010 to receive his honorary Academy Award.

Good for him.

Fuck Hollywood!

Give me the old stuff.

Hitchcock.

Howard Hawks.

Not this new crap.

Tripe.

Perhaps you see where me and Godard overlap?

Too rashes like a Venn diagram…with a particularly-irritated common ground.

The skin is red and peeling.

Weeping.

Scratching.

Itching.

I scratch my arms.

I’m running out of real estate on my body for these nicotine patches.

Yes.

You thought it was something more interesting?

More taboo?

No.

Where does the former President of Peru come in?

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

Godard’s first cousin.

I too had cousins.

Who are as far off as Peru.

But always close in my heart.

Kuczynski is 82.

Godard will be 90 in one week.

I will be 44 when the Electoral College meets.

Anna Karina died on my birthday last year.

She was 79.

But this film doesn’t deal with the wonderful Ms. Karina.

No, this film deals with another stunning beauty:  Anne Wiazemsky.

Wiazemsky died three years ago.

The same year Redoubtable came out.

In the English-speaking world, we know it (ironically) as Godard Mon Amour.

Sounds more sophisticated to have the subtitled film with a more commercial FRENCH product label.

Redoubtable is too vague.

Godard Mon Amour sells itself.

[that’s what the advertising guys must have said]

Godard and Wiazemsky were married for 12 years.

Godard and Karina married for a mere 4.

I’ve never read Mauriac.

I have nothing against Catholics.

I adore Olivier Messiaen’s music.

So it bears mentioning that one of the smartest, most unique artists in the history of the world was a French Catholic [Messiaen].

Which is to say, believing in God does not make you boring.

I believe in God.

The same God.

The Christian God.

God who gave us Jesus.

God who gave us synesthesia.

Combat didn’t like La Chinoise.

De Gaulle withdrew from NATO.

Will Trump win?

De Gaulle supported sovereignty.

The European Union is the antithesis of what de Gaulle wanted.

De Gaulle criticized America’s war in Vietnam.

But that wasn’t enough for revolutionaries like Godard.

Too lukewarm.

De Gaulle wanted Québec to be free from Canada.

If you’ve ever been to Québec, you might see why.

It is unlike the rest of Canada.

Except for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

But not really.

Île de Chêne?

1755-1764.

Conservatism.

De Gaulle.

Biography.

Mauriac.

Wiazemsky.

Mauriac’s granddaughter.

Starring in a Maoist film directed by Jean-Luc Godard.

La Chinoise.

And then they married.

Godard was correct.

Au Hasard Balthazar is the antithesis of the Central Intelligence Agency.

But Godard never said that.

I did.

So Anne Wiazemsky wrote a book called Un An Après which was published in 2015.

She died two years later.

The same year her book was adapted for film as Redoubtable.

She died of breast cancer.

Less than a month after Redoubtable was released in France.

This film proves that Michel Hazanavicius is a very talented filmmaker.

It proves that he knows his Godard.

But it is flawed.

Aren’t all masterpieces?

Maybe not.

Is Redoubtable a masterpiece?

In some ways, yes.

In some ways, no.

It is probably most similar to Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock.

Both of them are films of “exorbitant privilege”.

Which is to say, a little out of touch with their subject matter.

Was Pablo Picasso ever called an asshole?

Not if we take Jonathan Richman at his word.

Art contains deeper layers of meaning.

Usually.

Unless you’re Warhol.

In which case, the meaning MAY be found closer to the surface.

Stravinsky liked this too.

Music has no meaning.

It is just tones.

Timbres.

Rhythms.

Harmonies.

Little dots on a page.

So we are told.

By Igor.

Jean-Luc Godard and Igor Stravinsky both embraced MANY different approaches to their craft over their long careers.

Because they loved their crafts.

They were addicted.

It was a compulsion.

And, for Godard, it remains so.

Godard married the girl who rejected Robert Bresson.

Do not underestimate the thrill of this.

The thrill of it all.

Bresson was a genius too.

But she was only 18 when Bresson made his advances.

Girls want to live.

Bresson was 65.

Bold.

Numbers can lie.

Godard and Wiazemsky were only together as man and wife for three years.

Though they were married for 12.

Three years was enough, apparently.

The divorce appears to have been more a formality.

Anna.

Anne.

Anne-Marie.

I spoke to Anne-Marie on the phone once.

In exceedingly-broken French.

She was saintly in her patience.

All I wished to convey, as I called Rolle (Switzerland) on my flip phone, was that Godard was my intellectual hero.  [it is true]  And that his LATE films mattered.  That they mattered THE MOST.  That he had created beauty.  That he had plumbed the depths.  I owed it to my master to deliver this message before I (or he) died (God forbid).

I was compelled.

Jean-Luc Godard is my favorite creator this side of heaven.

Even though I don’t agree with his politics.

Bob Dylan is neck-and-neck for this honor.

Dylan is, no doubt, my favorite musician to have ever lived.

Neck-and-neck with Roland Kirk (perhaps).

My favorite jazz artist.

My favorite instrumentalist.

It is never noted that Wiazemsky was in Les Gauloises bleues.

And Godard could be an asshole.

So can I.

So can Trump.

Trump is my ideological hero.

My political hero.

I DO agree with his political philosophy.

Wholeheartedly.

And yet, my favorite film director (auteur) remains Godard.

No one is even neck-and-neck with JLG for me.

Brakhage is a distant second.

Welles is formidable.

But they do not hit the mark like Jean-Luc.

Il seme dell’uomo.

Nothing suggestive there.

Global plague.

Marco Ferreri.

Marco Margine?

Shot-reverse shot.

And then I gave Jacques Demy’s grandson piano lessons.

Or Agnès Varda’s grandson.

Same difference.

More like organ lessons.

Booker T.

You should use Belmondo again.

Funny films.

We see Coutard’s hair early.

Politics entered soon.

Le Petit soldat.

Shadow war.

The perfection of Vivre sa vie.

The jaunty, carefree, playful anarchy of Breathless.

And a sadness tied to beauty.

Politics again with Les Carabiniers.

An attempt at commercialism with Contempt.

Equivalent to Nirvana’s In Utero album.

Big-budget negation.

Nihilism.

A thorough disdain for the Hollywood system.

And the “tradition of quality” in France.

But something deeper…and more bitter.

Bande à part more like Breathless.

A little like Vivre sa vie.

Dancing.

Pinball.

Billiards.

Cafe culture.

Down and out in Paris.

Life at the margin of society.

YOUTH!

Hazanavicius first really gets going with Une Femme mariée.

Stacy Martin in the nude.

Stunning.

Cinematography.

Grabbing the bedsheets.

Clutch.

Brace brace brace.

The resemblance to Charlotte Gainsbourg is striking.

A little Alphaville.

Someone who nibbles Godard’s neck.

The Samuel Fuller scene from Pierrot le fou turned into a fistfight.

Politics.

Don’t insult me!

A bit of Macha Méril in the hair.

And a bit more of Chantal Goya.

Getting shouted down by a situationist during the May ’68 occupation of the Sorbonne.  Lumped in with Coca-Cola.

Things go dark with insults.

Swiss-Maoist jerk.

On the blink.

“Ruby’s Arms”.

It hurts.

Made in U.S.A.

Two or Three Things I Know About Her.

Urbanism.

“You ruined my shot!”

Ciné-tracts.

Eating Chinese food.

A rather unfortunate outburst directed at a war hero.

And his wife.

These are the things we do.

When we’re young.

And stupid.

And fiery.

What is striking is the humor in Redoubtable.

The broken eyeglasses.

The slipping shoes.

And their replacement.

I must give credit to Louis Garrel.

He really does convey the mania and eccentricity of Godard.

While Stacy Martin is very good here, it is a shame that Hazanavicius chose to lovingly evoke every detail of Godard’s life…except Wiazemsky’s red hair.

 

-PD

Bande a part [1964)

I need a word.  Just a word.  A word.  To start it off.  Nothing fits.  Frustration?  Yes, perhaps.  Ferment?  That might work even better.  It is a feeling.  I search for it on the Internet.  I cast my net to the blog sea.  Ahh, Valentine’s Day…  Yesterday.  How I wanted to write, yet I abstained.  Abstinence.  Discipline.  Youthful anarchy.

I needed a word.  As so I sought.  Abandoned, abandonment, abstract expressionism.  No.  Alex Chilton, Anna Karina.  Yes.  After two films she was back.  Here.  Anne Wiazemsky?  No.  We will wait for her at the Tout va bien café.

Art house, arthouse, Astruc?  Yes. Alexandre. camérastylo.  A free-flowing style.  Freewheeling.  Big Star, Bilinda Butcher?  Yes.  Feed me with your kiss.  Do you know how to kiss?  With the tongue?  That’s correct.  You stick your tongue out and I will kiss you on the cheek.

So I found my word?  No.  I found Bob Dylan, Boise, bored to tears.  A phrase.  Bresson.  Wiazemsky.  No, not yet.  But, pickpocket.  Yes.  Money.  A big stack of money!

Broken heart.  Ok, now we are getting somewhere.  And how does a heart break?  Neil?  Love.  CSS.  No, not the computer language.  Language?  We are barely passing English class.  Romeo and Juliet.  Verona.  Valentine’s.  The world’s shittiest Starbucks.  Right by my house.  Trust me.  I’ve been to Starbucks in middle-of-nowhere Arizona…in a fucking Albertson’s.  No, Target.  Maybe Wal-Mart.  No more depressing than the one by my house.  Sure, the buck-toothed high school senior was not much on the eye candy scale, but I am living in the same wasteland.  Neu Mexique.  The place where they tested the bombs.  Long ago.  Trinity.  I have become the destroyer of worlds.

No, the other CSS.  Tired of being sexy.  That one.  And Cary Grant.  Yes, my jacket’s at the dry cleaner…and I don’t have any money…so I won’t take off my coat.  Tou bi or not tou bi contre votre poitrine:  dat iz ze question.  Something like that.  Claude Brasseur.  What a brute!  What a fucking asshole!! !

Chris Bell.  The singer.  The white one.  Yeah.  Dead.  No.  Cinémathèque Française.  O-kay!  Now we are getting somewhere.  But I keep searching.  The English classes are not enough.  Maybe the Chinese will prevail.  Sami Frey is betting Chinese:  5-2.

Cocteau.  Yeah.  We’ll sit in the car and listen to the radio.  No, I’m not allowed to do things like that.  Hey, how old are you anyway!?!  Conlon Nancarrow?  Yes.  And the last time Michel Legrand on the big screen [English broken].

When it should be sad, the jazz kicks up impossibly happy.  Happily.  Hereusement?  I don’t know.  I am on the other side of the pond.

Crying.  Depressed, depression, depress-o-rama.  And then she feeds a tiger.

Doldrums.  No.  The other ones.  Not the horse latitudes.  Ennui.  Yes. She is bored, but she doesn’t know she’s bored…until she’s not bored anymore.  Euros Childs.  No.  Completely inappropriate.

Farfisa.  Maybe.  Pasolini.  Frankenstein.  Rasputin.  Claude Brasseur.  What’s your family name, Arthur?  Rimbaud, like my father.  But he’s dead.  As I pump a bull’s eye into the midway target.  Can I keep my chart?  [Crumples and throws away.]

Leave no traces.  Like the Situationists.  No more poetry.  Arthur Craven.  Shitty family.  It’s no joke.  We need that money.  I was in Indochina.  Don’t fuck with me.  Like Raoul Coutard.

Back to black and white.  Truly a film noir. Série noire .  Gallimard.  Says so at the end.  Dolores Hitchens.

Forlorn.  Ooh!  That’s a good one!  Any catch?  French cinema.  French film?  Harmony Korine.  No.  Later, later.

Henri Langlois.  Yes.  Now we’re back on track.  A name.  We needed a name.  Like Tarantino.  His production company.  Like the car scene with Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson.  Same thing.  They’re talking about nothing.  But they are incredibly rude.  Crude.  Blow a fucker’s brains out.  2.0

But the travesty is that Godard is forgotten in France.  ;that Quentin is cooler than Jean-Luc.  Quel dommage.

Howard Hawks.  To Jean-Luc.  And then who?  David Lynch?  Not very often.  Too many misses.  Same with Harmony Korine.  But those two are as good as it gets now.

Balls.  Giant figurative testicles.  The Madison.  Joseph Beuys balls.  Wolves and coyotes and felt and fat and goldleaf.  Heathen child youthful anarchy.  La Düsseldorf.  Klaus Dinger?  Motorik.

Driving like madmen.  Park on the curb…like Billy the Kid.  Drive on the sidewalk.  The Simca.  Do wheelies…no, donuts.  The mud.  The giant spools for wire.  Tightrope.

Lovelorn.  Ooh!  Nice!!  Lovesick.  Mauricio Kagel.  Yeah, now we’re getting somewhere.  Because, obviously, there’s a smokin’ hot girl out there in blog land into Mauricio Kagel.  Good strategy.

We are Sami Frey, here at Dossier du cinema.  We are Anna Karina.  We are schmucks.  We haven’t learned yet to embrace our inner Claude Brasseurs.

How ’bout that chick?  Yeah, like her!  Except……………….monotony.  Morose?  Yeah, book it!  Nerval.  Hanging from the streetlamp.  Certainly.  Ophüls?  Nothin’.

Psychogeography.  Clichy.  The Louvre in 9:43…surpassing Jimmy Johnson of San Francisco.

AND THE SUBWAY SCENE!!!

Regret, rejection?  Yes.  Print it.  The man sleeping on the sidewalk.  Teddy bear or TNT.  Richard Hell or Richard Lloyd.  Routine.  Buy groceries.  Aunt Victoria.  Like the Queen.  And a big pile of money upstairs with the door unlocked and just a jacket draped over it.  200 million francs perhaps.  In 10,000 franc notes.

Silver screen.  It has to be silver, you fucks!  Spider Man does not qualify.  It has to be Louis Feuillade.  Jurassic Park does not cut it.  Did you see her thighs?  So white.  Black stockings over your heads.  Undo the garters.  It’s like Le Petit soldat all over again, but this time the terrorists are up and walking around.  That’s what terrorists do.  They terrify.  Burglers burgle.  Etc.  No torture…handcuffed to the robinet.

I don’t have time for this shit.  Shortcut.  Dying.  “Cheat death on the other side.”  J. Spaceman.

Someone to be nice to me for like five minutes and then I’ll leave you alone.  This was Jean-Luc “Cinema” Godard on fire.

-PD

Le Mepris [1963)

I dated Brigitte Bardot for awhile.  Well, not THE Brigitte Bardot, but it might as well have been her.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Ah, but all those hours on the highway didn’t end happily.  No, there weren’t many happy endings for those involved.  Anna Karina.  Jean-Luc Godard.

Contempt.  You must look beyond the characters.  Look beyond the actors.  And even so, you must take note…Fritz Lang as Himself.  It’s like the old U.S. TV tradition of saving that one zinger character for the end of the opening credits.  Say, for instance, you’re watching The Jeffersons or Laverne and Shirley…or even Three’s Company…”and Don Knotts as Mr. Furley” [zing!]

But Fritz Lang isn’t funny.  He doesn’t wear a powder-blue leisure suit.  No, the mood is very grave around here.  Even when we relocate to Capri.  It all begins with a quote from André Bazin.  Twenty-five years later Godard would turn to that quote to kick off his masterpiece Histoire(s) du cinema.  “Le cinema substitue…à notre regard…un monde…qui s’accorde.”  Cinema substitutes in our eyes a world which harmonizes.  Ersetzt das Kino in unseren Augen eine Welt qui harmoniertSostituisce il cinema nei nostri occhi un mondo qui armonizza.

This is the world of Le Mépris.  Babel.  Babble on.  Whore.  Vulgarity doesn’t suit you.  How ’bout now?  Does it suit me now?

He commands me…ou il me prie?  Le Mépris.

Once again we miss Anna Karina.  Two films in a row.  Les Carabiniers and now this:  replaced by Bardot’s ass.  Ass ass ass ass ass.  Blue ass.  Yellow ass.  Natural ass.  The tricolor.  God save the queen!

This was Godard’s shot at the big time.  Like Dune for David Lynch.  “Walk On the Wild Side” for Lou Reed.  Godard as Neil Young skipped Harvest and went directly to On the Beach.

That’s how it goes.  Perhaps it’s why Godard got on with Woody Allen.  Yes, Godard the neurotic drove his life and career directly into the ditch.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.

He even made the biggest star in France (B.B.) wear the same shabby Louise Brooks wig which his wife (Karina) had worn in Vivre sa vie.  Yes, something is amiss with this film.

I feel the Godard/Karina relationship problems bubbling to the surface.

“No, go do it!  This is your big chance!”

“But you won’t be mad at me?”

“Why should I be jealous of Bebe?”

“You know I would prefer to cast you.”

“Forget about it.  I’m not mad.  I’m happy.  I just look mad because I’m crying.”

Something like that.

All,                                                of,                          that,           aside,

this film couldn’t be more masterful.  It is a precarious film.  It threatens at every turn to fall headlong into a sea of shit, but it doesn’t.  The waters of Capri blue.  Bardot’s golden ennui chevelure.  A white Greek statue and a Shirley card in CinemaScope.  Go ahead and give Ulysses some sky-blue eye shadow and lipstick.  And Penelope.  Pen elope.  Moravia.  Javal.  dactylo.  camérastylo.

The poet’s vocation.  Vacation.  Terrorist.  Tourist.  Coutard.  Kutard.

Casa Malaparte is abandoned.  99 steps and a bitch ain’t one [hit me] (!)  Gulf of Salerno looking out to…nothing.  Ulysses sees something I don’t.  There is no homeland.  Only insecurity.  Die Heimat?  Fritz Lang would know.  Is that a command or a request?  Please tell Goebbels that Herr Lang has politely declined the offer to head up the film efforts of the Nazi propaganda program.  And by the way, he’s leaving the country.  Maybe call up Leni Riefenstahl.  I’ll bet she has a nice ass… lagniappe!  L.H.O.O.Q.

99 steps from the Gulf of Salerno.  that last step’s a doozy [hit me]!

-PD

Le Petit soldat [1963)

“La photographie, c’est la vérité, et le cinéma, c’est vingt-quatre fois la vérité par seconde.”  It is one of the most famous quotes in the history of cinema and likewise among the most often quoted in relation to Godard, yet it is a line in a film…this film…and it is delivered by the character Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor).  And so, there is some distance from the auteur…perhaps very little , but yet it exists.  This is just one of the odd disconnects about this brilliant film.

The synopsis on Wikipedia presents another right off the bat.  Bruno is a deserter from the French military, yet he is working for French intelligence in Geneva.  On the surface this seems irreconcilable, yet a bit of thought opens up several possibilities.  First, the “French intelligence” under consideration might be an organization not wholly sanctioned by the French government.  We hear of these dark organizations often.  Rogue branches.  Rogue networks.  Informal connections.  Perhaps even an entire parallel government (or, at the very least, intelligence apparatus).  Second, we must take the film’s context to ascertain the indisputable fact that Bruno Forestier isn’t entirely a free agent.  In other words, his record is being used against him to greater or lesser extent to blackmail him into performing dirty deeds (assassinations) for this intel branch (asset by coercion).  Again, this certainly isn’t without precedent in real world situations.

But perhaps the greatest dissonance, though nuanced, is presented in something Jean-Luc Godard himself wrote in 1960.  As this film was banned in France for three years, this written explanation would predate the film’s release by the same number of years.  It can be found in the Simon and Schuster Modern Film Scripts version of the action (1967, English translation by Nicholas Garnham).  In this short piece, Godard explains his take on the film.  The focus is on realism.  Cinematographer Raoul Coutard, who had been a war photographer in Indochina, was integral in conveying Godard’s vision by way of a handheld camera (as opposed to the large Mitchell camera which he used on his next film Une Femme est une femme).  The auteur likewise makes reference to “whip-pans, over- and under-exposed shots, one or two blurred ones,” etc. in dissecting his own mise-en-scène.  The beginning of this introduction apparently comes from issue no.109 of Cahiers du cinema.  More importantly, what follows in this introduction delineates his focus on stubborn freedom.  It is in this concept which Godard manages to declare that Le Petit soldat “is not politically orientated in a particular direction.”

This was not something I had previously noted in prior viewings, but I can see how Godard might claim such.  Indeed, Bruno Forestier is a very conflicted character.  In some ways he is the noble version of Michel Poiccard from Breathless.  Both have a strange, tenuous grasp on ethics.  Nihilism abounds in both, yet Forestier’s brand almost comes off as a noir Buddhism.  It is little wonder that Godard would later dedicate one of Histoire(s) du cinema‘s chapters to Clint Eastwood.

Bruno Forestier is far from perfect, but in that condition he is still charming and likable…even heroic to a certain extent.  There is no doubt that Rossellini’s Roma città aperta loomed large as an influence for the torture sequences of our film.  It might even be said that this Godard film is more poignant now (with respect to torture) than it has ever been.  Bruno is subjected to a method not unlike waterboarding.

But there are other pithy quotes such as, “…killing a man from a distance, I think it’s dishonest.”  This almost begs to be compared to the drone strikes which have become sadly ubiquitous in our upside-down world.

Yet, amidst all of this painful reality, Godard manages to outdo himself in artistic name-dropping.  Paul Klee is referenced multiple times (Swiss artist, movie set in Geneva).  We sympathize with Bruno Forestier partly because he is artistic (a photographer).  “And Veronica, are her eyes Velasquez grey or Renoir grey?”  So muses Bruno about Veronica Dreyer (Anna Karina).  This was, in fact, her first film for Godard.  Dreyer is no doubt an homage to Carl Theodor Dreyer (Danish actress, Danish legend/director).  The artistic references are almost comical at times…such as when Jean Cocteau’s novel Thomas l’imposteur is improbably brought into play.

One final thought.  Maurice Le Roux’s music plays a vital role in setting this film apart from anything Godard had done in his first four films.  The dense, clustered piano textures play like Henry Cowell improvising on Brahms. After the tides of Manaunaun, that Irish god of motion, wash Veronica’s fate ashore Lake Geneva, we get the biggest shock of all: Bruno behaving like Meursault from L’Étranger.  The final disconnect comes from recalling that Bruno told Veronica he detests Camus.

-PD