La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc [1928)

For this one I should really write a good piece.

Because this is a miracle of cinema.

Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.

You might cue it up on Hulu (good luck with Netflix) as part of the Criterion Collection.

You might put your headphones on.

But the Criterion Collection presents this as a truly silent film.

We know that that wasn’t the case most of the time with “silent” films.

They had live piano accompaniment.  Perhaps an orchestra.

In some countries (Japan?) they had sound effects performed live.

But watching La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc today is truly a lonely experience. 

You might keep the headphones on out of habit (as if a sound might finally emerge…but it never does).

It takes a valiant effort to watch this film in its totality and not cry when the famous scene comes.

“The famous scene” I refer to is the one made famous by Godard’s best “movie”:  Vivre sa vie.

Anna Karina sits in a movie theater and watches this very film.  And we join her just in time to see the tears roll down her cheeks.

Joan of Arc.

She stood for something.

And somehow, a “religious” court found her guilty.  She is labeled for all time, by this panel of judges, an “apostate” and an “idolater”.

What a tragedy!

It very plainly shows us the error of religion.

Joan’s religion is pure.  Her dedication is personal.

And who ever gave “the Church” the power to kill?

There is no part of the New Testament which even suggests such a power should emanate from Jesus through the Apostles (his “descendants”) and on down the ages to “the Church”.

And so Christianity failed.  There are a lot of apologies to be handed out.  The Inquisition, etc.

[It should be pointed out that the Catholic Church rectified this mistake made by a regional element which was allied with the English against the French.]

But the important thing is that Joan stood.

She stood for something.  Even if she was a fiery mystic like Hildegard von Bingen.

And who do we have to look to today?

I would say Snowden.  Is Snowden the real article?

He is certainly filling the needed role.

The great evil now is the surveillance state.

It is plain and simple.

And Will Smith should win the Oscar for Best Actor in Concussion even if for one line:  “Tell the truth!”

But there are far more important things on which we need the truth.

9/11, the War “on” Terror, ISIS…

Who is standing for those nearly 3000 who died horrible deaths in New York City?

When you wave a false flag, your soldiers don’t mete out justice.

When you wave a false flag, you get the wrong people.

No wonder Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had to be waterboarded 183 times.

And Guantanamo is full of goat farmers.

Therefore (q.e.d.), the 19 hijackers story (being impossible without the assistance of highly-placed “moles” in both the FBI and CIA) is the deadliest “Once upon a time…” ever written.

As much sympathy as I have for all those who died on 9/11 (and it is substantial), we must recognize the web of death which emanated from that lie…that “Once upon a time…”.  Try reading the 9/11 Commission Report without vomiting.  Why, because it is graphic?  No.  Because it reads like “My Pet Goat” (which George W. Bush was busy reading in Florida while he should have been rushing for cover = fake terror [w/ real death]).

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria…

It is disgusting.  There is not a “dictator” or “warlord” in the world who has wrought the needless destruction which the United States of America (by way of lies) has visited upon the Muslim world in the past 15 years.

But let’s be fair.  Our soldiers have been tricked.  Their lives have been ruined in the course of fighting this imperial war.  I am an American.  I pity our military.  They did not join up to fight shadow wars.  They did not join up to be the tools of imperialists.  They wanted to protect the United States.  Their generals have only succeeded in making the world a more dangerous place.

And that brings us to ISIS.  ISIS typifies everything fake about the War “on” Terror.  From the bastards who brought you the self-inflicted wound known as 9/11 comes a new comedy starring those wild and crazy terrorists who sprang up from nowhere.

Just like al-Qaeda.  Sprang up from nowhere.  Of course, there was the Operation Cyclone-era groundwork laid (that would be, CIA funding), but in general the “roll-out” of al-Qaeda was fairly quick.  But ISIS took the cake.  The confectioners of fake terror (that would be, the U.S., U.K., NATO countries, Israel, Five Eyes, take your pick, etc.) really outdid themselves with their speed to market in introducing ISIS.  In doing so, the New World Order (let’s call them) cannibalized their own product (al-Qaeda) just as Apple does each time it rolls out a new iPhone.

And so it has been transparent all along.  The catchy name has incriminated ISIS (no fundamentalist terrorist group from the Middle East would ever name themselves after an Egyptian pagan god) from the beginning.

ISIS is like a water cooler joke at Langley.  The spooks can’t believe how dumb we are.

And so it has been the U.S. airdrops which have sustained ISIS.  Yes, Turkey has provided a good bit of sustenance (under the aegis of NATO).

And the aerial campaign against ISIS’ formidable Toyota (!) trucks?  Nonexistent.

WE have been ISIS’ air force.  We haven’t been bombing ISIS.  At all.  Ever.

Russia has made this clear.

Make no mistake, Russia entered the Syrian theater because of the insanity of NATO along her borders.

Since Russia has entered:

-Russian passenger jumbo jet blown up over the Sinai Peninsula

-sabotage operation of explosions which have knocked out a considerable amount of power in Crimea (in the winter)

– Turkish (NATO) shootdown of Russian fighter/bomber

These are not pleasant things.

It is hard to tell exactly what role the Paris attacks played.

I think they were an American operation which backfired when France leaned towards Russia.  It is, however, possible that it was a French-engineered false-flag to allow France a pretext for joining Russia.  Perhaps the DGSE saw no other solution than sacrificing a hundred or so Parisians to stop the American war of insanity in Syria.

What is most obvious is the general arc of this farce:  9/11 (absolutely false narrative regarding the guilty party), the War “on” Terror (more lies lies lies…never ending war…profits for Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, United Technologies, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum ad nauseam), and ISIS (as fake as the Kuwaiti babies being ripped out of incubators which was foisted upon the U.S. Congress thanks to Hill & Knowlton PR firm).

And so we stand.  Each in our own little ways.

The panopticon is already constructed.

The camps are empty.

The data vacuumed up thus far will be mined from now till eternity.

Thus, Snowden needs to be eclipsed.

Who will be the next great human to take the world stage?

 

-PD

Pierrot le Fou [1965)

Here.  Ici.  Godard=Picasso=Joyce.  It may start with an Élie Faure quote concerning Velázquez, but that is just to set the stage for this ball of colored glass which goes beyond cinema.  The politics come on stronger, but they are like that strangely succinct Butthole Surfers lyric about not giving a fuck about the FBI…or the CIA.

You must only dial M.  Two murders by scissor.  Furthermore, the only way to catch a thief might be in his fireworks.  The tears of a clown…Clyde and his Bonnie…I can’t even keep track of their casual carnage.  Two?  3?  One thing is for sure:  the excitement of Breathless returns…along with the high school musical version of Broadway…in a bare apartment…a girl and a shitload of guns.  That’s all you need for this film.  And a car.  The spirit of Gene Kelly emerges later to spiff up the surreal song moments.

Pierrot doesn’t drive off a cliff.  But he drives right into the sea.  Yes, books were Pierrot’s downfall.  He’s never gonna get that job at Standard Oil.  Especially since he skipped town with a smokin’-hot murderer.  Drive all night.  Fuck it!  I’m so sick of everyone.  I just want to do what I want.  You know, just get in your car and start driving.  Find a town somewhere and start a whole new life.

Enid Coleslaw would doubtless have a certain simpatico with our lovers Marianne and Ferdinand (Pierrot [Belmondo]).  But this paradise isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  A parrot, a fox, sure…but eating out of tin cans…Marianne, like Groucho Marx, wants some hot-cha-cha!  And so the dance hall in town.  It could be L’Atalante.  It could be Casque d’Or.  Why are the police not here yet?  Because they like to let people destroy themselves.  Victor Hugo meets Dostoyevsky.

More torture à la Le Petit Soldat.  Use the whore’s dress.  Polyester.  An especially nasty asphyxiation.  And so Ferdinand ends up back in the bathtub…where he started.  Instead of reading the history of modern art to his daughter, he has just outed his lover.  What a terrible 5:00 pm.  What a terrible 5:00 pm.  What a terrible 5:00 pm.

Maybe I will just let the train pulverize me.  Why is it always damsels in distress?  Damoiseau?

Ah, but it all makes so much sense in the end.  Raymond Devos sums it up.  That tune that’s always been playing.  It is our comedic, pathetic love life.  Yes, she betrayed us.  And so he fails to not commit suicide.

A failed failure is a success.  I’ve always had trouble spelling that word.  I blame Bob Dylan.  There is no k in success.  And though I long embraced suckcess, I now remove the k and a c comes with it.  Sucess.  I have unsuccessfully spelled success.  As a graduate student.  In business.

Ah, but it’s really no use.  One must stay optimistic.  Realistic.  Let’s face it:  the chances are slim.  It takes a lot to laugh.  Hear that lonesome whistle blow.  Maybe tomorrow Bob Dylan.  Suckcess in all its glory.

-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