Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Switzerland and France
During last Wednesday’s public screening of Film Socialisme, Jean-Luc Godard’s latest, and perhaps final statement, on cinema, I counted about fifty walk outs.These people weren’t walking out because the violence was too graphic, or the characters too misogynistic, or its political statements. They walked because of the form. Since 1968, Mr. Godard, director of Breathless, perhaps the most important film in the second half of the medium’s history, has become increasingly more abstract, fighting against normative traditions of not only Hollywood but also all of cinema. A staunch Marxist, who rarely gives interviews (and skipped the film’s Cannes premiere in 2010, providing an ambiguous statement about the political situation in Greece), Mr. Godard has gone from riding the top of the new wave and landed somewhere in land so far that no one is sure where he is.
Certainly, one can’t even begin to describe Film Socialisme, which has no narrative to even begin to speak of, and instead is a collection of scenes, footage, sounds, ideas, and themes that are simply clashed onto each other. To add to that difficulty, the film’s characters speak mostly in French (though there is some German, Russian, Yiddish, and Arabic), and the subtitles are not translations, but a few chosen words used to represent the possible meaning, or as Mr. Godard has stated, “Navajo English,” a reference to the poor English spoken by Native Americans in Hollywood Westerns (film critic Glen Kenny pointed out they resemble Twitter hashtags).
Now it would be easy—quite easy—to have joined those walk outs. The film isn’t fun per say, it’s an academic experience, where one must be constantly interpreting image and sound placement in order to create ideas. So when I sat down (pen and paper ready), I took on Mr. Godard’s challenge, to understand what he was trying to say—about politics, cinema, history, philosophy, you name it. To create my enjoyment, I wrote down a number of observations on what was going on, and then looked over those notes to try and create meaning. Film Socialisme is full of academic references that will go over even the most astute viewers’ heads, and thus a full explanation could only be made by Mr. Godard. So in my own “fuck you” to Film Socialisme (as Mr. Godard has no plans on making anyone actually enjoy watching his films), I present THE interpretation of the film. It’s not the right one, but it’s the only one that matters to me, because Mr. Godard has created this film and wants me to respond. So if I am wrong, he can make another film telling me how I am wrong.