cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM GODARD A Man, A Woman and a Dog






FILM GODARD Au Adieu au Langage [iPhone]
{1}




Godard has a new film out. And he’s keen/anxious to talk about it, film ‘n stuff.

A few people have seen it, writing and talking about it at great length so spoiling it for everyone else who might have wanted to see it without the comments and interpretations of the expertigensia ringing in their ears, at what you now know are salient or significant points in the film [or the homage points, say, to his own films or film in general] which you’d hope to enjoy, be puzzled or exasperated by at your own pace.

Thank God (the one without the full stop or as the French call it, point, a word J-LG could have a field day with…). I made sure I did not read a lot before watching The Great Beauty. And then when I had seen it, I desisted from even translating the title into Italian or even mentioning that the phrase had been used by a character in the film in a certain way. See, there I’ve done it now. Now you will be on the look out for it, even though there has been no indication why this might have some significance.

One reads the contents of one’s mind before seeing a film, in anticipation of it, which in itself may spoil a film. Book, art, play, film. A filmic or booky equivalent, shall we say analogy, to phenomenological bracketing or epoché is impossible. I’ve already remarked in a recent post that as soon as I saw the poster for The Great Beauty, I knew [as would literally millions of others..] where we were coming from, though not necessarily where we were going to. Eric Morecambe’s famous riposte [applicable to almost anything, like the Actress & the Bishop jokes] to Andre Preview on his, Eric’s, terrible rendition of – was it Grieg’s piano concerto? – “I’m playing the RIGHT notes, but not necessarily in the RIGHT order!” always flings itself up from the recesses of my mind like the lyrics to an incomprehensible ’60s songs like the one by Noel Thingy called The Windmills of My Mind.

Why it is that I think of J-L Godard as the archetype (or prototype) of the incredibly difficult (but obviously highly intelligent) au contrarian conversationalist in any setting – uncle [ton ton] J-J at a family wedding or diner party, seated next to you in aircraft, etc. – who somehow manages to create the immediate suspicion he may well be mad, or temporally cured and released from some sort of mental institution (the old jackets…), yet, underneath the frightening persona, has something interesting to say which holds you there despite your inclination to run.

Really mad people we seem to have an instinct for as we have so much experience of them in everyday life. Like films we have seen too much about before watching them, Jean-Luc Godard comes with such a pedigree, a provenance, we are comfortable in the paradoxical nature of many of his pronouncements. Expect them even. Be lost without them, possibly. We know he, like a lunatic, assumes you know he is God [when it comes to film]. If you do, as he knows he is and you do, then all is simple.

The reviews on Adieu au Langage were not out when I was passed by Glen W. Norton, via a Godard forum, the link to the Canon video interview avec Godard with English subtitles

(…a classic God[.] subtitles joke in there not created by God[.] himself. Qua? Comment? These are accurate subtitles while his are notably unreliable.)

The areas I forced myself to listen to, while going Ni Ni Na Na with hands over my ears [mostly], were the technical ones. And this is reflected in graphics included in the post. Let’s try to grasp (as it is obviously important) why he at one and the same time decries technological advances and at the same time adopts them with alacrity. Except that is, in the case of editing (See relevant tab on the canon interview page) where he it is explained there – something know amongst God[.] watchers – he uses magnetic video tape to edit with, thus getting his technical collaborators who have filmed digitally to make video tapes for him to edit. The amusing thing is he’s renowned as an expert in editing with tape to an extent that makes many scratch their heads at his ingenuity.

I use this digital-magnetic example as a route into the mind of Jean-Luc Godard, in a sense prior to any messages he may be sending to his avid (an even not so enthusiastic) followers about life in general and of course the art of cinema, and Art.

While he argues here about his latest film that 3D is a FWOT

(Along the lines of, “It is useless! We see no more with it than before..” All true of course.)

he still uses it (At least twice so far..). And presumably this is a way of saying something. Well of course it is. And here is where we get to the crusty old uncle who frightens the sh** out of you, who blows cigar smoke into your face, and yet who let’s drop those few words which catch your interest. Words you know are true like you know a word of art by a master is true without being quite sure how to explain it.

With Godard it is for me when he talks of art. If you knew nothing about Godard the film genius and heard him talking of art in relation to all sorts of things, you will be gaining an experience of the mind of a man who has thought very deeply about his art and craft, film. Filmmakers who talk photography are in the same area. Even the knowledge that a film-maker was formerly a photographer says a lot.

The one who now always comes to my mind, when film and photography are mentioned in the same sentence, or should we even say thought in the same thought, is Nuri Bilge Ceylan. And if I may take a God[.]-like excursion down an dark alley which neither you the reader nor I may quite know is a dead-end or not – as this post is as ex-tempore as you are likely to get in postdom – Ceylan, has used severally the trope of bloke-wandering-around-ancient-site-with-camera-ignoring-and-annoying-girlfriend trope.

With Godard we have to understand that every film is the same film because he is trying to get over the same God[no .]-like message about how he as God [with or without .] can use film to get over his agendas [or not]. And so could everyone else to humanity’s general betterment, if they only had the brains and foresight to see. He like many good or even great film directors [even nerdy-looking baseball cap wearing ones..] is steeped in film from the year dot. And he evokes the complete history of film almost in every quakey sentence he utters. It’s always, “What is film?”. And of course, “What can it do and not do?” He seems to be saying all the time, “Film can’t do/isn’t doing so many things that people dreamed it might do.” And that’s because they don’t understand it well enough to see its talents.

Godard’s “cinema is dead” or “It is now!” [UK football ref there you no UK people..], or “Well, I thought it was then but it really is now” can confuse people. But it’s simple. He believed like Eisenstein that film was purely for political ends. The montage was the method. The Way, The Truth and The Light.

And so fast forward to a film like Adieu au Langage [3D]. Just like me with my immediate and deep apprehension of the depth of Italian cinema through a balding man sitting on a classy bench with shades that look suspiciously like the Ray-bans Marcello Mastroianni wore in 8 1/2, we should get the fact that every time Godard speaks on film (and life) he is thinking of how film failed. He may talk enthusiastically and yet mockingly or ironically about advanced technology, but you know he is still trying to get there, by any means at his disposal.

And all the time, he is still using the same film-text-film-text-text-film-film he developed from his earliest films. At one point in my Godard journey, I felt sure he was saying film could not replace writing and so his films had to constantly show this to be true. For the audience this can be both irksome and difficult. A major facet of this is his voice and text overs are in French. Unless French is your first language or a good second, his efforts to overlap three things at once are pretty much wasted on you, as an immediate effect.

If this all seems a bit too arcane and you have not got to Histoire[s] du Cinema (and perhaps never will) try reading Celine Scamma’s schema for Histoire[s] – a blog search in COTA will get you there.

And finally, as The Two Ronnie would say, there is that thing about Godard and his unreliable subtitling. Apogee: Film Socialism. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but I sense he is saying that you can’t translate poetry into another language without destroying or partially destroying its original meaning. Which is true. Godel, Escher Bach, for some ideas and background. And he quotes poetry a lot in his films. As well as showing and talking about art.

And so for film. The very act of trying to make a film helps to remove your original intention (He seems to be saying..amongst many other things). If you just use film. So he, wanting to be sure of getting over whatever message he intends, falls back on words in films as text and commentary (plus the obligatory art),which in itself is an essay on the limits of film. Or the dialectic between The Word and The Film. (Being some kind of Marxist, he would want to show that dialectic is real moving things forward).

And so (and here back to latest interviews) he feels he can’t say directly (and never could or would) simply, in words, what he wants to say about film. This is both because it dishonours film (and maybe dispels some of its magic and mystic) and because he doesn’t want to make the whole thing seem simpler than it is. Instead he picks up on small points (in the Canon interview he starts with SMS, the modern, the dubious) from which to expand (why not start anywhere?) outwards and back inwards at the same time, to the core of what he sees film is and can do. And of course what life (using an iPhone) is and can mean (film your day he suggests..). That goes without saying. Though, like God[.], I’ve said it to make sure you don’t miss it.



Other

With Canon interview spoiler…

1/. Godard comes in many shapes and sizes
– He briefly reprised his views on aspect ration with Gallic hand gestures demonstrating the cutting off of the upper part of a shot, etc.

2/. Something I feel strongly: what a film is about or meant to be about can be taken separately from how it was made. Or not. They can complement each other. Or not. My natural inclination is to run these in parallel. Weaving in and out. Often when the going gets tough on the film itself as a story with a narrative imperative (or not), resorting, or even retreating (out of the sun into the shade..), to the How Did They Do That? seems the most sensible place to go. Even if in the end that strip of bright sunlight between the shady tree and the house has to be crossed.

Godard is often talked about in terms of his oeuvre when a new one pops up (as one does of directors in general). We get the jump cut standing for À Bout de Souffle, or Fritz Lang standing for Le Mépris (who starred in it but to whom Godard was also paying obeisance to as a director. (Wiki:Contempt (film) is an Idiot’s Guide to the latter with some of the associated Langifications – A browser search on Fritz on that wiki page will do the trick).



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May 24, 2014 - Posted by | Douglas Hofstadter, DSLR cinematography, DSLR Digital Cinematography Guide, Eisenstein, European art cinema, European cinema, European film, film analog/digital, Film and The Arts, film aspect ratio, film reflexivity, film sex, Film Socialisme, film technique, film theory, film [its techniques], French films, Fritz Lang | , , , , , , , , ,

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