Entries tagged with “Jean-Luc Godard”.


The French invented cinema and the Americans turned it into a big industry. If Hollywood loves making films about Hollywood, why should not make the French also films about the French cinema? Especially if we are talking about a director () who already made a very successful film about Hollywood (“The Artist“). Here is his daring approach to a genre which is surprisingly new for the French cinema – movies about movies. “Le Redoubtable” is a daring endeavor because the subject is one year in the life of one of the most controversial film directors in the history – ., a complex artist and personality who is also still with us, making films and even commenting on films made about him.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5687334

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5687334

 

The year is also not any other year, but 1968, one of the milestones in the history of the 20th century, a crossroad also in the history of France. The revolts of the students that peaked in May of that year had several sources of inspiration – anarchist and Maoist ideloogies among them, but also works of philosophers like Jean Paul Sartre and, yes, movies, among which ‘s “La Chinoise“. The French director had gained fame in the decade before with some of the best known films of the French ‘Nouvelle Vague’. Some had ideological content, some other ‘just’ revolutionized (together with films by and a few other) the language of cinema. “La Chinoise” had marked the final of that period and the start of another, a much more politically oriented stage in his creation. It also marked the beginning of the relationship soon to turn into marriage with . (the second for Godard, after he had married and divorced Anna Karina). The implication of Godard in politics and the rocky marriage with Anne are the principal topics of “Le Redoubtable“. The Godard in the film does not come very clean from this historical re-evaluation on screen which is based on the novel-memoirs of his ex-wife. He appears as a ‘gauchist’ intellectual who sides with the revolt and hates police, but his behavior and way of life belong to the class he despises. His ideology seems more anarchist and quite remote from realities.  He fails to understand the totalitarian ways of his idols Mao and Che and is stupefied when “La Chinoise” is rejected by the Chinese embassy as ‘reactionary art’ and he is refused a promotion trip to China. His joining of the May 1968 revolts leads to confusing speeches in the meeting halls at Sorbonne, including an outrageous rant paralleling Jews and Nazis. He is, as many other before him, a victim of a revolution in march that devours its idols. Eventually he makes the right choice understanding that an artist can better serve the revolution by means of art, and for a while he looks better holding a camera on the streets of Paris in 1968, or founding the Djiga Vertov collective of politically active filmmakers. This may lead to another impasse, an artistic one, but that will not be part of the story in this film.

 

(video source TIFF Trailers)

I liked the film. uses a technique that he already successfully applied in “The Artist” – talking about a past period in the history of the cinema with the cinematographic tools specific to that era. He even added more nuances, as different episodes are filmed in different styles adapted to the content. We see the scenes with Paris on barricades filmed with ‘Nouvelle Vague’ hand-held camera. A trip by car in which a crowded mix of film-makers and actors get a speech from their driver about the simple taste in cinema of the masses, so remote from their experiences, is filmed in a static car, like in an American movie of the 30s or 40s. At the peak of the domestic crisis the unbearable soundtrack covers the voices of the disputing lovers.   created a Godard who oscillates between his (well deserved) ego and surprising moments of lack of confidence, who thinks in an ideological and doctrinaire manner but knows little about the people the ideology is supposed to serve, who models his life and art to politics and has little understanding or patience for his own adulating audiences. The relationship with Anne () is almost permanently one-directional, a crisis in building from the very first moments. Both actors do fine jobs, and they are placed in an environment that brings brilliantly to life the period for those spectators who lived it as well as for those who did not.

Focusing on politics and the stormy marriage between Jean-Luc and Anne, “Le Redoubtable” tells less about the cinema that he made – and 1968 was actually a very prolific year, as were the coming 3 or 4 years, although much of what he did was documentary of collective work within the Djiga Vertov group. The one scene that show him at work is filmed one year later, and hints to the fact that, at least for the coming period that was to last about another decade, Godard made a choice. Between art and revolution, he explicitly chose revolution. The final judgment about this period may have not been pronounced, and this film could be part of a re-opening of the discussions and more important – seeing again his films. Godard is Godard, and he never seems to accept to rest.

I usually try to form my opinion about films based on how entertaining or interesting or enriching or none of these I felt that they were during the time spent watching them. Only afterwards I try to understand why I liked or disliked the film, what caused me to find it funny, what I had learned from it, whether I exited as a better being (or not) at the end of the film. In the case of ‘My Life to Live‘ (the original French title is ‘Vivre sa vie’ – ‘Living her own life’) going back to the roots of the pleasure of watching this movie also means placing it in the context of the cinema at the beginning of the 60s, and the extraordinary revolution brought by a handful of French directors was part of, in the way movies are made and the way spectators watch movies and relate to them.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056663

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056663

 

The story in ‘Vivre sa vie’ is pretty straight-forward and there are no explicit social or political messages as in other films by Godard or his colleagues. Nana () is a young woman trying to build a path for herself in the Big City, failing, and sliding slowly on the slope of prostitution. The film follows her unsuccessful attempts to meet ends, followed by a decision that mixes innocence and reluctance to engage in the oldest profession, while keeping alive her ingenuity and desire to live her life. There is no moral hesitation and no risks assessment in what she does. Godard approaches what can be otherwise described as a descent in hell with an apparent phlegmatic approach, almost as in a documentary or as in what we call nowadays a docu-drama. This is reflected in the places he is filming (more or less chic areas of Paris) and in the selection of his actors – the pimps and the customers of the sex trade look no different than any of the other guys next table in the brasserie.  There is only one violent incident in the story that could have been a warning about the dangers ahead, but it is dully ignored. The desire to live a good life prevails.

 

(video source janusfilms)

 

The choice of the actress may have been quite obvious, as had married the year before the film was made. The role may even have been written for her, but the way he directs the young actress is part of his manner of telling the story. ‘s Nana is beautiful and ingenue, she just makes her choice about the way she wants to live her life without awareness about the price to be paid. Is there a final realization of her mistake? Maybe she gets it in the last second of the film, but it’s mostly to the viewer to draw the conclusions.

There are so many cinematographic innovations in this film made at the beginning of the 60s that any list risks to be partial. Filming some of the dialogs without seeing the faces of the actors, using live and sometimes hand-held camera on the streets of Paris, inserting legal and documentary book texts to illustrate the decision of Nana at the key moment when her destiny takes a turn, using close plans of the actors faces to emphasize their feelings (some times with help from the wonderful music of Michel Legrand) are only part of these. I especially loved two scenes: the film in film screening of ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ which is a fascinating declaration of love for cinema, and the dance scene which predates by more than three decades what  will do in Pulp Fiction. No wonder, as  lists  as one of his idols. One element which may seem today experimental was not such actually – it’s the black-and-white film – that was the period of transition to color, which still was expensive and – luckily – the young French new wave directors and their producers could not afford it.

The final of the 12 chapters of the film includes a glimpse on the streets of Paris where people stand in line at the cinema house to see ‘s Jules and Jim. A reverence to his colleague of generation who broke through a few years before, and whose fame was soon to equal.