Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bastille Day Avec JLG

Happy Bastille Day, France!

It's been a very Godard week for me. I saw the rereleased Breathless over the weekend, watched the 2 or 3 Things I know About Her DVD (mainly to listen to the commentary, this time), dug around the extras on both those DVDs... Had a very Godard-like train ride the other day. It helped that I was reading CinemaScope's Film Socialisme article - but... there was a woman sitting near me, studying flashcards - "Working Capital and its components" the top one read. Across from me, advertisements - one a car ad, with a woman standing in the poster, beside a stack of cars, all different colors and makes. The other - I don't know what it was for - it looked like some kind of art - light blue with white, like clouds, swirls, faces (that looked like the designs in the pull quotes in the CinemaScope article.) There was a tall woman standing in front of me - staring out the window - then turning, and staring past my ear for a moment or two... and the people on the train, all lined up, all blank... and one woman, halfway down the car, who looked from a distance like Marina Vlady. And after this, toward the end of the ride, another woman, in a crowd, holding the bar - all I could see of her was one arm, reaching up to hold the support - she had, tattooed in beautiful script on her arm, a quote from W.E.B. DuBois (it turns out): "I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not."

It's all - something. There's that sense of gratification and wonder you get when you see something through someone else's eyes - to see yourself in a Godard film, in Godard's world... but here - to remember that it's not a particularly pleasant world he's describing. A world of commerce, capital (and its components), the dreary deadening routine of 9 to 5 work, chopped up constricted time, the colonization of the imagination by a language of commerce, authority, conformity - can't deny those things. Though too - can't deny the thrill of higher things - a great bit of language (whatever it means to see it turned into a bit of body art) - or the excitement of anticipating a new Godard film - or the brilliance and beauty of the old Godard films. Or - the realization just how well Godard encapsulated the world, described it, recreated it. Those 60s films saw the future, and the future they describe is closer to the truth than most.

So - there's more to France than Godard, but there's no question, Godard has done the country proud, and there are many worse ways to celebrate the French than by watching a Godard film or two.


Ed Howard said...

Nice post. I like your description of the Godardian world. You're right that it's not a pleasant place he's describing, but also a place full of hope and possibilities. In addition to the "higher things" you describe, all very much pertinent to a director who's never really lost his faith in art despite all the ways in which that faith has been shaken and challenged. And there's also the thrill of the sensual, as that image of bubbles in a coffee cup suggests: being open to the beauty and wonder of the world, whether natural or manmade, human or inorganic. As Godard says in the voiceover to Two or Three Things, it's the feeling of being equally open to the movement of a woman's arm and the swaying of leaves in the breeze. There's beauty everywhere, even in a blank consumerist culture.

weepingsam said...

I think there's a sense too in Godard's films of trying to make you notice what is happening around you - the way words and images and commerce and all surround you and colonize your imagination... and that when you notice them, they lose (some of) their power - and become objects, phrases, etc. with their own beauty and mystery. In a way he does that - takes images and signs that are meant to work on you one way and reimagines them, integrates them into his vision of the world. They become part of his speech, rather than the speech of commerce... Something like that.