In 1960, Jean-Luc Godard revolutionized cinema.
Breathless wasn’t just a break from the old ways of filmmaking, it was as if cinema had cracked off and begun again. Seven years later, Godard concluded Weekend with the title card, “Fin… de cinema.” It was a cheeky moment, but for the French critic turned filmmaker, it had razor sharp teeth.
Now the 84-year-old director is back with another entry into his ever-evolving theory of cinema and this time around he tackles the money-grubbing gimmick of 3D. Only in the hands of Godard, it isn’t a gimmick, it’s just another arrow in his quiver.
Cinema: An approach
Describing the story of Goodbye to Language is (A) futile and (B) impossible. It concerns two couples (Kamel Abdeli and Héloïse Godet, Richard Chevallier and Zoé Bruneau) and a dog. Frankly, the dog steals the show.
Goodbye to Language is a movie in two dimensions and three dimensions. Photographed in black and white and color. Concerning masculine and feminine. Composed with movement and stasis. The movie seeks opposition, because it finds truth in contradictions.
But above all, Goodbye to Language is a criticism, of cinema, of language, of music, of relationships, of sex, of modernity, of cameras, of Freud, of Sartre. At the same time, it is invention, of language and cinema, of relationships and break-ups, of music and sound, and of light and shadow.
Cinema: A thesis
To say that there is more here than meets the eye, would be to assume that the eyes are the scouts for truth.
The cinema of Godard moves fast, 24 times a second fast, and when he plays with two images simultaneously, the possible combinations and permutations skyrocket into the stratosphere.
Goodbye to Language is a reminder that cinema is not just the study of the image, but how the image relates to another, and by using a stereoscopic set up, Godard presents two images as one and allows the viewers to choose which image is more important. Close the right eye, and you see a man complacently smoking. Close the left, and a woman is being accosted. Open both, and the images overlap into something artistic, yet incomprehensible. And so, like poor Schrödinger’s cat, curiosity gets the better of us and we must choose. Which eye will you close? Which story interests you more? With Godard, there is no such thing as a detached viewer.
Cinema: A Deconstruction
Goodbye to Language is not for everyone. Godard warns us up front, “Those lacking imagination take refuge in reality.” A reminder that cinema is not reality, cinema merely depicts whichever reality the director is willing to allow. For some, that is a strict world with concrete rules. For Godard, it is a playground and he keeps changing the rules. One never gains footing in a Godard film, and one is never allowed to relax. These movies can be expansive, but they are also exhausting. But for 70 minutes, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play in.
Goodbye to Language / Adieu au langage (2014)
Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Produced by Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval, Alain Sarde
Starring: Kamel Abdeli, Héloïse Godet, Richard Chevallier, Zoé Bruneau
Kino Lorber, Not rated, Running time 70 minutes, Premiered May 21, 2014 at the Cannes Film Festival
The above review first appeared in Boulder Weekly Vol. 22, No. 30, “Goodbye to all of that.”
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