Speaking­in­tongues­theGo­dard­way

The loopy French iconoclast is as nou­velle vague as ever, but his lat­est shouty di­a­tribe is also brac­ingly cin­e­matic, writes

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

GOOD­BYE TO LAN­GUAGE/ ADIEU AU LAN­GUAGE Di­rected by Jean-Luc Go­dard. Star­ring Héloïse Godet, Kamel Ab­deli, Richard Che­val­lier, Zoé Bruneau, Roxy Miéville. Club, IFI/ Light House, Dublin, 69 min Some­body, some­where, is won­der­ing whether this gar­ish, in­ter­mit­tently co­her­ent 3D es­say would re­ceive quite so much at­ten­tion if it were di­rected by any­one other than Jean-Luc Go­dard.

You wouldn’t be able to do th­ese aw­ful things to me if I weren’t in this chair. “But you are, Blanche! You are in that chair!” You get my point. But it is by Jean-Luc Go­dard!

Good­bye to Lan­guage is just the lat­est chap­ter in the same ram­bling, oc­ca­sion­ally de­ranged, of­ten hec­tor­ing mono­logue that Go­dard has been car­ry­ing on for 30 years.

Once again, a starkly shot, blankly de­liv­ered quasi-drama is in­ter­cut with mono­chrome archival footage and bold leg­ends rep­re­sent­ing un­com­pro­mis­ing po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions. We’re still fret­ting about the sec­ond World War. We’re still a lit­tle un­sound in our sex­ual pol­i­tics. We still seem to re­gard con­ven­tional sto­ry­telling as un­speak­ably bour­geois.

And yet. This is un­ques­tion­ably the most ar­rest­ing and amus­ing in­ter­val in the di­a­tribe we’ve seen since the com­ple­tion of His­toire(s) du cinéma in 1998. Much of that is down to Go­dard’s out­ra­geous, hi­lar­i­ous use of 3D. Mon­ster- truck ral­lies do a less ef­fi­cient job of in­duc­ing deathly headaches.

Go­dard and his con­tem­po­raries were pro­foundly in love with the Amer­i­can pulp cinema of their youth. Sure enough, the great man’s ap­proach to 3D is closer to the car­ni­val pop­ulism of Jaws 3D than it is to the bor­ing, im­mer­sive (and ul­ti­mately in­vis­i­ble) stere­oscopy in con­tem­po­rary mid­dle-brow cinema. That’s to say, he turns all the di­als to “11” and shoves any num­ber of ob­jects straight at your duck­ing head.

The most star­tling mo­ment comes when he projects dif­fer­ent images into ei­ther eye, thus – for per­haps the first time in cinema – al­low­ing the viewer to edit his or her own mon­tage. Of course, this isn’t what 3D is meant to do, but Jimi Hen­drix’s Mar­shall amps weren’t de­signed to de­liver feed­back ei­ther.

All of which only de­lays the in­evitable trial of at­tempt­ing to de­scribe the con­tent. “The idea is sim­ple. A mar­ried woman and a sin­gle man meet. They love, they ar­gue, fists fly. A dog strays be­tween town and coun­try,” Go­dard be­gins his pre­dictably un­help­ful syn­op­sis.

In fact, the film ap­pears to be con­cerned with two cou­ples, both of whom meet up in Nyon, a dis­trict in Go­dard’s Switzer­land, and go on to have var­i­ous al­lu­sive (not to say “elu­sive”) con­ver­sa­tions about pol­i­tics, semi­otics and lit­er­a­ture. Then again, it may con­cern two vari­a­tions on the same cou­ple.

As the film pro­gresses, the vi­o­lent im­agery and lan­guage (this is not the first Go­dard film to in­clude div­ing Stukas) gives way to a more pas­toral tone.

A charm­ing mutt, played by the direc­tor’s dog Roxy Miéville, wan­ders about the coun­try­side and bonds with the near-char­ac­ters. We end with an epi­logue that makes ref­er­ence to Mary Shel­ley’s com­po­si­tion of Franken­stein. Cineastes (and, frankly, who else is go­ing to buy tick­ets?) will catch snip­pets of Rouben Mamou­lian’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Jean-Pierre Melville’s Les En­fants ter­ri­bles and Howard Hawks’s Only An­gels Have Wings.

Fea­tur­ing fired-up colour that makes Warhol flower paint­ings of the flora, and abra­sive sound de­sign that turns a wa­ter foun­tain into a fire-hose, this eco­nomic film, for all its ob­scu­ran­tism, en­gages through­out with the brain’s pri­mal en­gines. All the sur­faces seem freshly painted. Scrape the fa­cades away, how­ever, and what lies be­neath seems aw­fully familiar.

The gun­play in trench coats used to look like a com­men­tary on Hol­ly­wood; now it feels like a ref­er­ence to early Go­dard. The po­lit­i­cal hec­tor­ing took on an ex­haust­ing qual­ity long ago. More de­press­ingly, Go­dard’s dig­i­tal cam­era has de­press­ingly old-fash­ioned ways of look­ing at women. The man sits on the toi­let be­ing in­tel­lec­tu­ally oafish about or­dure. Mean­while, his part­ner stands dec­o­ra­tively in the nude. We can get that from Judd Apa­tow films, thank you very much.

Oh well. Good­bye to Lan­guage is living his­tory. We don’t en­counter that too of­ten in the cinema.

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