‘Pierrot le fou – again!’
I watched this Godard film for the second time tonight. I got home from the film course where I’d see The Pawnbroker and immediately put the dvd in its slot and watched this film again. It’s my favourite of the five so far and has so much jam-packed into it that I need to see it again to get everything out it. Well, not everything, but more than I could in just one sitting.
Wow, wow, wow. This film with Jean-Paul Belmondo is the smarter, wiser, more mature, old brother to Breathless. It is more assured, it deals with the way Godard delivers other people’s words to the viewer. but more inventively,, and it is less potboiler in style and more sincere. It’s more from the heart and less-referential to all of the A and B-movies that Godard has seen.
Sure, Breathless did things in French cinema which were new, and which replicated a lot of bad American cinema but Pierrot le fou did it well – with class, irony, cultural comment, beauty and humour – and of course, words. Lots and lots of words.
I suppose that while Citizen Kane is the great American film, and Vertigo is Hitchcock’s Citizen Kane, Breathless must be to some – or even many – France’s Citizen Kane.
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her 1967
This is the sixth consecutive Godard film in six days. It’s good and it is still progressive filmmaking but it loses the playful quality that made the previous films so multi-faceted. It is very inventive in the way that it deals with the information Godard likes to feed his audience as well as the (auto)biographical, real-life-quality, that he brings to all his films.
But as pulls away from infusing light-hearted elements into his pulp fiction plots, so the really significant change begins, away from inviting the audience to be an observer as well as a receiver. He mixes more overtly political statements than the other five films before he made this one, which I’ve seen, and criticizes the French government, introduces new levels of irony into his observation of the U.S.-Vietnam conflict, and gets his actors/characters to reveal their thoughts through various styles of interview-technique.
The thing I disliked most about Breathless (1960) was the random, rambling nature of it, feeling like it was made up on the fly and that’s exactly what this film feels like. What it and Breathless don’t have in common is a plot. For all the cliches and banality of Breathless plot – it still had a plot. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her doesn’t have a plot in any conventional sense. And if there is a film that Godard made which is more ground-breaking than the others, it’s the one where he changes from making films which are predominantly concerned with the images (Breathless) to those mainly concerned with the words.
He started making several references – more than before – to the use of language and how it is perceived or how it is interpreted or received in Le Mepris (1964). It then grew as he referred to the fact that he’s quoting other people’s ideas, he’s putting more of his own narration and dialogue in his films, he’s making film references, he’s breaking down the fourth wall – that of the audience – which was occasional before, and growing by the time of Pierrot le fou (1965) and now in numerous sequences the fact that Godard’s film will be watched by an audience is a given. There’s now no pretence that the actors don’t realise that the camera that is filming them is actually the audience that will be watching them perform when the film gets a release or if anyone watches it, even the director, editor, composer and all of the post-production crew. There’s always an audience for a finished film even if it numbers less than a hundred.
Now, Godard’s films have become so self-conscious of their own existence that the technique, the assumption that the audience knows it is a movie and not a documentary – and will be suspending disbelief – is blurred beyond what I’ve seen before this one, in his previous films. Here, the film is so disconnected from a plot which would give the film structure that 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is a hybrid, both (but not equally) a work of fiction and a documentary. Maybe that actually makes it Godard’s most important film to date – 1967 – or maybe this is the beginning of him losing the plot (no pun intended).
As bad as his clichéd endings have been so far – the end of Breathless, the shooting of the prositute in Vivre sa vie, the automobile accident in Le Mepris, they had enough narrative convention in them to set up a situation, allow it to unfold, and see how it played out.
Now, Godard has made a film that has (finally) tossed out the cliched ending but ended (pun intended) without a bang. Just a pfffft.
However, there are some brilliant sequences. All of his film ideas are a compilation of scenes which often breakdown, and are further reduced, into sub-scenes within the scene. The pile of books with someone reading out disconnected sentences for someone to write down is brilliant. It’s autobiographical according to what I’ve read about his habits before he became a filmmaker, when he was soaking up information, a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter, a frame, twenty four frames – a second – a minute, or one-third of a film, half a film or all of a film. But this is where the documentarian in Godard started to take over the visual filmmaker. With a film like Breathless which is stuffed to the rafters with story cliches it is the visuals which count most. With Le Mepris, in Cinemascope they are developed to another level (thanks to his dop). With Pierrot (also Cinemascope) they are a breathtaking series of images which (literally) took my breath away (which is why I watched the film twice in 24-hours).
Here, there are beautiful shots of building-work – construction sites – going on in Paris, like Antonioni has done in his films. But they lack the connection to something conventional. Godard has become Andy Warhol or Chris Marker and given half of himself to the things that he has read or watched which he loves and wants to share, and someone who sets up a camera and observes, or scripts the pretence of observation.
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It has only been a week since I’ve seen a film in a cinema, not counting watching The Pawnbroker (1964) on a big screen in my History of World Cinema film course. As my wife is away for two nights and my daughters are havingr two overnight stays, I saw a film in the evening – by myself – for the first time in a long time. I chose a comedy that would hopefully be amusing and I was going to see Black Panther (2018) at the 9.20pm session so I’d know what kind of film makes a billion dollars at the box office in just a four weeks.
Game Night was one of very few films where I sit through the trailer. I made an exception because I didn’t think I’d be going to see a film with Justin Bateman by the people who made Horrible Bosses (2011). Most of those comedies I find to range from average (Horrible Bosses) to dreadful (Identity Thief). The premise seemed intriguing and it had one very funny sight gag in the trailer so I decided to risk two hours of my life watching something that could end up being as dumb as Keeping Up with the Jones’s. I was actually surprised. Mostly pleasantly although the film owes a lot to the plots of Date Night and The Game which were both much better films. It had many amusing moments, some good fight scenes, some ridiculous humour and some good humour and the one good sight-gag from the trailer was the one good sight-gag in the film. Although it did turn out to be the kind of Bridesmaids and Bad Mom’s humour which I don’t really get but it wasn’t stupid to the degree of The Heat which I found (almost) unbearable to watch. Only the fact that I’ve only ever walked out of one film in my life, Wills and Burke, that kept me there. [The reason I walked out of Wills and Burke, by the way, wasn’t because of how bad it was, but because someone else walked out of it, who I really wanted to catch-up with.]
Kudos to the writers for coming up with something quite original in Game Night (despite some similarities), without pressing too hard for the overacting that comes with these kinds of films.
Death Wish 2018
I was planning to see Black Panther (2018) but at the last – at 2115 – moment I changed my mind and thought I’d see a Bruce Willis film that only just started in cinemas but has done almost no box office business in Sydney. With just one session a day this week in a complex with 14 cinemas I figure it will close next Wednesday. There were two other people in the cinema with me.
I like Bruce Willis, I liked the Charles Bronson film from 1974, directed by Michael Winner, and I thought this one might be quite good. Only at the end did the writer and director’s names appear. That’s when I discovered it was by the schlockmeister of the Hostel films (Eli Roth) and the writer/director, Joe Carnahan, of Narc and Smokin’ Aces. The latter was an exciting shoot’em’up film with lots of clever twists and turns. I didn’t see Carnahan’s version of The A-Team.
If only you could walk up to people in a cinema and film them on your phone and ask them, “This is a Bruce Willis film, this is its eighth day in release, you’re two of three people in the theater on a Friday night, it’s only running one session a day, this one at 9.30pm, 1) why did you choose this over Black Panther or Finding Your Feet? 2) why did you spend $50 to see this film? 3) is it because