Godard (and Mao)

Irrelevant Reviews
#4
Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle (1967)

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A film wrought out of necessity as much as inspiration. Rivette’s La Religieuse, having been banned by the French government, proved a financial catastrophe for producer Georges de Beauregard. As such, Jean-Luc Godard was approached about a film which might bail Beauregard out. Godard had already begun work on “Deux ou trois choses” in early 1966, but the pace of production was increased to give Beauregard something more commercially viable to hand to the public.

Again, we can see a film as historical relic. Sure, Godard’s film constitutes a revolutionary work, openly comparing prostitutionin the new middle classes to the self-exploitation in American-style consumerism. In Brechtian fashion, the actors and actresses quote trendy philosophers and economists, carrying on with daily mundane tasks to highlight the chasm between images of deprivation from their prosperous descriptions. Yes, it’s Godard, so naturally the film is about capitalism. Scenes of women looking at pornographic magazines of the female form are interwoven with clips of the human toll wrought by Western intervention in Vietnam, commenting on the pornographic nature of photojournalism and the profligacy of televised media. Raoul Coutard’s cinematography is rather beautiful, and the slapdash informality of the film keeps one interested (no scene really lasts for more than four minutes).

But the film barters in lofty ideas with unsubtle currency. By laying out all the ambiguities of modern existence in the mind, there is no physical or emotional struggle with which to grapple. This stands in contrast to Rivette’s supposed flop, which focuses on the intricate and difficult topics of the invisibility of experience and the physicality of institutions. It’s perhaps not a surprise that Rivette’s less esoteric metaphors were all the more challenging to the De Gaulle administration, mired in its disastrous economic plans which served to entrench poverty and immobility in the new suburban banlieues.

I can’t help but sense greater authenticity in Rivette’s La Religieuse upon witnessing sheer idiocy Godard’s hyper-intellectualism. For what can suppress a struggle or conflict more than by convincing victims of their existence’s reducibility to thought and speech, rather than sight and action? Indeed, when the stakes are so low, it’s not surprising to imagine why the film enjoyed the commercial success it did.

Direction: Jean-Luc Godard
Screenplay: Catherine Vimenet, Jean-Luc Godard
Cinematography: Raoul Coutard
Starring: Marina Vlady

***

I ought to clarify that the film is not uninteresting, but rather trite, tastelessly Maoist and fucking sexist (think Henze’s operas in cinematic form). For those curious, a reading list for “Deux ou trois choses” is as follows:

Alleg, The Question
Aron, 18 Lessons about Industrial Society
Brecht, The Messingkauf Dialogues
Bradbury, A Medicine for Melancholy
Fourastié, The Great Hope of the Twentieth Century
Goldmann, Towards a Sociology of the Novel
Kardiner, Introduction to Ethnology
Kardiner & Preble, They Studied Man
Packard, The Pyramid Climbers
Simenon, Lost Moorings
Wittgenstein, Blue and Brown Books

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