Thursday, October 7, 2010

Godard the Poet

Similar to the thrill one feels while listening to a jazz musician weave together the many sounds and emotions at their disposal, so too does the viewer feel a thrill observing the myriad ways that Godard intertwines text, image, sound, and movement.  As Ian described in his post on Godard and Jazz, there is a certain element of “riffing” undertaken in Godard films which can also be likened to the idea of free writing or stream of consciousness poetry.  Sam mentioned in a previous post that “Godard believes in the necessity of poetry” and his efforts to create poems in his work whether through image, voice, and/or editing are apparent in all of his projects. 

I would also point out that Godard’s desire for poetry, his affinity for aesthetic pleasure and beauty cannot be separated from his efforts to incorporate social, political, and cultural commentary into his films.   In this sense, Godard’s work calls to mind the Epic Theatre, as envisioned by Brecht, that does not allow the audience to forget their surroundings or to get sucked into the cinematic charm (“engendering of illusion”) that renders us passive readers of images on a screen.  Godard lures the viewer in with lyrical and visual poetry and then spits us back out so we do not forget what it is that we are watching, what we are thinking, what we are doing, how we are living, and how our actions affect those individuals and institutions around us.

This clip from Masculin Feminin first lures the viewer in with a beautiful young woman talking about how lucky she is to be Miss 19. The viewer is charmed momentarily by her smile, her laugh, her modesty, her body framed in the window. But Godard brings us out of our visual enjoyment of Miss 19 through pointed questions about politics, war, society, and birth control.  Even the way in which Paul is asking questions are jarring to both the audience as well as Miss 19.

Then we have the opening five minutes of Contempt. It begins with a beautiful wide shot and an epic soundtrack but we are immediately grounded in the fact that we are watching a movie, a production, with actors, cameras, and sound operators. The credits inform the viewer of this reality as well as the fact that the wide shot includes a camera crew that is shooting a tracking shot within the frame. As we move on to the love scene we are still charmed by the music, the shot, the intimacy of the two characters and especially what they're saying to each other. Yet, Godard gently reminds the viewer that this too is cinema, this too is an illusion by changing the color filters over the lens.

This is the trailer that Sam posted of Godard's Film Socialisme.  I really loved this trailer and I found myself totally enthralled by the images in fast forward. However, Godard's use of titles as well as the dramatic music changes kept me attentive and aware of what I was watching as well as wondering about the purpose of each image, location, and the music choices.

True to a poets love and fascination with the world, Godard shares his pleasures and reflections on life with the audience through his choice of beautiful women, imagery, music and quotes. However, Godard does not let himself, nor the viewer get caught up in pure aesthetic enjoyment.  Godard's is an arresting kind of poetry, just as you feel you are falling into a rhythm, or start losing yourself in a shot, with Brechtian artistic purpose he brings us back to reality, back to politics, back to reflecting on our surroundings.


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