Saturday, November 20, 2010


It’s difficult to believe that there is an aspect of Godard’s work that we haven’t discussed in detail.  With so many images, or perhaps interpretations, there is a component of Godard’s work that has remained primarily latent…at least until we consider Sauve qui peut (La Vie), aka Every Man For Himself aka Cover your ass.  In Sauve qui peut, the audience is treated to a blatant expose of carnal desires.  Throughout the film, there are robust expressions of erotic content.  Ultimately, these themes have been present in Godard’s work since Breathless.  At the same time, the vigorous approach to corporeal analysis transforms into the focus of Sauve qui peut.

There are several examples of erotic discourse within the Godard trajectory.  Several that come to mind include the Hotel room discussion between Michel and Patricia in
Breathless.  Speaking of lovers past, the characters count on their fingers to calculate their number of sexual encounters.  During Michel’s turn, he flashes his whole hand once, twice…multiple times to show that he has had numerous experiences. 

Week-end, Godard makes use of Georges Bataille’s Histoire de L’oeil to construct Corinne’s explicit dialogue scene.  The use of suggestive sexual dialogue informs the viewer that this is a more profound level of interpretation from the director.  As Morrey states, “The appeal to this novel, in which the narrator and his lovers repeatedly smear each other in their piss, shit, blood and sperm, would seem to be an abject, unclean, unrecuperated sexuality, in which the true strangeness of desire appear ungovernable by an normative discourse.” (75)


Tout va bien, the sexual nature of Godard’s exploratory is expressed via graphic imagery of the male phallus.  During the “On va au cinema, on bouf, on baisse” scene, Yves Montand debates libidinous dynamics with Jane Fonda.  After exclaiming that the couple is reduced to “going to the cinema, eating, fucking,” Montand is exposed by Fonda. In her argument, Fonda reduces Montand’s thought process to a single visual: The image of a penis sitting static within a female hand.  The penis serves as an exclamation point to the dialogue within the scene.

These examples serve as a precursor to the shock value that awaits in
Sauve qui peut.  After an extended period of time away from feature filmmaking, Godard returns with his most explicit approach to sexualized cinema. The more prominent scenes include the suggestion that a cow’s tongue can serve as an adequate source of carnal pleasure.  Likewise, Paul Godard questions whether a soccer coach has ever had erotic thoughts in relation to his daughter, “Do you ever have the urge to feel up her tits or to fuck her up the ass?” The scene in which Paul Godard jumps over a table to embrace his ex-girlfriend suggests the impossibility of connection between men and women.

Perhaps the most explicit scene in Sauve qui peut is what Morrey labels the “orgy” scene.  Although it is not an orgy in the traditional sense (refer to Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick, Stanley for perceived mainstream orgy) the scene does bring several questions to light.  During the scene, the boss gives succinct directions in relation to sexual acts and process.  The absurdity of the scene has the tendency to promote laughter as opposed to erotic stimulation.  However, when compared with the wealth of examples that precede this sequence, the viewer can legitimately question the intent of the director.  First, how does the sequence fit within the area of gender studies?  Should we accept the depiction at face value and view it as a harsh criticism or reinforcement of the male gaze?  Secondly, what do these examples suggest about Godard?  During the course we’ve been speaking of the presence of the Godard surrogate.  Does this depiction show Godard for what he really is?  A cinematic Henry Miller or a highbrow Ron Jeremy?  Lastly, should these depictions have extenuating consequences?  It’s widely known that Nabokov faced intense scrutiny for his authoring of Lolita.  Is it justified to expose Godard to similar examination?

I’m curious to hear the dialogue during our next class session.  Unlike before, it is no longer possible to turn a blind eye to Godard’s sexual dynamics.  Quietly, he has dispensed carnal representations within his films.  Like a slap to face, I believe that we have all been woken by the director. If before, we chose not to address the matter, following Sauve qui peut, we have no other option.


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