Monday, November 1, 2010

A full mouth and the shit of it

In Godard’s films we see the role of a participating capitalist consumer from gaze to touch to taste.  With mouths so occupied in their delivery of lines and musings, it’s surprising that they even have time to ingest anything at all.  And the cigarettes, yes, these are another ingestion completely- a distraction, a poetic abstraction of a species domesticated on terra Americana and repackaged abroad.  Something so French, so intellectual, so useful at the cafes…like coffee (the galactic microcosm in Deux ou trios choses que je sais d’elle [1966]), like sugary desserts and chocolate; like pommes frites…it does often percolate back to the American capitalist-dream-landscape, yes?  So the smoking, it’s an intentional, capitalist mannerism as well as an imbedded, addictive after-thought most accused in Deux ou trios choses que je sais d’elle and always present in Godard’s other films (having not seen all of his films “always” is a definite but no less firm assumption).

So the food: in Week-end (1967) there is the bread, or rather sandwich scene of the garbage workers.  However, the image of the sandwich itself escapes me and is overshadowed by the hefty loaves of bread and their ensuing mess of crumbles and the full-mouths of the worker’s monologues.  Monologues thus colonized and glutenized by this ensuing signifier of French sustenance and therefore existence; monologues hurriedly eaten through (however lengthy) and chomped-down lest they run out of time to nourish themselves (like the workers in Tout va bien [1972] who run out of time to urinate, etc. in their five minute breaks).  Do I remember much of what these garbage (one Arab, one African) men said?  No, I mostly remember that very French bread; those very full mouths. 

Later in Week-end there is the cannibalistic scene that ends the film with Corinne consuming her husband’s ribs.  Cannibalism aside, I don’t think of ribs as a French dish but rather as an American gustatory trope (at present); or a camping food (Hollywood westerns?); or as a dish habitually derived du porc- one of the two animals sacrificed in tribal scene.  The pig: a devoted consumer full of an expansive desire and willingness to engorge itself- even in its/our own waste- for pure pleasure.  The rib: as in Adam?  Thus, is Corinne participating in a metaphorical self-consumption as well?  Is she a consumer so obsessed with pigging out that it leads her to the ultimate degradation[1] of the self?  Is the/her return to zer0 only possible through ingesting one/herself?  But can a zer0 exist in the archeological traipsing-about of all that shit and in all those remains?

Next.  In Tout va bien (1972), co-directed with Jean-Pierre Gorin, the majority of the mise-en-scène occurs within the Salumi sausage factory.  A space that is “anti-realistic” and “a metaphorical representation of the state of the political struggle in France in 1972” (Morrey, 99).  It could come as no surprise then that the state is represented through the production of a meaty phallus.  (Or could it?  This shows a marked difference from his earlier work when the capitalist hegemony was represented through variations of “literal” prostitution: Vivre sa vie [1962], Alphaville [1965], Deux ou Trois que je said d’elle [1966]).  In Tout va bien, Godard and Gorin present the analogy of the dominant phallus not only as a factory product but as a producer of oppressed rights within the factory (even at a most basic, physical level as in the aforementioned urination scene where we witness male workers address the complications of the simple act of peeing) and within the society as a whole.  Towards the end of the film, this image of oppression is further propagated with the black and white photograph of an erect pecker exhibited by Jane Fonda’s character, Susan[2].  As the scene with the CGT representative initiates (“flanked by two goons” [Morrey, 100] and placed in front of a meaty poster), the hegemony of the “giant” food producers encompasses more than the production of food, but system of trade as well (from salumi to other industrialized products [coffee, cigarettes, sugar, oranges...]).

To conclude: the supermarket and the oranges.  There is a scene in the factory in which Susan and her husband Jacques (Yves Montaud) sit with some of the workers to talk.  They have a spread of food before them consisting of bread, sausages and meats and some fruit I think, however, the only fruit I remember is the segment of orange, peel intact, that Susan sucks and nibbles on.  Later in the (awesome) tracking shot within the supermarket, large bags of produce are repeatedly piled onto the automated conveyor belts ready to be tallied by the checkout workers.  Bags of firm oranges repeatedly appear.  (Where were those ripe oranges grown)?  So here we are, ending this film that began within an “anti-realistic” factory within the hyperreal invention of the system of trade that is the supermarket.  We track back and forth on the 0°/180° degree line[3] and each time the same consumers unload their baskets (sometimes they even unload the same item as revealed right before [!]).  We see this ingestive behavior factorized in the body- these consumers without dialogue repeat their dance with their products accompanied by the mechanical rhythm of the registers, meanwhile activists or “agitators” (Morrey, 104) behind them give voice to an uprising and everything is free…. Well anyway, these ripe oranges, plump potatoes, French baguettes etc. are a different genre of waste than Silverman addresses.  These are necessary wastes unlike a new Hermès bag or an Alfa Romeo, however they are nonetheless illusory in their mechanically perfected natures.  They are a means to sustenance and then, ultimately evacuation: the coffee, the bread, the ribs, the salumi and the oranges are all assimilable modes of absorption within this marketed slurry of production and sa bouche gustative.

clip (in Spanish) of tracking sequence in Tout va bien:

[1] Morrey writes of Silverman’s commentary on the “serial degradation” in that “each new product implies the degradation of the previous one into so much waste and, as the time allotted for the enjoyment of each new commodity becomes briefer and briefer, the entire system of value on which consumerism rests is revealed as so much shit” (78).
[2] Granted, this is an image relating to communicative duress of their marriage, but it is also representative of the total imagery of Tout va bien as well.
[3] À la Week-end (Henderson, 423).

C. Krantz

1 comment:

  1. So we do see the effects of smoking! The manager in Passion, rose (?) clenched between lips....