Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oui ou Non?

Godard is correct I think not to respond to this question. There is a pause, a moment of silence, and then a cut. The question, in an important sense, is not for him to answer (and it's a nice touch that the lighting of this shot doesn't allow us to search for an answer in his facial expressions). This is a question for the next generation of filmmakers and artists. Oui ou non? They must decide – or, by not deciding, fail once and for all. 


Monday, December 20, 2010

Godard and Cassavetes

Within Ray Carney’s Cassavetes on Cassavetes, the chapter devoted to the conception and subsequent production of Shadows provides some insight into the similarities between John Cassavetes and members of the French New Wave (as quoted below).  It is clear with Shadows – both with the film’s aesthetic elements and the content – that Cassavetes was striving to achieve some of the same goals within his films as Godard would often try to achieve in his own work.  This film was inspired by many of the same films and directors that were influential in Godard's career, and it is interesting to see how despite some vast differences in their directing styles, there is a major connection between the two.

“I adore the neo-realists for their humaneness of vision. Zavattini is surely the greatest screenwriter that ever lived. Particularly inspirational to me when I made Shadows were La Terra Trema, I Vitelloni, Umberto D and Bellissima. The neo-realist filmmakers were not afraid of reality; they looked it straight in the face. I have always admired their courage and their willingness to show us how we really are. It's the same with Godard, early Bergman, Kurosawa and the second greatest director next to Capra, Carl Dreyer. Shadows contains much of that neo-realistic influence.” 

- Stephanie

Self-referentiality, Postmodernism + Pierrot le fou

From the start of Pierrot le fou, we see Godard referencing himself, not only with prior works, but also in works he had yet to make. Per Morrey, "ultimately, the film threatens to create a closed circuit of self-referentiality," with the suggestion that the film is a postmodernist one, even before the term was invented. Further, Ferdinand could be described in the terms of Frederic Jameson's "compensatory decorative exhilaration," as he has lost the ability to distinguish truth from fiction, or important issues from trivial ones - becoming most clear at the end of the film, but constant throughout. The self-referentiality, the characterization of Ferdinand (as well as, to some extent, Marianne), and the fourth wall break all fit into the definition of postmodernism, and it's interesting to see such an early example. On an unrelated note, it's also one of my very favorite Godard films. 

Here are just a few examples of Godard referencing his earlier works:
+ choice of stars - Jean Paul Belmondo + Anna Karina - Une femme est une femme
+ playful, romantic domestic scene in Marianne's apartment - À bout de souffle
+ repeated car theft - À bout de souffle
+ musical sequencesUne femme est une femme
+ repeated use of Alfa Romeo - Le Mépris
+ coastal scenery, especially at the end of the film - Le Mépris
+ use of "pickups" - Vivre sa vie
+ escape under the cover of night in an American car - Alphaville

And a few examples of Godard referencing content that will appear in his later works:
+ advertising copy + product placement - 2 ou 3 choses que je said d'elle
+ Vietnam and Mao references - La Chinoise
+ a couple wandering through the countryside after stealing and wrecking cars - Week-end
+ elaborately staged wrecked cars - Week-end and One plus one

Editing Exercise

I meant to post this earlier in the week but I've had some difficulties getting the file to upload. Anyway, following my class presentation of the final project I decided to work more with the footage of the woman in the bathroom. Sam and a few other students said that they enjoyed the style of those edits and so in preparation for the final project and to get some creative ideas flowing, I decided to create a short warm-up editing exercise for myself.

I was trying to channel some Vivre Sa Vie in these edits and the intensity with which the camera explores and investigates Anna Karina. 



Woody Allen and Godard!?!

Class!...How have we not posted this on the blog yet??!?!

I actually really enjoyed both Woody Allen and Godard in this interview. Initially I have to say that I was quite skeptical but I found the dialogue between the two directors to be very honest and even endearing.  This is the second interview in a series of three interviews conducted with Allen by Godard.  Both directors seem to respect one another and therefore a somewhat relaxed, albeit awkward, and open discussion takes place between Allen and Godard about television, film, and the influence of both on their creative processes.



The Future of Cinema

Godard's response to the question posed in Notre Musique "Can the little digital camera save cinema?" is one of silence. While the interpretation to his response (or lack thereof) is open to anyone who wants to debate it, I thought of this scene when I came across this interview of JLG from 1960.

I find some correlation with youth and technology, especially in this context - Godard of 1960 is looking for young people to bring new blood and passion to cinema and to change it - not necessarily for better or for worse, but to make sure that it's shaken up. Change leads to inspiration, and reinvigorates everyone involved.

Godard and Cars (Alfa Romeo 1962)

In doing research for my paper on how Godard uses cars in his films of the 1960s, I came across a website devoted to cataloging the different makes + models of cars in films, so I thought I'd share the links for the pages for Pierrot le fou and Week-end:

People can comment on each photo, and I found a pretty interesting comment for this photo:

According to Esquire (July 1969) page 42, the Alfa Romeo on fire is Jean-Luc Godard's own car. 

That particular car - a 1962 Alfa Romeo 2600 Sprint - was not cheap, nor especially common. Only around 7,000 were produced from 1962-1966, and they cost $5400 - or around $40,000 in today's dollars. If Godard really did throw his own car onto a heap and set it in fire, it gives some indication of how serious he was in the message he's trying to communicate.

The lone source for this comment is from that issue of Esquire, which I am now in search of - it seems to be a pretty neat issue with not only the Godard issue, but McLuhan also featured, as well as lots of moon stuff.

Éloge de l'amour – Edgar, the only person trying to become an adult

Edgar examines the life and love with three couples, and this process is a kind of sociological research. He has difficult time to cast right persons for a mature period. It is relatively easy to recognize young or old couple. Young people look forward and leave the past behind. Old people stay in nostalgia rejecting passing time. Comparing these two periods, it is hard to define a mature period. In the film, Philippe was asked why he uses the honorific to Edgar, and the answer is that Edgar is the only person trying to become an adult. Like this, this film is also about being adult.

In real life, it is hard to answer how to be an adult as human. In this film, Godard seems to try to give answer for that question. In the second part of film, Edgar has a conversation with Berthe’s godfather (I am not sure him exactly) before coming back to Paris. The conversation is: nucleus of an atom is the basis of existence and around it is life. And people only obsess the life without seeing nucleus.

At this moment, camera zooms in several times while they are talking. It looks like the effort to be close to the basis of existence. And this movement is distinct and it somehow shows how to be an adult. Namely, being adult means the person who tries to think of the basis of existence.


Godard, Akerman and Prostitution

Godard has said that a theme returns to over and over again is prostitution, and it's interesting to me how he characterizes prostitutes across his films. What strikes me, especially in looking back through JLG's films we've seen this semester, is not only that he keeps returning to prostitution (Vivre sa vie in 1962, 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle in 1966, and Sauve qui peut in 1980), but that he characterizes the central characters in similar ways, even if the films they're featured in are quite different. Nana, Juliette, and Isabelle are all portrayed inhabiting their daily lives in a matter-of-fact, stoic manner. Their faces often do not betray any emotion, and often hold the viewer at a distance.

This cinematic treatment of prostitutes brings to mind Chantal Akerman, who was heavily influenced by Godard, and specifically her 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Clocking in at three and half hours, Akerman's film is a quiet, incredibly slow-paced character study of a widow who supports herself and her son by prostituting herself while her son is at school. Jeanne is a creature of habit, and the camera documents the minutiae of her daily life. Jeanne retains the same emotional stoicism that is exhibited by Godard's characters - at least until the end of the film, where her stoicism breaks down.

I find the resemblence in facial expression + attitude most striking in these shots of Nana and Jeanne:

The Savage Eye

I came across this movie earlier in the semester and thought that some of the techniques used in the film were interesting.  Often referred to as a dramatized documentary, the film is largely documentary footage that the screenwriters later created a story around.  The main character is a women Judith who seems content to live off of her alimony while trying to figure out her life.  The movie was released the same year as Breathless but I think the more interesting parallels  (the use of documentary footage and the roles of women) are with 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her.

The Savage Eye


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some last words remaining

I can honestly say that I feel forever altered after the experience of this class and by experiencing a broad survey of Godard’s work.  Viewing these films has been a practice in translation not only through the image but within the French language as well.  I have altered between reading the text quickly and listening concurrently and then when sheer exhaustion sets in, I read for a time and then eventually I listen and read concurrently again.  In high school I studied French with an incredible teacher, who forever impressed me with his dedication and intense perfectionism towards the language- so much so that it was a challenge to freely communicate without constant self-critique over pronunciation and grammatical errors.  On the weekends small groups of us would pile into his small cabin and watch French films (I attended a boarding school where most teachers [including my mother who taught there] lived on campus).  It is worth noting that this was pre-internet accessibility in an isolated area of Northern Michigan.  I realize now that this time left me with quite an impression towards cinema and language, towards deciphering and interpreting text and towards counter perspectives of Hollywood Cinema.  Returning to this past semester, the constant process of trying to decipher the language and text and noting choices in translations within the subtitles along with barely being able to decipher some of the dialogue (philosophical texts, slang, etc.) has been an incredibly layered viewing process.  Indeed, at times I wished that these films were in a language unfamiliar to me so I could have muted that part of my brain!  Because these already perplexing films were perplexing my brain on yet another level I found the viewing process incredibly overwhelming. 

As I perused my viewing notes from this semester some interesting examples of language and translation choices were noted.  Here are a few:

Mistranslation: Vivre sa vie (1962) as My Life to Live.  I consider this title an alteration from the essence of this film.  Although the existentialist pretext is that we have choices within our limitations and constraints, ultimately, are these choices truly ours?  Within the strength of the possessive “my” this alters from a distanced “her.” It is this distanciation of “hers” or “his” or theirs” that I feel is so important in the title as opposed to an affirmative possessive of “mine.”

Omittence of information:
Most comically noted in Le mépris (1963), the assistant sums up Jeremy Prokosch’s  phrase (“Only yesterday there were kings here, and now they’re going to build a Prisunic on this, my lost kingdom.”) with the translation:  “C’est le fin du cinéma.”

Random phrases that I jotted down because I liked their words:

2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle (1966)
Question: “Qu’est-que c’est que langage?”
English: What is language?
Response: “It’s the house where one lives.”

Question: “Parler c’est à dire les mots.” 
English: To speak is to say words.

Phrase: “…when the future is more present than the present.”

Phrase: “What I say in words is never what I am saying.”

Tout va bien (1972)
Phrase: “Tu a eu raison d’être peur.”
Subtitle: You should have known.   (interesting translation/colloquialism: d’être peur= to be scared)

Passion (1982)
Phrase by Jerzy: “Isabelle, approach la lampe.”
Translation: Isabelle, move towards the lamp.  (lamp as light).

On the foggy road at the end:
“The story is finished, it was finished before it started.”

Notre Musique (2004)
Phrase: “Pas un conversation juste, just un conversation.”
Translation: Not a fair (just) conversation, just a conversation.

Phrase: How can I talk if you don’t hear me?

Phrase: All of the power of an image can only be described through it.

Phrase: Nous sommes tous coupables.
Translation: We are all guilty.

Phrase: “The day was beautiful.  You could see far, but not as far as Olga had done.”


 (5 of 5)

-c. krantz

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Notre Musique: A Certain Passage

As we know, this film consists of three parts: Hell – Purgatory – Paradise, but the order seems to be strange. From personal point of view, “Purgatory – Hell – Paradise” may be right order because hell or paradise is the place where judged people go after (or through) purgatory.  Of course, purgatory is the place for the people who are given temporary punishment or in the process of purification; however, the order of divided parts in the film looks still strange especially purgatory part contains somewhat mysterious journey of two women in present Sarajevo. If we follow the soul-journey of Judith and Olga, we can EXPERIENCE the ritual of purification through purgatory in the center and then enter to the different stage. This process is like a rite of passage.

Even though I described above purgatory is the process of purification, it is sure that the film’s purgatory is different. When Godard himself looks outside in the car, there are destroyed buildings and streets. How can we describe this scene by language? Maybe it is impossible, and in this purgatory, we cannot describe something that we are seeing. We need to see it. Language is floating in the air.

In film, all visual image and sound are collided and discordant. But this approach is not that experimental because those collision and discord are the film itself. Godard always think and talk about something by the film – image.

Obviously, what we see in the film does not guide us through purification. Instead, we experience many questions without answers. Personally each shot looks like to have something to say but only show itself to us. Besides floating language, all images in purgatory such as blurred images, abandoned books, bridge, or numbered bricks say something. And there is Olga.


Of Further Interest...

An essay by Radu A. Davidescu

Godard, Revolution and Representation.

On montage and "Et".

Friday, December 17, 2010

Godard's intertitles and font types

I know nothing about design and typography,
but here's an article about Godard's use of intertitles and front types. chic, but political...
anyway it's a nice post to review Godard's "design" of words, the found graphic and fragment of words.

not related but in addition, here old music video of PULP have some reference from Godard and also play a bit with the norm of music video structure.


Nagisa Oshima and Godard

"Breathless allows us to think the charm of cinema is from the continuity in the discontinuity"
 - Nagisa Oshima

Recently I read this quote from Nagisa Oshima and make me think about how the French new wave influenced the Japanese new wave in the 60s. The Japanese new wave directors, like the French new wave auteurs, aim to be liberated from their "father's cinema". They embrace the small scale shooting group and auteur. Lots of them were cooperated with the art house film company ATG (Art Theater Guild) which was a cinema magzine at its beginning...

I watched a serious of Oshima's film many years ago, the director's later works investigate the themes of confusion and rupture came with westernization/mordernization after world war II. I liked his late works such as Taboo(1999) and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence(1985). While these two works he seens not that enthusiastic about deconstructing the narrative structure like his earlier works.

Then I recall Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (1969). It was hard for me to understand when I watched it the first time. Now it seens clearer to me. The methods, including the collage of different materials, the combination of B/W and color, the decomposition of the narrative structure with voice-over, are all very Godard. The absurd action is more like a documentary fragrements of some behavior art, and make me think of the use of "Fool" in Godard's film. (such like Jean Pierre Leaud in Weekend). And the set of the love/sex story between the woman work in book store and the thief, is kind of Breathless...(although Oshima said it's more from The Thief Journal by Jean Genet). The way he demonstrates the polictics, sexual politic, and the student movements, compare with Godard, is more subtle and metaphorical, but all in relation with each other...

In some way this film is also a documenatry recording the 60s culture movement in Japan, lots influential people in art, culture and cinema fields are actually actors in the film. Including the pop artist Tadanori Yooko, theater troup leader/director Juro Kara, doll maker Yotsuya Simon and the most interesting one, the founder of Kinokuniya bookstore Moichi Tanabe.

Yotsuya Simon


Save your As(ymptote)

Math is not my strong point, but one concept has traveled with me as I turn corners and walk lines in my life: the asymptote. The asymptote of a curve is a line such that the distance between the curve and the line approaches zero as they tend to infinity (thanks to wikipedia, which also tells me that another term for asymptote is “disambiguation”.)Always approaching, infinitely traveling, but never reaching.

Speaking of Pierrot Le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard says in Godard on Godard, “I quote: no road is the path I must follow. Nothing, returning, welcomes me, or leaving, releases me. This tomorrow is not of the day which was yesterday. This last sentence in terms of cinema: two shots which follow each other do not necessarily follow each other. The same goes for two shots which do not follow each other. In this sense, one can say that Pierrot is not really a film. It is rather an attempt at cinema. And the cinema, by making reality disgorge, reminds us that one must attempt to live” (emphasis mine 215).
We find this notion of the attempt throughout Godard’s work and his critical writings. He describes images as attempts at images; films as attempted films. All of his films foreground the continued attempt at communication, despite its inherent impossibility. Words themselves play, can’t be pinned down.  

History is an attempt, unachievable because, “I need a day to tell the story of a second, I need a life to tell the story of an hour” (Histoire[s] du cinema). We will never get there; but we are here and moving closer, we ascend and descend spirals like the staircase in Alphaville and time the asymptote to its curve. Living is the attempt to live and in the attempt its fleeting, eternal beauty.

-Ruchi Mital

Godard's Use of Light

In our last class, Sam said something that I had discovered as I was working on my final paper regarding light; it is not about the amount of light but the right light. This is the crux of my final paper. As I was investigating various art movements devoted to light and refining my paper topic, I concluded that this point, the right light, is most pertinent to a discussion of Godard. As we know, even in his black and white films, he utilized natural light and did not rely on the industrial lighting standard for filmmaking. Because my final paper focuses on two specific examples of Godard’s relationship to light, (Alphaville and Passion) in this post I will focus briefly on some of the ways in which Godard uses light to communicate major themes in the films Contempt, Weekend and L’Eloge de L’Amour, namely sexuality, consumerism and memory.

Light in Contempt exists in many forms but what makes it specific to the film is its use to emphasize the sexuality of Brigitte Bardot. From the tinted red and blue to the reflection off the sea or as her backdrop, whether intentional or not, light’s main function is to draw more attention to and accentuate Bardot’s sex appeal.

(But Godard’s use of the natural light of Capri makes the film’s look unforgettably beautiful whether Bardot is in the scene or not.)

Weekend has a different relationship to light. It looks duller or washed out compared to Contempt.

And while so much of it takes place outside or among nature, the dullness remains. It is this dullness which adds to the feelings of alienation or enhances Godard’s critique of consumerism. (Think Marx's alienation theory)The absence of light corresponds to the absence of joy and the ugliness of the main characters. The world that the characters live in, reminiscent of a warzone, feels somehow other than our world when the muted light is taken into account. In this way, his use of light warns the audience of the consequences of consumerism. One lingering question is the role of the fires in Weekend; how can they be understood in relation to light?

Finally, L’Eloge de L’Amour, which uses light so cleverly and skillfully. In this film, Godard often obscures the faces of the main characters.  He again uses light to emphasize a characterization in the film, in this case memory. He actually obscures and manipulates the film through his treatment of light to communicate his points.

Godard maintains a command of light even when the film is in black and white. Nothing is not sharp unless he chooses. The power of Paris as the "city of lights" is not diminished when captured in black and white. (There may be a statement here about Paris for the wealthy vs. the Paris of the worker from the two images below, as one remains crisp and the other is covered in darkness.) Memory is explored and exposed in Godard's use of light.

Godard uses light is such a deliberate way that enhances the overall themes of his films and illuminates the subtelties of his point of view. I continue to investigate his search for the right light…

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fragments of Conversations with Jean-Luc Godard (2007)

I just found that the documentary I was searching for a while before this class is recently uploaded on youtube by someone.

Here is Fragments of Conversations with Jean-Luc Godard (2007)

A documentary by Alain Fleischer that about the exhibition Kevyn posted, Voyage(s) en utopie at the Pompidou Center 2006.

The beginning of this project is because his teaching plan in La Fresnoy call Collage(s) de France was revised, so he turned the idea into an installation project, asked Alain Fleischer to make this documentary to record the process, combines with the interviews with several people such like Dominique Paini.

In the early part of this documentary, Godard gives reaction about the anti-semitic doubt towards him, and talks about his opinions on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. This part is juxtaposed with some clips of and conversations about Notre Musique, which give me some late re-understanding about it.

The part that interested me most is in the 6~9 /12 part that Godard and Dominique Paini talks about new media installation and film, the different intransparency of the different medium, and the pre-existence of the language of cinema (Actually the quote by Andre S. Labarthe "the guillotine invented the close-up" was my motivation to find this documentary.) In my understanding this conversation brings out why Godard seen the cinema as a tool to doubt, also make me think of Pasolini's qoute "cinema in its essense is a question towards the sun…"   


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last Thoughts/Chris Marker Excerpt

As the semester draws to a close, I am suddenly realizing just how much I have learned and experienced in this course. The late films I initially resisted are beginning to reveal themselves to my formerly stubborn tastes. If I can draw one lesson from Godard's cinema it would be: don't give in, believe in (without forgetting to occasionally query) the cinema and pursue your thoughts, ruminations, politics, theories, obsessions. Although Godard's films are packed to bursting point with theory and thought, what astounds me the most about them (in the best cases) is that despite th intellectual overload, they still produce an affect. I don't mean "affect" as in the classical Hollywood schema: losing one's self in the story and psychological motives of the protagonist. Rather I mean that these films have (for me at least) affected my notions of reality, truth, and beauty. Affect in the broad sense of the word. If Godard makes films that function as thoughts, they also function as feelings.

How else can I explain my emotions after seeing
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her? There is no shortage of  theoretical/intellectual discourse, yet I am seeing and experiencing in a way that owes little to the written/spoken word by itself. Something else is produced: a burning need to look at the world, to question its presuppositions, to look at the world with a kino-eye; produced that a camera was shooting this object, yet forever removed from the reality/referent to which it owes its existence.

Godard's cinema makes me want make my
own cinema on my own terms. I have learned that cinema begins and ends with looking and perhaps as Ranciere suggests, thought and gaze are not so removed from one and other as some might like to think.

I'd like to share this excerpt of a piece by Chris Marker I found on the website (an excellent resource on the filmmaker/multimedia artist/host of other auxiliary identities.)

Although only an excerpt, the piece reminds me of Godard in Marker's rich reappropriation of a classic text (in this case Plato's "Allegory of The Cave.) to a new context. Though criminally short, this excerpt hints at something unbelievable interesting and originally was television series(!). If only Marker and Godard were given free reign to produce television.. but I suppose this explains Marker's attraction to the internet, with its potentially hyper-democratic access and endless memory ("I wonder how people remember things who don't film, don't photograph, don't tape". . .). A full description of the piece can be read here. Somehow even this brief excerpt seems a fitting send-off for us.

Anyway, it was an absolute pleasure sharing my Monday nights with all of you and I want to wish everyone a safe and relaxing break with their loved ones. Also for those of us who are currently furiously finishing up visual projects for the class, it would be great if we all posted these projects on here so we could watch each other's final work. I was thrilled at the breadth, scope and variety of subjects and style-the diversity and heterogeneity of which seem absolutely appropriate in the context of Godard.

Vivez votre vie!

Being and Light: Notre Musique

It is common, when discussing the duality between Judith and Olga, to place Judith on the side of "light" and Olga on the side of "dark" (after all, Judith is committed to reconciliation whereas Olga seems to see no solution in this life). This simple opposition though is belied by Olga's first appearance in the film, which is prefaced by these mysterious lines (spoken, I believe, by Juan Goytosolo): "Light is the first visible animal of the invisible." Not only is Olga introduced in relation to light, but she also exudes pure radiant energy here. A being in motion. It is a beautiful image that has stayed with me for the past half dozen years since I first saw the film.