Monday, December 20, 2010

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:

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