Saturday, October 22, 2011

Godard and Politics

Andrew Jay Bowe

Rather than apply Debord's historical accounts of the French Situationist movement in "Report on the Construction of Situations and on the Terms of Organization and Action of the International Situationist Tendency" to a hermeneutical approach to the works of Godard, I would like to look at one way in which the development of Godard's films differs in stylistically and politically from the philosophy of the Situationist movement.

First, I would argue that the Situationist International movement was invested in attacking modern culture. Of which Debord writes, "modern culture has two chief centers in Paris and Moscow" (RCS, 34) and that these trends influence the global status of workers and culture throughout the world. It is in this sense that Debord finds it necessary to "negate the negation" of modern culture's alienation of the individual in high capitalism. This form of negation, of negating the negation, represents a hard line of critical positioning in political philosophy, and asserts that modern conditions of production must be completely revolutionized. 

The early film of Godard, a contemporary of Debord's, is too 'easily' placed within the critical-negative portrayal of modern conditions of production. Within Godard's films, montage sets up a sort of political framework to make connections between a dense consciousness of items ranging from relationships, to advertisement, and to interior design, which allow for one to map out relationships between different forms of consciousness that might be impossible or difficult to develop using any other medium (than film). This form of montage becomes visible in Godard's film  "ou 3 chose que je sais d’elle (1996), where Godard layers urban life, character, and advertisement in such a way as to develop identity as something that undercuts concrete spacial relations. I would argue that because of this form of critique and development, Godard's film operates in a way as to describe reality, rather than to negate the negation of the modern image. Godard doesn't simply look for dead metaphors, obvious examples of hijacking culture, or developing sharp opposition, he makes connections that describe the reality of modern life. 

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