Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Making cinema politically not political cinema, Godard

Politics involves both past and present. When you read Churchill's memoirs, you understand very clearly what is happening today. You think, so that is what he was thinking when he took part in such and such conference; but you only learn this twenty years later. It is more difficult in cinema: you have no time since you are dealing with the present. (Godard on Godard, p.225)
Godard has a particular approach to the way he does cinema and thinking about film the way he constructs it as a political construction is a version that rethinks the way we can talk about politics and society with different perspective. His recurrent questioning becomes the content and the form of his films. In his interview with Cashier (Godard on Godard, p.215-234) about the film Pierrot le fou he gives a description of how the questioning the things in between events (history) and daily life that lead to one another. Within this construction Godard explains that he the Vietnam references are linked to "the world of violence, and it is violence that controls the way things evolve [...] my reference to Vietnam was pure logic: it was to show Belmondo that they were playing a game, but that nevertheless the matter of their game pre-existed. 

I repeat making a film is an adventure  comparable to that of  an army advancing through a country and living off the inhabitants. So one is led to talk about those inhabitants. That is what actuality is: it is both what one calls actuality in the cinematographic and journalistic sense, and casual encounters, what one reads, conversations, the business of living in other words. (Godard on Godard, p. 224)
This is basically what Godard means when he says he makes films politically and not political cinema. Although some critics might catalog his inclusion of political themes in his films as a superficial approximation of the subject. Godard's films are essays on a subject and take form in a film that draws from the construction of characters, to the use of citation and text, and the inclusion of actuality in his films in relation to the story and the subjects. Everything that lies between the event and daily life. 

By Natalia Guerrero

Silence, the space between Éloge de l'amour - Jean-Luc Godard

When composer John Cage came up with his piece 4'33'', perceive as four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence, he was actually proposing that any sound could become music. This piece is performed in 3 movements, or sections. For the first version the audience, in front of a stage, saw the a performer reach and sit in front of the piano, open the lid and then close it to mark the end of the duration of that segment. He repeated it 2 more times. The audience sat in "silence" listening to the noises surrounding them. It was controversial to the preconceived notion of music. However, Cage when trying to explain his experiment he reflected on the duration as the essential building block of all music, where  duration is the only element shared by both silence and sound. Therefore, why not fill this with either sounds, silence or noise? The third point is that the work of music is defined not only by its content but also by the behavior it elicits from the audience, they can either be satisfied or contribute to the piece. Basically there is not such thing as silence.

In Éloge de l'amour by Jean-Luc Godard there is a recursive use of a black screen, absence of image or a sum of images that yield too much light or exposure (over exposed images). This silence in between images play a similar role as John Cages experiment. This a sequences of moving images that begin with a non visual image and lead to another image, that leads to a non-visual image, in repeat. The relation to the timing in music and the timing in cinema can be related in similar terms as John Cage did when talking about silence and the new forms of authorship when it comes to composing an art piece. 

Humberto Eco, in The Poetics of the Open Work, talks about the open-ended and aleatory nature of modern music, literature and art "pointing to the wider implications of this new mode of aesthetic reception for sociology and pedagogy, and for new forms of communication."(p.20) When talking about open text in writing, like in music, Eco explains that "blank space surrounding a word, typographical adjustments, and spatial composition in the page setting of a poetic text- all contribute a halo of indefiniteness and to make the text pregnant with infinite possibilities." (p.27) This opens to the free response of the one who reads it. 

This is why Éloge de l'amour is one of my favorite Godard movies, when it comes to talk about the construction of memory its infinite relation to images that evoke other images. In this case the use of a non-visual image (black screen) becomes one of the sources for this being an continuous open text on the understanding of memory. The timing of non-image in between images is a silence open for the emotional and imaginative process the spectator indulges in while adapt our personal world into this images, either by association or by superimposition or juxtaposition; "a network of limitless interrelations". (p.24) Many of the images in this film are stripped from the referent, and the text (voice over) becomes part of the image, but at the same time the spectator sees himself confronted with a narration (that is a continuous questioning on memory process and thought) place over an image of nothingness, of images that are just images in movement through a space, the portrait of a fleeting space or landscape. A Time and Space that is not definite neither by the story nor by the narration, so it becomes the image of something we don't know but that we get to know by relating it to something already known. Where the initial referent of the image can become another image, a continuous process of reconstructing memory, a reconstruction that takes place in that silence, in that black screen with the sound atmosphere of the previous image, that leads to a new image. 

The entire movie is perfectly timed withing this spaces blank spaces, the spaces of images of nothing, and spaces of images of the characters of the film within this image. There is a timing or a tempo that is defined also by the division of the film in chapters, a recurrent strategy used by Godard. The spectator, as the film, seem to float in a time and place that is not definite but that is certain that it exists. It is a constant open text and the journey of memory of each spectator is a varied as the possible interpretations or associations of each image. The silence in between is not silence. 

By Natalia Guerrero

Speak On What It Is You Cannot Put Into Words: Erik Luers Final Paper Topic

For my final paper, I decided to focus on Godard's poignant voiceover narration in 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her and what it says about language, knowledge, and style. I came to this choice after watching the film again fairly recently, feeling that Godard's internalized monologues to the audience were confessional and sincere. Here was a man wrestling with existential ideas and problems of ontology, admitting that he had so far only been able to grasp a small amount of their entire context.

As a starting-off point, I used David Bordwell's chapter on "Godard and Narration." Originally, I wanted to use Bordwell's theory that Godard's films invite interpretation but defy analysis as my thesis but, after wrestling with it and giving it much thought, I realized that I didn't agree with him. Still, Bordwell makes some good points in the chapter that I felt helped me shape my own argument.

I was also amused by the irony of the narration in 2 or 3 Things, by the fact that, for a film that breaks down language and questions its everlasting constrictive abilities, it so expertly employs words to describe situations that may very well be deemed indescribable. If "language is the house man lives in," 2 or 3 Things features Godard coming to terms with and challenging that impenetrable fact. We are bound by words, but we will nonetheless use them to describe our situation thoroughly. Below is an excerpt from my final paper:

There is an irony at work in Godard's choice to employ his narration over 2 or 3 Things, a film which, quite explicitly, makes a case for the oppressive ability of language. A key theme in many of his films, Godard uses the essence of language and its inability to completely describe thought as a mirroring of the human condition, the boundaries put in place by one binding the expressive abilities of the other. When, early in the film, Juliette's son curiously asks his waking mother to define 'language', Juliette responds quite matter-of-factly, “language is the house man lives in.” The film backs up this claim with scenes of her husband's obsession with the transcribing of political audio soundbytes, and the inclusion of two befuddled men, seemingly existing in another movie entirely, aroused by a constant barrage of knowledge through books. Godard appears to be implying that although language is a necessary and infinite tool, it lacks the ability to describe the indescribable, to give meaning and authenticity to the wordless. His films, often filled with what Bordwell deems “transtextuality”, that is, “citations, allusions, borrowings” (312), emphasize the narrative's need for an unobtainable degree of knowledge. By presenting close-ups of book covers sporting didactic titles, he engulfs the viewer in the onslaught. Man's greatest insecurity is that he may never learn quite enough.

This idea is particularly true given 2 or 3 Things' most famously linguistic scene approximately twenty-five minutes into the film. Sitting in a cafe by herself, relaxing with a glass of Coca-Cola, Juliette glances at another woman reading a hip 60s fashion periodical. Godard shows us this woman's enamored face while providing us with shots of the magazine's colorful pages, each featuring women in chic attire and cosmetic overstatements (i.e. the woman with the United Kingdom-inspired lipstick). As Juliette glances over, Godard's questioning narration kicks in, asking how it is possible to accurately describe the scene unfolding before our very eyes. Does the word 'magazine' efficiently describe what it is? How can descriptive language sum up not only mood, but essence? At the aforementioned garage scene later in the film, Godard again prompts us to remain wary of the restricted fundamentals of this man-made communication system. While we observe Juliette at the garage greeting her husband lovingly, there is something that occurs between them, between them and their placement on the Earth, that is beyond language and conceptualization. Godard's voiceover, comically enough, realizes its uselessness even as it continues forward; the director admits that he cannot do much more than relate it to Faulkner. Since the spelling out of that which is instinctively organic is reckoned useless, no one therefore bothers to attempt the task. Language supplies us with the illusion of thought, of the comfort of placing the enormity of the universe into a few common phrases. By doing so, it teaches us less about the world and rather more about man's never-quite-complete definition of it. 

Erik Luers

Jean-Luc Godard’s cinematic construction of History and Memory

There is a common denominator in Godard’s films, the construction of history and memory. Themes of memory and time, how to record history, using archives of images to tell a story, history as storytelling in an attempt to arrange certain memories, the diffused boundaries between fiction and non-fiction (documentary and fiction, the real and the imagined), cinema as archive of time and memory, the image as archives of images of time; the conception of cinema as both history and memory, a way of remembering the past but also the present. This is a search to understand the cinematic construction of history and memory in Godard’s films Notre Musique and Tout Va Bien

The first one ending with the reflection of being your own historian and how that movie is a record of history for those who don’t keep one; the second movie is a continuous use of images, sound, music, quotations to evoke a reality that is not there anymore and its reconstruction through the use of images and thoughts evoked by a landscape, an image of something that evokes something else.

Specifically for this post I would like to focus on the construction of space, used as a tool for narration, in both films. In Tout Va Bien there is a Brechtian approach to history and the uprising events going in on in France in 1968. 

In Notre Musique, Sarajevo becomes the stage, in this case a landscape. A landscape of memory and history in an attempt of being reconstructed, curiously done by an Israeli journalist, Judith Lerner (as in Tout Va Bien by Yves Montand) in many ways becomes a documentary portrait of this city that is being rebuilt after war through the questioning of other wars like the Israel and Palestine conflict. The camera becomes a silent witness of this portrait in the documentary scenes where we constantly see the daily life of Sarajevo through its streets and the visiting of the landscapes used for remembering the lost lives, (the markets, the streets with cars and pedestrians, the constant focus on the women and children on the street, the public transportation like trains are constantly making a pause on the film, a transition between documentary and fiction, between the true life characters like Godard and the poet playing themselves and the fictional characters like the journalist and the french young woman Olga).
A Bosnian women with her child. This sequence was followed by a sound mix of falling bombs.
The journalist visits a memorial landscape, where the stones represent the dead from August 1990-June 1997. The translator explains that each stone is attached to a card and this card to a face and the information of the position the body was found.

The interesting use of documenting a landscape within the narration of the story in this film leads to the use of landscape as a stage, also like in Tout Va Bien, but this time it is a physical space that exists and its intervened with objects, books (piles of books brought by different people) and characters that interact with them by siting texts in reference to war, land, the dead, wars in the name of colonization, and the need for poets and writers so time can survive. There is also the landscape of the bridge that is constantly referenced through the narration of the story and the quest of the journalist of a past and present and its relationship to land (the war battles for land). This landscape is a space for imagination. At one point of Notre Musique there is a sequence of the journalist sitting in the middle of the shot by the bridge, when she looks to the right she see 3 Indigenous People in getting out and in a car, when she looks to the left she see them again but this time on horses and wearing the classical Indigenous American outfit, a shot and reverse shot. This sequence followed the visiting of the stones in the pictures above and the reading of a text that reflected on the me and the other, history and memory. The associations personal memory can come into play with contexts that resemble it, two truths that happened in the same time in history. The quest of the journalist as she reads Levinas Entre Nos, Restore the past and make the future possible.
Poet reads in spanish: Hay que hacer que la revolución cree una interminable fuerza de creación que fortalezca los recuerdos, que precise los sueños, que corporice las imagenes. That reserves for the dead a better fate. 

Deleuze wrote on Godard that his film is open and inclusive. He always used the word AND. In this case his films would be and attempt of History and Memory. A place for questioning, for dream and reality, for interior and exterior. History is the search within the memory of others and our own. Notre Musique is a shot and reverse shot of History and Memory, of me and the other, of the individual and society, living and death. Both Tout Va Bien and Notre Musique become Godards attempt of a historian. Sarajevo is a starting point to reconcile with the past by starting a conversation about the land a common land, a common landscape where you can then find forgiveness.
By Natalia Guerrero 

Reclaiming Agency: The Emancipated Spectator in 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle

My project examines Ranciere’s notion of the "emancipated spectator" in Jean-Luc Godard’s 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle. As a filmmaker, I believe Godard assumes the role of ignorant schoolmaster, one who does not assume authority of the films “meaning” but one who is willing to engage in the process of learning with the spectator. 

This is clear in Godard’s use of the interview in 2 ou 3. By filming interviews with women in hair salons and clothing stores, Godard presents what Ranciere refers to as “a third thing,” that which neither schoolmaster nor ignoramus can posses authoritative meaning of. Instead both are left to engage in the process of translation: interpreting the signs in the interviewees words and body language to ascribe a meaning to the work.

I also examine Ranciere argument against Plato’s, and later Debord’s, critique of mimesis. Since theatre is traditionally merely a representation of reality, Plato claims this leaves the spectator in a state of ignorance. Debord likewise argues the appearances in the spectacle fail to communicate the reality of the spectacle: that there is a disconnect between appearance and reality. The spectator, lost in a world of false representation, becomes dispossessed of her selfhood. Godard deals with the problem of representation in 2 ou 3, however unlike Plato and Debord concludes the society of the spectacle does not have the power to rob people of their agency. Instead, like Ranciere, he believes the spectator, in the act of interpreting and translating the world of signs before her, assigns meaning to these appearances. This suggests the possibility of a society where the subversion of meaning by consumer culture may be reversed. 

 Mike O'Malley
This is a short excerpt from my paper.

    In the Emancipated Spectator, Jacques Ranciere adapts the premise of Joseph Jacotots Ignorant Schoolmaster and applies it to the practice of art. Ranciere makes the connection between the schoolmaster and the filmmaker stating that both are trying to transmit knowledge to their pupils/audience. But this very relationship rests on premise that the filmmaker/schoolmaster is exulted by his knowledge and only he can reveal the truth to the ignorant spectator. “The ignoramus is not simply one who does not yet know what the schoolmaster knows. She is the one who does not know what she does not know or how to know it, for his part the schoolmaster is not only the one who possesses the knowledge unknown by the ignoramus. He is also is the one who knows how to make it an object of knowledge, at what point and in accordance with what protocol.” (Ranciere 8)
     Stultification results from the attempt to objectify knowledge which denies the spectators equality of experience. Ranciere argues that it is not the schoolmaster’s experience and wealth of knowledge that educates the ignorant spectator, rather it is her ability to show that she can learn on her own by, looking and listening, figuring out the meaning of what she has seen and heard, and comparing what she discovers with what she already knew. Is this not also the goal of the filmmaker? The filmmaker shows us scenes in order to provoke us into thinking and engaging with our own understanding of the world. Ranciere refers to this as the “distribution of the sensible”. Rather than position himself as a fountain of experience and knowledge that the spectator should revere, the filmmaker must instead awaken the spectator to engage with her distribution of the sensible. Yet, the modern cinematic apparatus rests on the process of stultification that cuts off the spectator from her emancipation.
     Brecht’s development of the epic theater in the 1930’s was an attempt to challenge this conventional apparatus. Brecht wanted to challenge the illusory nature of the theatre, one that allows the spectator to comfortably sit in her seat and enjoy a play about poverty as a form of entertainment rather than a form of social engagement.
     For Brecht the entertainment value of the theatre cast a veil over the political and social importance of works of art, allowing audiences to disengage from the politics behind them. A work, no matter how revolutionary its potential, can still be assimilated by the system of production that simultaneously delivers the it to the public without allowing space to challenge the injustice of that very system.  This realization is reached by Walter Benjamin who was also a close friend of Brecht who said “The bourgeois apparatus of production and publication can assimilate astonishing number of revolutionary themes, and can propagate them without seriously placing its own existence or the existence of the class that possess them into question“ (Benjamin 90). In order to challenge the spectators distribution of the sensible the artist must attack the forms in which art is delivered or risk it merely becoming another cultural object delivered by the commodity system that is hallowed of meaning.
     These complaints are echoed a quarter century later in the work of Guy Debord and Godard. Though Godard will go on to fully realize the potential of these questions, Debord will struggle with his position as artist. It is important to note how Debord’s development of Brecht leads him to the creation of his film and book The Society of the Spectacle. In it he expands Brecht’s notion of the illusory theatre to include society as a whole. For Debord art had become a commodity, something to be exchanged as mere artifacts from a culture increasingly separated from the true meaning of life. Instead of seeing art or life, the spectator is caught up in a world of appearances and is unable to see beneath to the true nature of things. Debord argues for the end of production of art objects and the reintegration of art into everyday life.

     While Brecht and Debord offer an alternative view of producing work so that the form itself is also political, through various techniques both seem to miss a critical point. Both are overly concerned with educating their audiences to the injustices of the world as they, the artists, see them. There is an implication that their positions as artists have granted them special knowledge to the state of affairs that are unknowable to the masses. The irony is that in an attempt to liberate the spectator from the stranglehold of the spectacle, these artists have exulted themselves into a special position of knowing.
     Perhaps this has less to do with these men and more to do with the very structure of the cinema. The spectator comes to sit and watch. She is told there is a message encoded into the work and if her intellectual credentials are high enough she will understand the intention of the filmmaker. But why should she be so fascinated by the intentions of the filmmaker. Her assumed interest in this illusory authoritative figure is based on the presumption that the meaning of the work is his, and she must discover it with his help. But first she must admit her own ignorance of the world.
     This claim of definitive ownership denies the spectator her function as a collaborator of meaning. Her decoding of a work is superfluous compared to the “true” meaning intended by the artist. The intention of the artist becomes an end in itself, one that excludes the participation of the viewer. The concept of this truth exults the experience of the filmmaker as primary and all other experiences as insignificant. How are spectators expected to engage with a work that denies their very knowledge as beings? This is the crisis of modern art. It is a crisis that asks spectators not to be collaborators but consumers.

Oz Skinner

Prostitution and Modernity

Anyone who has seen a few Godard films can notice the recurrence of the prostitute.
Especially when it comes to Vivre Sa Vie amd the image of Anna Karina. Aside from the plot context in which woman appear as prositutes in Godard's work, the prostitute can be used as commentary on  economics.

Godard uses the female form and sale of sex as a metaphor for capitalistic ideas, which is certainly present in the film.  Morrey points out the implementation of distancification techniques used by Godard, in part by the insertion of tableau, as a way for the spectator to not become too lost in Nana's experience and narrative that they cannot draw connections between there own lives as the consumer.  

2 or 3 Things I know about her seem to take this connection between consumer driven society a step further. He again, uses prostitution as metaphor and commentary, this time to address the upper middle suburbia in Paris. A way to again, show the lengths at which society will strive for the consumption of things in which it does not need.

The prostitute can also serve as a metaphor for film, at least classical or hollywoodian film, because of the focus on beautiful imagery or beauty itself, which to Godard is the focus on something so fleeting.

Godard, while critical of both beauty and modernity, does not seem to hide his fascination with the material. Reconciling the allure to a consumer driven society and playing with ways in which it is a destructive force seems to be a large drive in his work. 

Godard and Eisenstein

      For my final paper, I examined ways in which Jean Luc Godard's work can have examples in which it fits into Eisenstein's methods of montage, and ways in which his work deviates from it's linearity.

To do so, I wanted to pick three works that when placed together for comparison, a progression can be seen in how Godard uses montage. The three I chose were Vivre Sa Vie, Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle, and Histoire(s) du cinéma.

Through the analysis of these films, I have come to the conclusion that Godard's work primarily addresses Overtonal and Intellectual montage when it comes to Eisensteinian methods. Also, while Godard's montage still shows a progression, he is still constantly looking back to his past work as well as the work of other filmmakers. He is also looking back in terms of method. He finds ways to take simple montage and transform it into new ideas. To me, this is unique to Godard. He is always interested in comparing the past with the present as a means to move forward. 

I also felt that Eisenstein's methods of montage only really addressed montage through shots or the camera. But why should that be the case? If we stick with his dialectical argument for cinema without limiting it to the image, there several ways in which in-congruence can be introduced into cinema. For example, Godard's mixture of noise and silence, text and image, fiction and non-fiction, and rehearsal and improvisational. One might be able to conclude that these are all examples of Overtonal Montage. However, they seem to move past Eisenstein and onto a more complex view on what montage is and what it is capable of. 

For Godard, being a former film critic before he began film-making aloud him to look at what other filmmakers have done as way to see what still needs to be explored and what does not. In his later works, I believe he revisits early approaches to montage such that he has done a "full circle" in terms of discovery what filmmaking is to him, and Histoire(s) du cinéma is a way of not just burying the past for good, but learning how to use it to create new or alternate meaning.

To conclude, I feel that Godard did prove to be an example filmmaker for Eisenstein's "higher pathways" of thinking and montage, but he was not limited by linearity or by any concrete meaning. For Godard, meaning is always something that can be changed though rearrangement. 

Joe V

Looking at Death

Death is an idea that Godard explores in his work any number of times. With reference to Douglas Morrey’s book Jean-Luc Godard, I will briefly look at some of the recurrences of death in Godard’s films, and the significance of his preoccupation with this idea.

In Breathless, Michel Poiccard dies dramatically in the middle of the street in Paris, in a manhunt. This event, however, is foreshadowed earlier – for instance, in a moment, which seems to encapsulate the film’s uncertain tone, Michel follows a joke about a condemned man to ask, “Do you ever think about death? I think about it all the time.” Morrey quotes other instances that reference the passing of the years too quickly, the choice between grief and nothingness, and concludes that, the many premonitions lend an air of inevitability to the final event when it happens.

But in his analysis he rejects the clichéd existential interpretation of death in the film. Death is not invoked to remind us of the difficulty of the situation the lead characters face; it is not a device, therefore, to highlight human freedom and the need to take responsibility for our choices. On the contrary, Morrey quotes Maurice Blanchot, who proposes that Michel’s end is a “death without truth” His death cannot therefore be understood or overcome in any proper way, it is a symbol of that the unthinkable, which cannot be understood from within life. It echoes the failure of Michel and Patricia to communicate with each other. There is a strong sense of futility attached to it.

Whereas, in Contempt, Camille and Prokosch’s joint death in a car crash tends to appear absolutely out of the blue. Morrey agrees that it is easy to misconstrue Camille’s death as a form of punishment for her actions, her end maybe seen as being misogynistic twist to the narrative. 

However, he points out that Camille’s death does not have any narrative motivation as in Breathless, and neither is it motivated by the overall circumstance, as in Nana’s end in Vivre sa vie. Nana’s death is again foretold through her identification through Joan of Arc, but Morrey argues that her death in a shootout between Raoul and a rival pimp is not a punishment for her whoredom. He analyses the film to show that Nana is in fact a very strong, and memorable character- she is an existential heroine who engages with the real questions of life.

Death makes an appearance in La Petit Soldat as well when Bruno kills Palivoda, motivated more by emotion, than by any political belief. Bruno also echoes Michel when he asks, “Do you ever think about death”, Blanchot points out that this is the single, central question, the question of everything- the question that cannot be asked. Bruno also refers to the extraordinary sensation of photographing death.
This idea of photographing death is explored further in Here and Elsewhere, when Godard talks about footage from 1970 that features people who are no longer alive- almost all the Palestinian actors died in attacks by the Jordanian Army. Godard then says, “The film filmed the actors in danger of death”. Morrey points out, then, that this idea relates to Jean Epstein and Cocteau’s poetically melancholic ideas that, “cinema films death at work on the faces and in the bodies of actors”

In effect then, we may conclude that in analyzing death in Godard’s films, some patterns exist. For one, the death of characters is often foretold and hangs over the film like a dark cloud, many times the death is not motivated by the narrative and is a symbol for the unknowability of existence, at other times, it is a more empowered sense of death that emerges as an existential victory over life’s meaninglessness.

 - Preeti

Godard/Marker, Erasing the Distance

For the final paper for this class I chose to compare Godard’s work to that of Chris Marker’s. I focused on three films, Here and Elsewhere (1974) Sans Soleil (1983) and Far From Vietnam (1967) - an anthology film orchestrated by Marker featuring Godard, Ivens, Varda and other filmmakers from the Left Bank + New Wave. I was drawn to this topic because I am especially interested in how the documentary form intersects with fiction and vice versa. While, H & E and FFV were both dealing with an overtly political subject in a new way i.e. neither film follows the traditional documentary rules. I turned to Sans Soleil because it is the only film that offered me any deeper insights into Marker’s specific style- in the spirit of the collective- Marker was not forthcoming on his exact contribution to FFV.

In my paper, I began by tracing Marker and Godard’s initial fascination for cinema verite. While Marker caused controversy by offering a very partisan look at the lives of Parisians in Le Jolie Mai – clearly a verite film, Godard used verite techniques to lend a documentary feel to his fiction work. Both filmmakers however looked to create new forms of expression that better suited their interest in a more political cinema. I then discuss how both filmmakers create these new forms of cinema, as Astruc predicted; through the camera stylo approach- their content/ideas are embodied in the form itself- they are writing their thoughts onto film.

The paper then cross references all three films; FFV and H & E both are dealing with similar problems- how can one represent a reality that is so far away? FFV mixes performance and fictional accounts with actuality footage from Vietnam, it contains a long piece by Godard who thinks out loud- and discusses the problem of creating an ethical cinema, I see that, many years later, he solves some of these problems in H & E. H & E also attests to the failure of documentary to be a witness. It is indicative of a crisis of representation in cinema.

One of the key conceptual breakthrough’s Godard has in H & E relate to his concept of replacing the ‘or’ with an ‘and’ i.e. by breaking down a binary way of looking at the world, one can close the distance between here and elsewhere, us and them, France and Palestine (Deleuze) I propose that Marker is also doing something similar with his concept of the horizontal montage in Sans Soleil. He is “adding” words to images, and breaking down oppositions, forcing us to consider visuals and text simultaneously. He too is therefore closing the distance. I quote authors who discuss how Marker’s approach to editing is by turns inspired by Eisenstein, Kuleshov and Vertov. (Michael Walsh) Lastly, I discuss how Godard and Marker see images as tools of capitalism, and specific relationships they draw between history, memory, cinema and uniformity of thought. - Preeti

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Legacy of Band of Outsiders

Godard planned for his seventh feature film release, "Band of Outsiders," to be a commercial success, but unfortunately, at the time, it was one of the lowest grossing films he made to date.  However, today, we see many influences of this film on popular culture, and can surmise from this that the film has gained popularity and an audience, no matter how niche, through the generations.  New York Times film critic, Eugene Archer said, back in 1964 when the film was first screened at a festival in NYC, that this film is before its time and that one day, he predicted that Godard's work would be at home in film museums.  Godard is the king of quoting other authors, artwork, popular culture references, etc. but now that his work is being quoted, I wonder if he has issues with this, especially because the ways his work is usually quoted/adopted/ripped off is in a way he probably wouldn't agree with.  Contemporary filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino, regularly borrows from Godard, but there are news articles that record Godard's anti-Tarantino sentiments, especially regarding the filmmaker's production company, now closed, "A Band Apart."  Tarantino also gained inspiration from the Madison dance sequence from "Band of Outsiders" to use in his very successful film, "Pulp Fiction".  You can see the dance sequence in "Pulp Fiction" here and Tarantino admits that he was directly inspired by Godard for this.  However, Tarantino does not utilize the dance sequence the way Godard did and this superficial treatment must have been annoying for Godard to see compared to his original one.

Godard would also probably be quite annoyed if he caught wind of this Diesel advertisement released as part of their campaign in 2010 that ripped off of Godard's Madison dance scene.  I don't think it is necessary to say what's wrong with this video since it's quite obvious, if you study Godard and his ideologies that this video is the exact thing he would not support.
To top all of this off, the name, "Band of Outsiders" has such a great ring to it that Hollywood Film Agent turned Designer (now that's just too whore-ishly commercial to digest) Scott Sternberg uses the film's title as the brand of his clothing line.  He says that he just liked the name but the label has nothing to do with the film really or anything related to Godard for that matter.  It's just a trendy, catchy name... sad.

if you'd like to read more, it's all in my term paper.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Godard et Rohmer: Four Moral Tales

As a self-proclaimed Maoist in the 60's, Godard in many, if not all, of his films touches on politics and encourages the viewer to ask him or herself questions relevant to contemporary political issues. Although politics is a conspicuous topic in many of his films, gender and morality always seems to have an undercurrent theme throughout the course of his work. Godard’s contemporary however touches on these subjects rather overtly. Eric Rohmer author and director of Six Moral Tales, is one of Godard’s French New Wave comrades, and two of his films that heavily carry the theme of morality, Ma Nuit Chez Maud and La Collectionneuse, share several similarities to Godard’s A Woman is a Woman and Vivre sa Vie.

Angela, Maud, Nana, and Haydeé are all judged by their male counterparts for stepping out of what is considered to be the social norms.  They are promiscuous, coquettish and they challenge the traditional female role and the hegemonic male structure; for these reasons, the men in their lives share a love-hate relationship with them. 

Rohmer literates his films, while Godard builds his films with imagery. The correlation of the two helps to define the French New Wave.



(1) Godard: A Letter to Freddy Buache (1982)
Following on the framework definition offered by Deleuze, “… we will call the determination of a closed system, a relatively closed system which includes everything which is present in the image—sets, characters and props—framing. The frame therefore forms a set which has a great number of parts, that is of elements, which themselves form sub-sets. It can be broken down” (Deleuze 12), it seems relevant to develop a critical approach to the contemporary linguistic framework analysis, and correspondingly offer some ways to understand framing within the multilayered environments of cinematic media. One might question the effectiveness of contemporary frame research (coming out of political science and communications) in bringing a reductionary analysis of linguistics into the study of news journalism and television. Though, some scholars have looked at a variety of relational elements of framing, and thus framing as a process that process a multilayered frame environment (Deleuze, de Vreese), the majority of frame theorists have interjected a simplified version of what is a complex web for political analysis. It is for this reason that there is need to readdress new conceptions of ‘process’ oriented framework and potentially apply or develop a typographical approach to the study of framework within the complex media environment that connects medium types and movement images.

If we are to understand Deleuze’s conception of framing as an extensive one, one which incorporates images and sub-sets of images and objects (not triggered by linguistic determination, or a priori value, but experience), then the frame becomes not only made up of the images within a single take or shot, but rather the relations developed between images through time. The frame, in this sense- incorporates the total environment in which the montage develops (image, sound, language, geometry, object, character, etc.). 

(2) Godard: A Letter to Freddy Buache (1982)

Within his Letter to Freddy Buache (1982), Godard’s "frame" becomes both apparent within the linguistic space of his production, as well as within the content and movement image. All of which are "subversive" yet posit a framed vision of urban life. First, as seen in (1) the camera takes a new form of geographic tour, panning over trees, and tracking subway cars, and moving over banks of water, catching locations of color common to the space of Lausanne. here Godard expresses that the frame is the re-presentation of urban life. Godard's production becomes a sort of rearrangement of the data of Lausanne that he presents as most salient in the (re)memory of the space. 

In another sense, the frame is inherently pedagogical, as it asks one to see the marginalized spaces of urban climates (bodies of water at the boundaries of the city, trees which create temporary borders) as the most inherent to an urban ontology. Godard's pedagogical technique, in this sense, becomes the de-abstraction of the urban environment. Those things that tend to be out of the frame, subtracted from the frame, here are recognized as the frame. This all operates in contrast to a traditional documentary in which subjects are featured  (abstracted from the urban environment) in order to speak about the urban environment. 

Jay Bowe

Jerry Prokosch Speaks

My paper will be to contextualize Godard's quote describing a collapse between audience and film ("at the cinema, we do not think, we are thought") using a discussion of ideology, Ranciere's ignorant schoolmaster, Deleuze and Michael Witt's discussions of Godard's work in relation to metaphor and then to show how this position not only generally informs his films but also -and here's the hypothesis- that this position has a direct effect on Godard's narrative, or better, filmic structure. The premise is that it is not enough to say that Godard tends to eschew traditional narrative, but that he does so in particular ways (and perhaps somewhat systematically) to arrive at his unique film rhetoric that is largely determined by the annihilation of distance in his epistemology and all its aesthetic consequences. I might be looking more closely at 2 or 3 things, Ici et ailleurs, Le gai savoir, and Notre musique. 

-Jerry Prokosch

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Personal as Political

The act of watching television is done in a private and domestic space; while the act of watching cinema is done in a public space. The same can be said about video -- the materiality of video indicate watching something that is private and amateurish (therefore more real?) The final essay I am working on will compare the often excluded early video experiments by Godard to early feminist video art. Like Godard, artists like Joan Jonas and Martha Rosler used video/television to produce work that deconstructed language of image by pointing the camera on their own body. For Godard his focus is on cinematic and television images, while Jonas and Rosler focus on stereotypical representations of their own images -- as women. Their own bodies, their presence in their videos, as well as the materiality of videotapes created a (personal) political framework that challenge then deconstruct then construct what an image is.

My focus will be on Godard's Soft & Hard and the beginning/end sequence of Numero Deux; and I will mainly look at Joan Jonas' 1972 video piece Vertical Roll, and other feminist videos such as Martha Rosler's Semiotics of the Kitch and Hermine Freed's Art Herstory. I am also focusing and tie in Rosalind Krauss' article "Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism." Krauss' main argument is that video is a psychological medium, not a physical one: "video's real medium is a psychological situation, the very terms of which are to withdraw attention from an external object -- an Other -- and invest it in the Self." I would like to argue that video -- although having a narcissist view -- is a physical medium, one that ages and disintegrates over time just like oneself (and personal sphere).

Joan Jonas -- Vertical Roll


Friday, December 16, 2011


Anna Karina is not only an incredible actress who has been in seven of Jean-Luc Godard's movies, she is also a model, singer and novelist, even to this day she is still active.
Originally from Denmark, the moved to Paris at age 17 and very quickly was approached by an advertisement company, became a fashion model and met Pierre Cardin and Coco Chanel, who advised her to use the name Anna Karina instead of her real name Hanne Karin Blarke Bayer.

I found a fairly recent interview of Anna Karina, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Serge Gainsbourg who she collaborated with on a musical. (The interview is not translated in English sadly, but here's the video anyway!)

In that interview, she talks about how she ended up in that musical called Anna."I simply got a phone call saying "Would you like to be in a musical?" I was so happy, it was my dream, ever since I was a little girl. When they said it would be called Anna, I asked them why they chose my name. They answered "Because we haven't found another title!" "
Serge Gainsbourg wrote and collaborated with Anna on seven songs in that musical, two of which are "Sous le Soleil Exactement" and "Roller Girl" who were great successes at the time.

 Anna Karina - Sous le Soleil Exactement


Serge Gainsbourg's version of Sous le Soleil Exactement 
In 2010, she has collaborated with a French singer Philippe Katerine (known as a very eccentric "crazy" performer in France) for the audio version of her rewrite of "The Ugly Duckling". She said about this novel by Hans Christian Andersen: "I modernized it. It's the first story I read when I was little. Immediately I felt close to the ugly duckling. When I was little I was very ugly. I'm not pretty today but I was a very ugly girl until the age of 13-14. It's around that time that boys started turning around in the street to look at me and sometimes they would whistle!" she says laughing and hiding her red face behind her two hands. "It doesn't seem like it, but I am very shy."


Written in 1960 and published in the Cahiers du Cinéma, Bernard Dort's text "Towards a Brechtian criticism of Cinema" exposes the Brechtian methods, aims and structures in theater and how those can be looked at in cinema, though Dort says that Brechtianism "rejects and strongly refuses all relation with the cinema in its open claim to be specifically and exclusively theatrical." Though it is specifically theatrical, since Brecht focused on theater, Brechtianism does not exclude cinema per se, and Godard proves it. Brecht's aesthetic is based on the involvement of the viewer in the story to make him an active member of the spectacle. Indeed, rather than implicating the spectator in a piece, Brecht's epic theater turns the spectator into an observer, an active thinker, by creating a distanciation or alienation effect ("Verfremdungseffekt").
Moreover, "the audience should never forget it is at the theater" and will therefore study what it is seeing and instead of being involved in something, it is made to face something of a social and political nature. Brechtian methods remind the spectator that this is a spectacle, would make sources of light visible by the audience, have billboards to indicate the time and place or to summarize action.
Brechtian theories which seem to deny cinema, actually reject its continuity and the viewer's identification with a character, which lead the viewer to become a passive watcher of the action.
Therefore, because of that, one can say that it excludes cinema. But how can a film still be considered Brechtian since in its nature cinema can seem contradictory to the Brechtian philosophy? Can a film not exist as an autonomous language?
Any film author can choose what he wants to deal with in a movie, and it can deal with its own process, a part of alienation coming from Brecht - cinema can chose to reflect cinema and remind the viewer that this is a film we are watching.
In accordance with this perspective, elements of Brechtianism can be found in many of Godard's films, whether it be in "Le Mépris" which deals with the making of a film (film inside a film, "metafilm"). In fact, the credit sequence is given in a voice-over in the opening scene and in the first scene we see a camera filming.

Le Mépris — Opening Scene
Le Mépris — Shooting scene
Another example would be "Week End" where the actors actually comment on the film, such as Roland: "What a rotten film. All we meet are crazy people." The intertitles offer a running commentary on the action: “A film adrift in the cosmos’’ — “A film found on a dump’’—“The Lewis Carroll Way’’—“From French Revolution to Gaullist weekends: freedom is violence.’

In his essay, Dort suggests when giving the example of Dudow's 1932 "Kuhle Wampe" that a modern viewer wouldn't grasp the message conveyed in the film since it doesn't know the German political and historical references that appear throughout the film.
However, Godard does give us the information necessary to understand the location and time the film is taking place in, though the questions it asks remain timeless in certain cases like in "Vivre Sa Vie".
The most obvious Brechtian element would be the fact that it is divided into twelve parts -"tableaux" - each chapter having a title and a small resume of what is to come, but also like as a commentary of what is to come.
Vivre Sa Vie — First three tableaux
Also, the music used throughout the film is more of a commentary to the film itself and what is happening in the film rather than music "simply" appearing at the peak moments of sadness, to make sure that the audience understands "this is a sad moment", like in most films.
The fact that the music keeps repeating itself also comments on the lack of free will of Nana's character. The movie is divided into tableaux, which breaks with the continuity of film, as we are reminded that it is a film we are watching. Godard also said "“Why twelve, I donʼt know; but in tableaux to emphasize the theatrical, Brechtian side", clearly an strong influence in his films.