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The film does have enough spice to tantalise prurient tastes (middle-class part-time hooker). Yet our storyline is no tempestuous avalanche of excitement crashing to a windswept climax. Godard uses it as an attack on fiction itself. In doing so he questions how we fictionalise our very lives. Buying into lifestyles or accepting dominant themes in merchandising and politics. "Pax Americana: jumbo-sized advertising," as a voice-over proclaims.
Performances are excellent. Cinematography has plenty of Godard's hallmark, arresting features. The film integrates a political kick more successfully than many of his attempts. But the real thrill is an intellectual one. 2 or 3 Things I Know about Her appeals to the philosophically inclined. For this viewer, it is a film to watch and re-watch many times, enjoying the test of ideas. A work of great beauty. It also transports Godard to being more than just a filmmaker.
An exemplary demonstration and examination of Brechtian technique, it is more than a purely cinematic use of Bernold Brecht's 'alienation' effect. Godard uses it to make the viewer examine the nature sensory perception and the almost existential convenience of any definition of truth.
Peter Wollen, in his essay 'Godard and Counter Cinema', described how the director was working towards a political rationale for his attack on fiction. Fiction=mystification=bourgeois ideology. But Wollen acknowledges that initially Godard's fascination is more connected with, "the misleading and dissembling nature of appearances, the impossibility of reading an essence from a phenomenal surface, of seeing a soul through and within a body or telling a lie from a truth."
The basis for all this is a story of Paris it could be the 'her' of the title. Galloping consumerism. Policies determined by economics, not people. Demolition and construction at an alarming pace. While the ordinary decent person cannot keep up. "If you can't afford LSD buy a colour TV."
Our 'ordinary decent person' is an attractive woman on the balcony of high-rise. Our voice-over describes a few things about her. As she turns her head, he describes her again. Same description. Different name. The first time, the real actress (Marina Vlady). Then she is the character, Juliette Janson. "Her hair is dark auburn or light brown," says the voice-over, "I'm not sure."
The voice-over (Godard himself in a conspiratorial whisper) switches back and forth between politics and Juliette's situation, leaving us in no doubt over parallels. The two are then linked diegetically: "The government is disrupting the nation's economy, not to mention its basic moral fibre."
Johnson's futile bombing campaigns in the Vietnam also come under attack. One of Juliette's clients is a war reporter. She does a 'double / all-nighter' with her colleague Marianne which includes parading naked with flight bags over their heads. We are treated to intercut pictures of napalmed victims.
Although it is one of Godard's cleverest and most rounded attacks on capitalism, the film comes into its own as he questions the nature of reality, neatly linked up using gender politics. "What is language, Mummy," asks Juliette's youngster. "Language is the house man lives in," she answers. Examples of male-dominated language pervade the film, from street hoardings to bright signage (both used as intertitles).
Language is not 'objective' and defines how we view things rather than just what they 'are'. Juliette's husband is proud of how clever she is, finding a car at a 'bargain' price. She doesn't reveal to him how she is helping things along.
Juliette is objectivised, both in the story with our conscious collusion and by her habit of turning to the camera to address us directly as Vlady, the actress commenting on the character, speaking about her and through her.
Yet Godard attempts to rise above male-orientated perception. "Should I have talked about Juliette or the leaves . . . since it's impossible to do both at once?" Perhaps our use of language extends to our thinking, where it can be equally subverted. "Now I understand the thought process," says Juliette, "It's substituting an effort of the imagination for an examination of real objects." A more precise definition is developing. What is an object? It is something we pass from subject to subject to allow us to live together. Arbitrary agreements, a language, an arbitrary 'reality.'
But it is not all dour. Take love. "True love changes you, false love leaves you as you are." Juliette seems unaffected by her double life as a hooker. She applies garish red lipstick before servicing a client. (But her studied indifference would tend to make her, one must assume, a rather unappealing prostitute in real life.) And as Godard lifts our spirits more with thoughts of leaves and children than of the depredation he has critiqued, we are lifted to savour the divine inspiration of a seeker after truth. "One must always be sensitive to the intoxication of life." He says. Which can be taken both ways. Both the leaves and Juliette, "trembled slightly."
A particularly beautiful sequence is when Juliette says, "You can describe what happens when I do something without necessarily indicating what makes me do it." She sheds a tear. "This is how, 150 frames later . . .."
2 or 3 Things I Know about Her also contains perhaps the most legendary close-up of a cup of coffee ever made. Foamy swirls appear only to disappear again. Visual metaphor appearing and dissolving.
However, "narrative" or gender politics are really not the point of "2 or 3 Things...". First off, "her" is less a person, but a city- Paris. And it is just not Paris, as in the city of romance and art, but De gaulle's radical transformation of Paris from a pre-war city of antiquity to a modern commercial center. The film is framed around extended shots of constructions sites, developing freeways, and cranes for a reason- to show how this ancient city is being radically transformed with or without the benefit of its citizens. In a way, this film is a meditation on a phenomena spreading around the world from the 1990's to the present (and especially the United States)- urban gentrification. In the push to modernize and beautify a city, the powers that be often step on the majority which make up a city- the lower and middle class. Godard's precise comments on urban planning are 40 years ahead of their time. If anything, "2 or 3 Things..." is far more relevant today than in 1967.
Secondly, the film is an agit-prop protest against crass commercialism and how it defaces and devoids the human experience. The 2 or 3 women in the film (Paris included) are so wrapped up in the base drive for material goods that they forget the very principles of humanity- love, caring for one's family, intellectual desire, and compassion. Godard's definition of consumerism robs a society of its metaphysical compassion and leads intellectual and personal freedom into a locked room. In the age of I-Pods and Paris Hilton, Godard's sharp criticism of crass consumerism is amazingly relevant. It is a wonder that the Adbusters/Culture jam movement have not latched onto this film with a passion.
"2 or 3 Things..." also serves as one of the many watermarks of Godard's highly productive and influential 1960's period- blending the emotions of Contempt or Vivre Sa Vie with the chic radicalism of La Chinoise or Week End. Godard was an artist in constant evolution in the 1960's and "2 or 3 Things..." is one of these many evolutionary steps.
Be forewarned, "2 or 3 Things..." is NOT a good starting point for those new to Godard. It is far too meditative, "slow", and didactic for one to get a true sense of Godard's radical style. I strongly recommend Masculine-Feminine, Contempt, Breathless, Band of Outsiders, or Week End as a better starting point for Godard. A newcomer to Godard's style might be forever turned off by the slow pacing of "2 or 3 Things...". However, after digesting a few of this great film maker's works, line up "2 or 3 Things...". A timeless and extremely relevant film.
That said; I feel people shouldn't be so quick to dismiss the film, as it features several scenes of bold technical invention, a sharp and biting wit and a real sense of both visual and thematic imagination. It is also a fairly worthy time capsule to the spirit and scope of Paris at this particular time, expressing many of the political fears and social concerns central to most free-thinking Parisians circa 1967. Whereas the two other Politically minded films that Godard produced in 1967 would broaden the thematic scope to create a much more pointed attack on armchair terrorists and bourgeois revolutionaries, "2 or 3 Things" works on a much smaller scale; choosing suburban Paris with its high-rise apartment buildings, shops and service stations as a backdrop that is continually dwarfed by the wheels of industry and industrial repair. At one point Godard says in voice over that "the landscape is like a face", all the while showing how it is continually destroyed, changed and re-developed in a series of repetitive visual metaphors open to a variety of thematic interpretations. Many viewers take these sequences at face value and choose to view the film as a simple, heavy-handed essay on the decline of industry and the rise of Capitalism and subsequently write the film off. However, even though the film takes a great deal of work and may indeed seem boring and heavy-handed, there are deeper themes and ideas that make this a slightly more rewarding work in the long run.
Once again, Godard anchors his ideas to the theme of prostitution; recalling elements of Vivre sa Vie (1962) whilst simultaneously foreshadowing certain issues later expressed in Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980). Like the latter film, Godard implies that with an increasing focus on consumerism and the pursuit of material gain, society is prostituting itself. This is further elaborated upon by Godard's continual focus on product logos and brand names that are inter cut and often re-framed in order to create humorous puns that are probably lost on anyone not entirely familiar with the French language, as well as a final shot that renders the cityscape of suburban Paris as the ultimate consumer paradise. The idea of prostitution also extends to the main character, who here, prostitutes herself in order to break up the monotony of her everyday life, whilst also featuring as a somewhat controversial comment on acting itself (something that is further implied in the opening scene).
Like many of Godard's films, "2 or 3 Things" uses a great deal of humour to give the satire a more pointed attack. Much of this humour tends to go over the heads of most viewers, largely as a result of having to read the subtitles or simply missing out on much of Godard's clever use of wordplay and usually ironic puns. Scenes, such as the young boy relating his dream about the unification of North and South Vietnam, or the scene in which Juliet and her friend enact a bizarre, tongue-in-cheek sex game with a foreign war correspondent (who films them with a super 8 camera and looks a little like Godard himself), all the while cutting back and forth to shots of construction and cars entering a service station, being an incredibly bold and rebellious critique in itself. Other sections of the film seem more poetic; almost as if Godard is putting his thoughts on film as he goes along and creating something that is, on the one hand, entirely personal, whilst simultaneously being an obvious piece of satirical agitprop. The two strands don't always sit well together, and too often Godard's ideas seem strained and unformed; especially in comparison with those two other films from 1967, previously mentioned.
Obviously many viewers have had problems with the film, and really, your enjoyment of it will depend greatly on how much you trust Godard's instincts as both a satirist and filmmaker, and how willing you are to enter into a dialog with him on a subject that is now resigned to an incredibly brief footnote in 20th century history. For me, the film is undoubtedly one of his more difficult projects and not one that I would place higher than the likes of Le Mepris (1963), Pierrot le fou (1965) or Helas pour moi (1993), etc. However, the scope of Godard's ideas and his way of presenting them visually are close to genius, whilst the occasional moment of imaginative wit, visual poetry or the sheer verve of Godard's film-making abilities make the slow pace and poor performance from Marina Vlady all the more bearable. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is worth seeing in the context of both Week End and La Chinoise and is certainly worth experiencing as a double bill with the similarly themed Sauve qui peut (la vie).
In the opening moments of the film, Godard introduces us--with his famous whispering narration--to Marina Vlady, the actress who will play our protagonist "in a few frames," to paraphrase. He repeats what he says, only a few frames later, this time introducing her as Juliette. This is what cinema is. A movie that isn't completely self-conscious, is little more than a book on film. In addition to Godard's ramblings on such topics as Vietnam, Paris life, and philosophy, Juliette often thinks outloud, speaking directly to the audience, while looking at the camera. We even get the privilege to experience her thoughts first-hand a few times.
"Her," is not Juliette nor Paris, as some theories state, but the cinema. In fact, we learn very little about Juliette or about Paris, as they are both lost behind ridiculous questions with no answers and the result of these questions. Commercialism is a mask for some people, and many scenes suggest lifestyle is becoming more important than life. The final shot of the film shows many household products--such as Tide--scattered in a field. Godard is say we must live together with each other and these objects--as they are all together in the field--which, as he states, sadly live on longer than we do. The more primitive we are, the happier we become, but we are to conditioned to use them, so we must make a compromise on both sides.
But what are the two or three things Godard knows about cinema? Everything there is to know about this young artform. Future filmmakers must take a work of art like this and figure out everything else, because right now we only know two or three things about it.
Discuss the film and others at:
And all of this, of course, with some of the most breathtaking cinematography I've seen in any of his work- there are close-ups that, as repetitious as they might've been, really did work. Like with the coffee- we see the coffee and the bubbles, and the colors swirling, while the narration keeps on going. There's even a very self-conscious moment where the camera blurs, the narration mentions blurred perspective, then when things come into 'focus' on both ends. In fact, this is not only one of the most self-conscious of all of Godard's work, but one of the most self-conscious films I might have ever seen. Not that this is an immediate negative, and in this framework Godard's intentions, aside from giving a good kick in the nuts to conventions and what the usual even means in typical words and descriptions of 'things' much less with cinema. There's almost a sense of consciousness expansion he's after in this self-consciousness too, which is par for the course for a Godard film. And it's also loaded to the gills with bright primary colors (this was continued into Week End, though with that in much greater, striking effect), and product placements galore; it always gives one a grin to see his great love/hate relationship with items from mass marketing and produce. And, of course, those title cards.
But what ends up lacking from the film for me, and why I would only consider it a good Godard film as opposed to a masterpiece, is that I get a lot more fulfillment watching Godard's work when he just loses all abandon of common plot-sense, and just makes almost an video essay with plenty of semantics, a loose story, and an eye for locations and people and scenery and products and all sorts of things that show him being instinctively good with the camera...BUT, that it's also entertaining. It's not that 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her isn't never quite interesting, but the fulfillment I got out of it was more of being so familiar with his work that I could get a kick out of things I could already expect in the changes of form and moments of contemplative narration, not really out of any emotional connection though to anything with anyone in the film. Juliette, unlike Karina's Nana (who, by the way, as a tongue-in-cheek in-joke appears in a pop-art style photo on a wall in one scene right from that movie), is at least 70% of the time not really a character in the usual sense: if anything she's more of a mouthpiece, a kind of figure for Godard to put forward his ideas of feminist/radical thinking, done in a manner of voice and inflection that is always the same, rarely shifting. Maybe that's part of the point, and by the end we may know more than two or three things- especially about what she's thinking and attitudes on gender and the whys and why nots of just living and existence- but emotions are almost null & void in this world.
In the meantime, as Godard maybe knows he doesn't have enough of a story with her 'real' character, when not talking to the camera, as a wife and mother, he shifts attention at times to random moments with other women, like one who talks to the camera about her banal existence ("I walk, climb, see a movie twice a month, etc"), or with a sort of touchy sexual discussion in a bar. The focus actually is never too grounded for Godard, which is partly what I mean about this film hinting at the descent his films would go to in the 80s and 90s (at least from my point of view). It's not JUST about women, it's almost about everything- drugs, culture, TV, politics, war (Vietnam especially, quite the topical philanthropic satirist he was), automobiles (a funny bit happens with a red car too), literature, morality, and all that and a bag of 60's-era Godard chips. It's worth checking out, I suppose, especially in widescreen, but not as something to see right away if getting into the director's work- I think if I had seen this as my third or fourth Godard film I might've disliked it even more. As apart of a stretch of films, I respect it and am involved, but compared to the others it's not as successful in terms of it really connecting more than it does. B+
It's not fair to judge Godard by this one film, but if one were to do so, one would be forced to conclude that he's a charlatan. A real artist wouldn't have to talk our ears off for two solid hours. He talks at us through his characters, through his whispered narration (that guttural whisper is really hard to take after a couple of minutes); and even his incessant cinematic doodling is a kind of pitilessly boring monologue (he'll suddenly turn the soundtrack off not so much for effect as to goddamned well SAY something about cinematic convention I don't know what, exactly; the point he's trying to make is surely a banal one, whatever it is).
Godard is so enamoured of language that not only does he use it blast it at us relentlessly; he has himself and his cast, when they run out of anything else to talk about, which doesn't take long, start talking about language. And what twaddle they talk on the subject! "I suppose these are my eyes. How do I know they're my 'eyes' and not my 'knees'? Because people told me. But what if they hadn't?" That's not really the best example of fatuous nonsense; I remembered those lines among all the others because, silly though they are, they at least made sense: they don't reveal a mind so muddied by bad philosophy that it cannot think at all, which is what most of the rest of the script reveals.
Non-sequiturial loose-ends of non-communication between the characters, and conversations between the actors and the director which we are not allowed to follow.
Uncommunicative and unengaged philosophico-political maunderings of citizens who are floundering conceptually in a system that cannot sustain them, either morally or intellectually.
A view of Parisian building-sites as a social upheaval which yet represents the antithesis of any structural or constructivist manifestation of social progress.
A film that is, like the capitalist society that has the eye of the camera hypnotised, a profoundly blank and alienating surface, whose technique is only occasionally relieved by gratuitous scenes of meaning:
A woman trapped in a sink estate and yearning to be free, who is compelled by the desparation of her dream to entrap and enslave herself even further through prostitution;
The intrusion of a pimp-like meter-reader into the pure nakedness of private space;
A creche in a brothel;
A secular catechesis - The simple, non-sexual, non-manipulative dialectic of honest exploration that makes us human;
The still-birth of revolutionary thought as the spiral galaxy in a coffee-cup ...
All-in-all, the representation of a society which is profoundly inhospitable to the human beings who should constitute it, and which consequently does not permit the realisation of any aspect of humanity.
All we get are fugitive glimpses of life in the process of moral and intellectual decay. Thought and character remains unrealised, and the film is therefore also inchoate as the necessary reflection of this social unreality.
Here is a wan world, haemmoraging meaning as we watch. Here before us are the helpless ghosts of an industrial medium. They dance fitfully in the unchanging wind, the fantastic commercial simulacra in which we bind our free nature.
Strips of film, strung out like human fly-paper, where fluttering images stick only as they die. In place of creative pressure, an air of ennui, of carelessness: A drop-out film - a film of drop-outs, plot-holes in the threadbare social fabric, - neglectful of all appearances. The face of the film gazes basilisk-like out upon the viewer, resentful of our settled habits of non-involvement. Two frozen gazes cancel, the mutual incomprehension only verging on hostile irritation. No reaction. No drama. The light dies.
The hypnotic mirror of reproach whose conscience we yearn to assuage, that traps our humanity in the voyeur's dream, as it is projected back upon us in the Gorgon's gaze.
Desire is petrified - one's petty film-going expectations of this penetration of dark places disappointed. One escapes from the deathly spell of cinema into the real world.
Godard's lesson is that there is nothing meaningful in this cave of artificial shadows, and that he will bitterly wean us from our facile consumerist dreams, that we may the better engage with the harsh political realities of life.
The radically disillusioned auteur deconstructs himself. Le derniere vague flops exhausted on that endless strip where empty sprocket-holes run on aimlessly towards a dying sun.
The mechanism of dreams runs down.
We are not automata - we are made up by life. To live is the story we enact, without intermediary, and unmediated. The immediate and the authentic are alien to art. Art is a whispering empty shell left high and dry. Life is not the element of dead things: Do not listen to the shallow siren voice of le faux vague! Plunge back into humanity's proper medium.
Thus does a revolution in seeing strip out the gelatinous scales of our burned-out eyes, and there is no more interference with the wavelengths of light being broadcast from the nearest star.
Thus do the sighing bones of life articulate the bounds of existence.
We are the tides that wax and wane - the ocean that overwhelms itself, drowning its own waves in one flood of being.
Godard's film and films are under the influence of this larger movement. With his work, we are cast adrift from all anchors and familiar landmarks. We are 'all at sea'. There is a transition - a movement that is perhaps nearer to momentum than inertia - from whence we cannot recall to whither we cannot see. His is the ultimate cinema of flux.
Godard had always been interested in 'prostitution', literally and metaphorically. Here he monumentalises his theme. Juliette Jeanson is a fabulous intensely feminine creation, magnificently played by Marina Vlady. Augmenting her housekeeping money by prostitution as a rather more down-market version of 'Belle de Jour', she muses about her life and its meaning.
This is a film in which it is not the 'plot' or the 'narrative' or even the dialogue that conveys meaning, it is the counterpoint between the images, the dialogue and the situation. This is massively enhanced by the director's use of his own voice as a kind of commentary. 'Shall I speak of Juliette or the leaves on the trees...' etc.
In a way, the film is also an essay on subjectivity and the way that people are treated as objects in certain aspects of capitalism. I hasten to add that I do not swallow Godard's uncritical Marxism, but there is quite enough in this film to make you think long and hard about modern society - today just as much as when it was made.
But the great thing about the film is that it is not just an intellectual exercise, less a piece of unthinking propaganda. It is a film with a heart and Juliette is one of the most lovable female characters in 60s French cinema.
The downside for the here and now is that, of all of the serious films of its era, this is arguably the one that least fits on a television. The Techniscope seems to be the widest image that the cinema allows and trim anything from the edges of Godard's images at your peril. So the trick is to see it in a cinema!
Now: the story. What story? There's no story in here. Believe me, I sat for all ninety minutes trying to figure out what the hell was going on. For the most of the time, you either see a woman speaking directly to the camera (and the women look good, but they bore me immensely) or a collage of non-related shots narrated by someone who likes whispering (his whisper actually reminds me of the unseen killer in some of Dario Argento's pictures and it is in fact one of the coolest things about this picture). Nothing in this picture makes it all glue together. I can sort of try to trace a story in here, but it's just a waste of time because even then, the story is about as minimal as it can get, and from what I see, merely an excuse to blabber on about existential and political philosophy. Worthless brouhaha, that's what it is. Nothing ever really happens, and I tried to stay focused till the movie ended when I finally sighed of relief.
These are the same philosophies that Godard introduced in "Alphaville", but when there's only philosophy and not a trace of a good, cohesive plot or a drama, this movie should have been reduced to, and I'm being generous, an essay. That would have been interesting. This isn't. The greatest scene in this picture occurs when the protagonist enters a café and the narrator speaks about cosmos and various other interestingly universal things when Raoul Coutard, Godard's cinematographer, zooms in on the contents of the café visitors' coffee cups. It looks amazing, and the movie should be seen only for this particular scene; the rest is up to you, but I'll pass on this one. It's too heavy, too abstract, it's art, and presumably very intelligent. But it doesn't get me going at all, and it tries to maintain my interest, but fails miserably for the most of the time. Not good.
-See a better movie. The aforementioned Godard pictures would work. Or anything really.
-Download some internet porn. Seriously, it will do you much more good.
-Write a ticked-off IMDb review even though that's something you never do because you've just watched a movie that angered you so much.
Yet I'm not angry with Godard. He tried new stuff in this movie, and wasn't very successful with it. I'm angry with film critics who make this out to be a cinematic masterpiece merely because it's "political".
There is little plot to the film, and instead Godard uses every film-making technique in his arsenal to take the audience on a journey through the Paris suburbs, having his characters delve into rambling monologues, often responding to questions or regurgitating lines fed through an ear-piece by Godard himself. The main focus is Juliette (Marina Vlady), who occasionally prostitutes herself so she can buy pretty clothes or perhaps just to relieve herself of the boredom of the consumerist lifestyle, while her husband Robert (Roger Monsoret) listens to speeches on the radio regarding America's involvement in Vietnam.
It's with his over-simplified characterisation of Juliette that 2 or 3 Things fails to hit the mark. She is beautiful and intelligent, but seems to only truly love shopping or catching the eye of a handsome man in a cafe. There's little of the free-spirited charisma that Karina embodied in her various roles under Godard, but perhaps that's the point. Themes are often explored with a remarkable lack of subtlety, with the director's obvious opposition to the illegal war in Vietnam cropping up many times throughout the film, with photographs of victims of the war spliced into a rather silly scene involving an 'American' photographer (with a heavy French accent) and his odd fetish with placing bags over ladies heads and having them act out a routine.
Far more impressive are the visuals, with the celebrated shot of a swirling espresso while Godard whispers about his own inadequacy being the most memorable image, and the sheer ambition of a project shot so quickly. Godard is both criticised and adorned for being simply too intellectual and obtuse for film, and 2 or 3 Things is one of the greatest examples of his unwillingness to craft a digestible film for his select audience. The dialogue is often wonderful and poetic, yet sometimes it's rambling nonsense, spoken by characters who have no place in the story, almost as if Godard got bored and moved his camera to a conversation he found more interesting. It's both frustrating and fascinating to see a director of such singular vision, and while there is little of the excitement and energy of his early New Wave work, 2 or 3 Things is an experience like no other.
2 Ou 3 Choses Que Je Sais is such a film.
Godard hates the institutions of capitalism, industrialism, war-mongering, consumerism, materialism, pseudo-intellectualism wherever they exist, be it the US or France.
Paris is alive with endless tympanic construction designed to facilitate capitalism and consumerism while our xenagogue Juliette, awash in weltschmerz, is decaying on the inside as a result of this "progress". Dead objects are still alive while living persons are often already dead.
All the film's themes are in the opening sequence: the adverse psychological and retromorphic effects of construction, the vitiative effects of capitalism and consumerism and materialism on people and society, both internally and externally, people as objects and commodities, psychomorphism (objects are alive and will please you more than another human being or nature: pinball machine is alive and breathing and in full motion and more entertaining than anything else in existence, while Juliet Berto (café scene) treats Robert like an inanimate object), life as nothing but a puppet of advertising, consumption, exchange, money, etc.
2 Ou 3 Choses Que Je Sais D'Elle is about the impact of commodity culture on subjectivity and social relationships. The film explores the effects of commodification, advertising, and popular culture on social relations, on subjectivity, and on the status of things and consumer goods in the environment, especially their presence as visual artifacts.
Godard shows us a Paris under construction transforming into a vast marketplace and site of consumption. Godard explores the frustration and desperation (prostitution...) provoked by the discrepancy between a large sector of the population with limited buying power and the wealth of goods available for consumption. He was telling us that in order to live in Parisian society today, or any capitalistic society, at whatever level on whatever plane, one is forced to prostitute oneself in one way or another, or else live in conditions resembling those of prostitution.
He investigates the impact of an economically and architecturally changing Paris on its inhabitants, which includes the correlation between consumerism and prostitution within the "new" city. He investigates how the way people think and feel and live are contingent on the architecture and economy around them, and how they're forcibly caught between the newly built modernized architecture (defined confining spaces) and the high cost of living within that city matrix.
Consumer behaviour is created and shaped and manipulated by architecture. The landscape itself is being prostituted. Urban spaces are being remade in a way that negatively mutates the pathology of the inhabitants.
Godard attempts to recover the clear, productive reality of objects and images from the artificial signs and manufactured meanings that glut our contemporary world, especially signs and meanings that are generated by and in the service of commerce.
Jump-cuts, weird sound effects, voice-overs, narrative absurdities, close-ups and other formal elements all contribute to the Brechtian "alienation effect", and Godard wields these devises to perfection, disrupting normal kinds of identification and visual pleasure and cinematic narration, and re-establishing concrete distance from subjects/objects, in order to make objects appear like new, which allows viewers to approach the elusive real and see things again like new. Repeating for clarity, he disrupts unconscious viewing habits and preconceptions of "reality," enabling us to approach the "elusive real", and we see things again "like new", even if only for a few brief but precious moments.
Verfremdungseffekts - defamiliariazation for distanciation: Godard reduces the emotional impact of art, reduces spectator identification, reduces mimesis and direct emotional involvement, provokes viewers into thought, jolts viewers into exercising our rational faculties, rather than allowing us to emote serenely and passively throughout the performance.
Godard highlights and exaggerates many reified meanings in order to deconstruct them. He seeks out an excess in the image which is irreducible to the functions attributed to it by its associated languages, and a potentiality for transformation is revealed. His hyper-reification of normal ideas we affix to things shakes up those ideas and calls them into question. He selects best angle not for visual pleasure, but for glimpses of essence, fresh significance.
Language itself has been transformed into a (capitalistic) commodity, branded with a specific value and endowed with a specific function, no longer natural but manufactured.
The very tools we use to critique and interpret have been contaminated by that which we are critiquing and interpreting.
2 Ou Choses Que Je Sais D'Elle is a commentary on commodification and a commodity itself.
Jackhammers, motors, percolators, coffee cups, pinball machines, burning cigarettes, construction sites, signs, radio transistors, beer taps, fashion magazines, book titles, stacks of books, postcards, etc, impede communication.
The Coffee Cup sequence is pure bliss.
The social microcosm is, on the surface, utterly banal; a barman, a pimp, a bored girl, a guy smoking and drinking coffee, a beer tap, a cup, and unknown characters, American shoes, cigarettes, the Cokes are treated by the camera with the feeling that nature lovers reserve for mountains and waves and trees.
The Coffee Cup - the rhythm of the film slows as we enter this other space of meditation, drifting out of ordinary perception: a cinematic poem about the quintessence of things and the role of consciousness in a world which is irreducibly other....
During the last shot the camera also drifts out of focus - a striking visual metaphor for lack of mental clarity, and other frustrations of consciousness; our Narrator muses on the enigma of death; then the camera eye and time pace it refocuses "pleasurably" (regular pace) to signify clarity and heightened awareness, which is echoed by the narration.
Language is the house in which man dwells.
With "Breathless," Godard created new wave cinema in 1960. With this movie, Godard created postmodern cinema.
The amazing thing is how much this film captures a moment in time and space. In fact, in one scene, we are told that it is being filmed on August 17, 1966. We can say that this the date when the Postmodernist world was born.
One has to see it as a transition from Pop Art to Postmodernist art. Part of the film is obsessed with the artistic nature of household products. Part of the film is a meditation on our lack of being and our amazing relationship to language.
Godard's treatment of woman is quaintly pre-feminist. He is treating them as sex objects,yet at one moment he asks a woman to speak about the sex between her legs. The woman rebukes her and tells her its stupid. Another astonishing moment in a film that has many.
The film is non-narrative for the most part. It is Brechtian theater translated into cinema. Godard proves that non-narrative cinema can provide a great deal of pleasure, foreshadowing the future - present cinema.
Godard is a God ard.
Around the time of the film's release, Godard explained that he saw advertisers as the pimps who enslave the women to the point where they give their bodies without compunction, because they have been convinced that what they can buy has more potential to bring happiness than does the loving enjoyment of sex. This is a fair assessment, but clearly does not go far enough. Advertising as a whole serves this function for all people, male and female. Many of our consumer desires have no rational explanation.
I must grant Godard the brilliance of the title. In English, "her" is generally a woman and only in rare cases something else (like a ship). He manages to use it in a very ambiguous sense. It is truly unfortunate that this ambiguity cannot be translated completely into English.
Marina Vlady, not even 28 years old then but already seen as a venerable old actress, plays Juliette Jeanson. Married to Robert (Roger Montsoret), an auto mechanic, she begins her day by seeing him off to work, her young son off to school, and then dropping her infant daughter off at a day care. The film tracks her visiting boutiques and the hairdresser, with her means of affording all this only alluded to at first. Godard gradually reveals the element of prostitution in all this, suggesting that many of the young women Juliette encounters over the course of a day are doing the same. The only encounters with johns are depicted in a banal fashion, everyone involved clearly bored. These scenes of housewife life are separated by shots of construction workers across Paris erecting a new and considerably more impersonal city.
In 2 OU 3 CHOSES, Godard heavily uses a technique that he had experimented with in his earlier two films: a headphone is worn by a female actress (whose voluminous hairdo hides it from the camera), and then Godard would ask her questions or have her repeat to the camera lines that he fed her without prior preparation. Thus much of the film consists of the protagonist or other characters delivering what seem to be disjointed monologues. The technique tends to dehumanize the characters, just as Godard feels that consumerism makes everyone a zombie. But it also makes them blatant mouthpieces for Godard's own thoughts, which can start to feel rather tiresome. (If you've wondered where the dividing line is between "New Wave" Godard and "political" Godard falls, it's here.) Indeed, Godard goes heavily didactic here. Over much of the film he gives a voice-over in a barely-intelligible whisper, presenting his own fears and hopes. Over one of the film's most famous shots, the swirls in a hot cup of coffee, Godard even says something which doesn't even seem to be related to the film at all, but which involved his disappointment at being jilted by Vlady romantically at this time. But in his voiceovers and in the dialogue of his characters, Godard also takes on the war then raging in Vietnam to such a degree that the original housewife prostitution plot is pushed aside (or at least made only a tiny part of a vast geo-social-cultural-political point the director is making), and Godard's disappointment with the United States is presented in a bitter fashion.
Thus 2 OU 3 CHOSES is, in my opinion, a not completely successful experiment, where Godard wanted to include the whole world but was unable to make the elements cohere. Still, it is worth watching for cinephiles. While, as I said, Godard had dealt with the "housewife and consumerism" theme in an earlier film, this is much more effective due to its use of color. After all, commercial brands were deft users of color to attract the eye of shoppers, and a mere black-and-white shoot would miss out on this explosion of hues. (At one point Godard says in voice-over, "If you can't afford LSD, buy a colour television.") The final voice-over and camera shot is particularly majestic in this regard. Elsewhere in the film, as we move through blocks of flats, shops, or city streets, Raoul Coutard's cinematography is mindblowing, with long takes of powerful impact.
The "her" in the title refers both to Marina Vlady and the city of Paris itself. Vlady "portrays" Juliette Janson, a bourgeois housewife that doubles as a prostitute in order to pay the bills. "Portrayal" has quote marks around it as Juliette is less of a character and more of a representation: Godard does not intend to tell the story of the complicated woman — he would prefer to study the changing climate of 1960s Paris and its people.
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her marks a huge shift in Godard's career. A staggering fan of American cinema, his earlier projects, such as Pierrot Le Fou and A Woman Is A Woman, were genre films that were stylized as crime thrillers and Technicolor musicals, respectively. But 2 or 3 Things shows Godard more interested in politics and how the increasingly radical ideas of the world were shaping Europe.
There are still very American things that show up in certain scenes: in the opening credits, the font is dressed in red, white, and blue. In the rest of the film, advertisements that surround the characters are designed with art deco boldness. But it's difficult to compare the film to anything the U.S. had to offer in cinemas in 1967.
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her feels like a delve into Godard's brain at the time. The Vietnam War is mentioned frequently, serving not only as a point of critique but also as a pressing matter, always on the mind. Juliette's immoral lifestyle choice is not a plot device, but a reflection of 1967 France: President Charles de Gaulle's bold transformations to the economic system are prevalent. Skyscrapers are gazed upon with an alienated distance, and Juliette's work was an actual choice many women had to make as cost of living began to increase under his rule.
Godard's positions are fascinating, but at times they begin to ramble and become disjointed in their aesthetic. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is at its most exciting when characters are simply having normal conversations. When they deliver fourth-wall breaking monologues, they lose quite a bit of their charisma as they feel as though Godard is talking to himself. Too much Godard can be too much Godard, after all.
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her features more successes than failures; it's a film that doesn't have much emotional relevance but manages to create interest on a philosophical level. Godard had a great '60s, and this is a fitting closing.
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I do not doubt that Godard is a much more intelligent man than Tom Green, but one must question where that leaves him. He is definitely a better businessman, as he passes his trash as "art," rather than the ADHD-inspired crude humor that Tom Green sells.
I do not recommend this film. It has degraded my opinion of the French much more than any little Iraqi war could do.
Living in a constantly renovating Paris, Juliette Janson (Marina Vlady) lives with her husband struggling daily with making more money and keeping pace with the ever-expanding consumerism of the urban environment. Juliette has taken to prostitution to make more money for the household and in an afternoon meeting she and a friend supply pleasure for an American gentleman. The act has a depleting effect on her but she accepts it in order to keep up with the growing economic pressures of marriage and family.
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her feels like a far more mature work as the director uses a variety of techniques to get his point across. In one scene where Juliette and a friend entertain the fetishistic attentions of a "John" in and afternoon tryst while wearing airline carrying bags over their heads is, even by today's standards, super-kinky and LMAO-funny as well. This is definitely not one of those easily accessible movies that consist of a comic book mentality, but one that trusts its audience to be interested and stick with it until the last brittle image of a variety of consumer products laid out across a green suburban lawn.
Writer Catherine Vimenet, and Jean-Luc Godard make the most of a sound track that has the director practically whispering conspiratorially to an audience as he tells the tale of the main character. It's a mammoth project, and very sophisticated, but Godard doesn't spoon-feed any of us. He's got something to say, and to make sure you listen he whispers it with urgency on a soundtrack that alternately explodes with the sounds of construction in the city of light.
Far from being out of the ordinary, this particular style of filmmaking is something Goddard seems to prefer over the structured narrative forms of some other "New Wave" filmmakers. The narrative includes a distancing effect on the viewer so that no mistake can be made between story teller and intended listener. One particular stand-out section includes an extreme close up of sugar being stirred into a cup of coffee as Goddard's narration reflects on the sound track about how meaning in our lives is achieved through perception- a typical Goddard viewpoint that her was in its incipient stages.
If 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her leaves you cold, it may be due to your own perception of what cinema is and how film narrative functions to involve the viewer. Goddard is still a filmmaker at heart, and his use of cinematographer Raoul Coutard to create an alluring visual palette for the viewer is impressive to say the least. Coutard is known for his work on a handful of characteristically "New Wave" films, Breathless in 1960, Jules and Jim in 1962, Z in 1969, and Pierrot le Fou in 1965. The imagery he creates here serves the film well, and may have you coming back for more.