Set in the near future, Paula, a leftist writer, goes from Paris to the French town of Atlantic-Cité when she learns of the death of a former colleague and lover, Richard P. Is she there to...
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Set in the near future, Paula, a leftist writer, goes from Paris to the French town of Atlantic-Cité when she learns of the death of a former colleague and lover, Richard P. Is she there to investigate? On the surface, faces are beautiful, colors bright, clothes trendy. Beneath, little is clear: some talk to Paula as if she's Alice in Wonderland, corpses pile up, and ideological struggles insert themselves. A murder victim's nephew and a political party's hired hands hover around Paula. Is obscuring things her goal or is it life that's obscure? Written by
There's no filmmaker from the time that makes his influence more obvious, Hollywood and French semiotics, also no one who is more original in creation than Godard, but as to the use and power it has we'll have to see. To face a Godard film is to face the mind of its author after all, it's always so revealing.
It seems the real inspiration behind this was the disappearance of a prominent Moroccan leftist leader in Paris, Ben Barka. One can imagine the scandal caused at the time, how much it said about France and the West, especially to someone like Godard who would be attuned to receive it.
The first thing to glean then is that instead of filming the outrage, the obscuring of truth and malaise, using fiction, Godard reverts back to image and cinema, about fiction. To that effect he plucks a potboiler story from a book about a woman who travels to a coastal town where her revolutionary lover has told her to meet him only to find him mysteriously dead, but instead of filming the mystery and noir conspiracy, Godard films a disjointed tapestry of image and citation.
There are many of these, quotes, abrupt cuts and insertions, ruminations on camera, agitprop played from tape-recorders, all first of course Godard's fooling with cinema to see what it is made of, but moreover his oblique way of delivering the obscuring of truth, the disjointed nature of living in a world where people can mysteriously disappear and we can only grasp at fictions. As more of an afterthought he can joke that this knot of indecipherable plot is his version of The Big Sleep.
More fascinating is what all this shows of Godard. There's a bourgeois intellectual in him, that side of him he would run away from after Weekend, who wants to present his view of a concave reality, but none of it deep, transformative or unsettling, always thinly exposing thin artifice. There's of course talk of Disney and Bogart, there's a Rue Preminger, an inspector Aldrich. Tarantino- isms.
But also a spiritual side of him, a burning desire to transcend the clutter of narratives and mind; at one point Anna Karina whispers about how she would rather have nothing instead of everything as a way of reaching the absolute, it's this absolute that likely he chased in the chimera of politics and beyond. He doesn't know yet that this nothingness is not only another thought or another belief but a cessation of thought, a suspension of disbelief. He would later.
It's this other Godard who is a gentle soul, contains the child fascinated by image, the poet fascinated by love, perhaps not the philosopher troubled by being which was only more thought stood in his way. This side is as stifled here, unable to pierce through the cutouts, as it was after Weekend when he wasted his talent in things like Pravda, and was only really let flourish in the 90s, his transcendent period when you must find him again.
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