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After his four-year, self-imposed Maoist/nihilist "exile," Godard made a temporary -- albeit slight -- overture toward conventional commercial (or "bourgeois," as Godard called it) cinema by combining a leftist political essay with a dissection of human interaction. Alas, the film fails on both these levels; as a study of the male-female relationship, it is nowhere near "Contempt" and "Masculin-Feminin"; as a pure Maoist political tract, it is shallow and mind-numingly boring compared to "Le Gai Savior" and "Vladimir and Rosa." Nevertheless, "Tout va bien" is nonetheless important within Godard's extraordinary body of work, for it marked the beginning of the seven-year process in which his films would gradually shed their ultra-leftist leanings and move towards more universal, humanistic themes, a process that would ultimately cumulate in the excellent "Every Man For Himself." Even true Godard aficionados will be as bored as everyone else, but they should nonetheless go out of their way to secure a copy.
From the first credit sequence, Godard captures a realistic storyline
in a formalistic fashion. Although these two schools are commonly
combined, in Tout va bien they frequently contrast. From the credits at
the start the viewer is introduced to the process of making a film, the
sound of the clapperboard is followed by an unidentified hand signing
off the costs of the film, normally invisible to an audience. The
formalism is not particularly abstract but more utilitarian, whether
the personal views of the workers are being recorded or two storeys of
the factory are shown simultaneously, the viewer is constantly reminded
of the artificiality of what is being put in front of the camera in
these scenes. In addition to the formalistic shooting, there are strong
elements within the storyline that detract from the seriousness of the
situation. The comedy with the factory owner's desperate search for a
toilet and the prescribed pattern of two lovers falling out and getting
back together damage the credibility of the documentary-style scenes.
With these constant reminders, it is hard to treat any of the action as
real or serious; the revolution in the supermarket seems childish and
futile, especially as it takes such a long time for the dreary process
of shopping to be converted into a vibrant revolution; the chanting by
the strikers also seems unnaturally orchestrated and weak. Symbolism is
understated but the blue in the sausage factory seems important as
every surface is being painted. In film this colour is associated with
subdued emotions, it isn't a fiery colour of revolution but a cool,
stable colour, even at its most vivid. Other recurring symbols might
include the police, who are labeled as fascists and so on, dressed in
black overcoats, dehumanised, until one policeman is turned from
pursuer into pursued, again perhaps a comic moment and one that could
be stretched to symbolise the brief glory of Mai '68. In general
though, the large numbers of police imply a zero-tolerance approach to
dissenters that coincides with the small numbers who turn out to
demonstrate showing the trend to abandon the picket line in favour of
earning a living.
Godard has his main character speak directly to the camera of the feeling of dejection and missed opportunities that followed Mai '68. The candid expressions and the direct address give a warm, honest feel to the character that encourages sympathy; we are expected to agree with what he says. Following Mai '68 a cross-section of society seemed to support widespread social change, workers felt that their voice would be heard and an enormous feeling of euphoric empowerment was experienced. Following those events, the C.G.T leadership as well as the communist party seemed to abandon the cause of the ouvriers taking up contradictory positions of passive acceptance. The issues that remained a problem went unresolved whilst the energy was gradually sapped out of those willing to protest until they became marginalised and unpopular. This is expressed by the loneliness of the strikers, the pettiness of the student rioters, and the way that when the rioters clash with the police they are inevitably outnumbered: society no longer has any time for them; they have become nothing more than a nuisance. This leads to the political leaning of the film. Aside from the fascist police, the right, exemplified by the factory owner are broadly ridiculed. Even the radio station where Jane Fonda works is clearly put in the wrong by the film. Sympathy is felt for the workers but they don't seem to have any particular ethos, certainly gauchistes aren't glorified in any sense. The only support politically seems to be given to the spontaneous and apparently anarchic students but there is no sense of moral resolution in their favour, on the contrary the ultimately inconsequential nature of their protest encourages the same cynicism that was reserved for the other political stances represented in the film. All this is contributes to the overall impression given off by the film, that of ennui. Many of the other comments posted have picked up on the boredom inspired by the film but I would differentiate between the two. Ennui being a French word, and one that has been explored by the greatest authors in French literature, it is not surprising that one of the greatest multimedia essayists in the world, who also happens to be French, should explore ennui in another medium. The difference between French ennui and English boredom is that ennui carries with it an enormous sense of frustration. The two C.G.T cronies are expressive of boredom as they wait for their spokesman to finish his lengthy speech; the censorship of Jane Fonda's character, the isolation of the factory strikers, the sleaziness of Yves Montand's rotting career, in fact the feeling of disinterest inspired by most of the scenes, these encompass ennui. If it can be assumed that Godard took the usual degree of care in making this film, then it must be the case that the drawn out shots in the factory and the supermarket that seemed to express ennui most clearly are deliberate. Whether this is sufficient defence for a film that flopped at the box-office is debateable. Nevertheless if Godard's intention was to portray a situation devoid of inspiration and where hope cannot extend beyond a fragile personal relationship, then his film has succeeded.
I've always found a kind of disconnect between the Godard films of the
60's and the Godard films of the 80's, 90's and today, which is that in
the past twenty or so years Godard has kept on experimenting, not
telling the usual stories that we're used to in movies, with impressive
camera-work and aloof actors. But in these films he's also gotten
rather boring with his material, and sometimes his experimenting goes a
little over the edge for my taste. I had yet to see a work of his from
the 70's, however, until Tout va Bien, or Everything is Fine (many of
his films are either very limited or totally unavailable in the US).
It's actually a good movie for him and co-writer/director Jean-Pierre
Gorin. Gorin, unlike Godard, was not a big-time cinephile, but did have
motivations to become a political filmmaker. What they concocted was a
kind of response to the ways that political films are not made, and
should or could be made, in the independent/art world of cinema. This
time, as usual, Godard takes very long shots of people talking, and has
a couple of his inventive, almost scarily calm tracking shots. But this
time as well he has two international stars on his hands. This is where
he and Gorin get creative more so.
It's a tale of the working class against the ruling class that gets one thinking during the film, and even after it. They place Jane Fonda and Yves Montand as a married couple who get locked in a bitter struggle between meat-factory workers and the management not giving them their proper due. Although Fonda and Montand are the 'stars' of the movie, right off the start of the film (including discussing narrating voices) the whole idea of what this film should be is dissected- the money involved, what the stars should be doing in this story, why should there even BE a story? In short, the film unfolds as the stars become more so observers than the main gig, and the non-professionals (at least I thought they were, they might've been character actors) became the real stars. There are a few monologues, long ones, that go on during this dispute, and they're inter cut with scenes where Godard and Going seem to be showing the double-edge to these workers- they're part determined to get their way, and partly like kids taking over the school.
After these scenes, we get mostly all scenes with the stars, as Montand plays a disaffected art-film-turned-commercial director, and Fonda plays an dissatisfied American reporter. Their dialog together sort of winds down the film (including more monologues), leading up to a scene in a supermarket that almost reaches to the heights of the sustained, overwhelming filmic anarchy of the traffic-jam in Godard's Week End. Then the film ends without much else to say. So, basically, Tout va Bien kept me interested with what the characters/actors/people had to say, and unlike in Godard's 80's films there was a structure. And I liked how the screen-time for the extras ended up being balanced out by that of Fonda and Montand.
The downsides, which there are a few, are that Fonda and Montand, up until their scenes together &/or their monologues, don't have much at all to do in the film. I can't criticize or comment too much on their acting, because they seem to be too natural (by way of Godard/Gorin's simplicity throughout, sometimes funny sometimes not) to be doing anything very powerful. And there were a few times the experimenting got annoying. But overall, Tout va Bien works on its own terms, and its the kind of film now on DVD can find its audience somehow. Whether or not the same audience that embraced with loving arms Breathless and My Life to Live will do the same with this is another matter- it's part frustrating, but part clarity all the same. At the least, it's not just Godard's doing whether or not the film works or not- Gorin deserves equal credit or berating. B+
The first film I see from Godard. Absolutely astonishing!
Conversational and narrative experiments that I now see as the
origins of my favorites from Hal Hartley.
Framed by the conversation of a wannabe filmmaker to his friend, where they develop an outline for a story, is a film about love and revolution. Yes, it's French. Questions raised: can love survive relationship? Can revolutionary thought survive revolution? Is it any good?
I don't know where it comes from, how it gets through, but one can sense much love for all the director's characters, for people and for film. Love and compassion.
The last fifteen minutes of the film are among the most beautiful moments I have witnessed in cinema.
I've read commentaries of it being a lesser or unaccessible Godard, but for me it was just astonishing; seriously this film is brilliant on so many levels. Sure is kind of in your face consumerism and capitalism critic, but it has beautiful imagery with interesting symbolism, narratively speaking the way the story is presented with it's long lateral takes (the supermarket tracking shot is awesome)and also the film within a film concept in a very unorthodox way (the way he reminds us it's all a film by showing us the that the factory is a set for example)was fascinating, Godard being represented (mocking himself?) by Montad in that scene where he's interviewed(the part in which Montad speaks about the nouvelle vague) and the beautiful use of color made for a haunting experience for me.
Godard work sometimes is not entirely understood. having seen most of his films i must say the this film is one of the more comprehensible of the lot. To my understanding it deals with an important issue of the postmodern graded. the issue of how to react to the capitalist society in which we live in. Being disappointed from the communist party, as well as the worker's unions which turned their backs to the working class, the people are left with no alternative but to commence a revolution, one that uses force, one that shakes the basis of society. He also shows how the burglar reporters and film creator as a representing free mind are also been exploited by the capitalist regime and their creative spirits is dying. for the the solution is to continue creating at all cost. to bring the cry of the people, to help the coming revolution. The last scene at the supermarket is quite fantastic, and it shows the decay of the great ideas (a communist part member sells his book at a discount price but doesn't know what's written there, and the youth that stand up to the society rules and help people to leave the supermarket and not pay). I strongly recommend this movie, although you need some patience with Godard's worth the time.
Jean-Luc Godard's follow-up to the ultra-Maoist Weekend, featuring Yves Montand as a former New Wave filmmaker and his wife Jane Fonda, as they become active in a factory takeover. The film is of course very sympathetic to Marxism and perhaps Leninism, but it's certainly toned down from the blood fest that is Weekend, perhaps regrettably. Godard insists on reinterpreting and imposing entirely new ideas about what a film can and ought to be, in this case an intellectualized espousal of the working class struggle. A few moments of daring misce-en-scene are worth mentioning; fist, Godard includes an awesome cutaway of the factory to reveal the power-dynamics of the uprising within, and an elaborate tracking sequence in a supermarket to reveal the gross stupidity of capitalist consumerism. Tout Va Bien is clearly a step-down from Godard's brilliant features of the 60's, but it's still provocative and worth any cinephile's time.
Although I'm quite familiar with most of Jean-Luc Godard's career, there is that 1970s period where he completely abandoned commercialism in all its forms and made experimental political films with Jean-Pierre Gorin and others. Tout Va Bien is not an impossible work, but it is challenging and, even if you win that challenge, the rewards are fairly limited. But it's interesting work, and Godard's fractured cinematic imagination is definitely brilliant at times. The grocery store sequence near the end of the film is as cinematic ally accomplished and impressive as the tracking shot of the apocalyptic highway in Week-End. And I love the meta-cinematic material at the beginning, where the filmmakers discuss how they can make a political film about May '68 and how the movement has evolved in the following four years. Step on: hire some stars. With stars come money. Thus Yves Montand and Jane Fonda are recruited for that purpose. The longest segment of the film has the two stars trapped with the manager of a slaughterhouse as his workers bar him from leaving his office. Godard and Gorin have a set designed after that large-windowed apartment building in Tati's Playtime. Perhaps it is even the same exact set, remodeled a bit for the way they want to use it here? The new Criterion DVD includes a follow-up film, A Letter to Jane, which discusses the famous photograph of Fonda meeting with the Viet-Cong. It is nearly unwatchable, though, and I gave up after 15 or 20 minutes (it's 52 minutes of Godard and Gorin speechifying which is also prevalent (and hard to take) in Tout Va Bien, as well).
Godard always makes me think. I'm never indifferent to what he does,
with a few exceptions. But many times the excitement about a film by
Godard comes in the days after i saw it. This is one of those cases.
The setup is simple, he is working on the structural (re)invention of his own films. He probably was by than arrogant enough to believe he was working on the reinvention of the whole cinema (remember the "jean luc cinema godard" signature of Bande a part?). Well there are conclusions which came to affect other works by many other authors, but not always. I think this one is important as a milestone for Godard, in the great picture of his work and it is important to watch on the historical context of cinema than. Many things were happening in the beginning of the seventies, and the main issue was perhaps to clarify the meaning of cinema and its links to real life, the main question the nouvelle vague had raised but never satisfactory answered to that moment. So there are a few works from this period i think should be checked for they show different approaches from different contexts to a similar issue. Think about "F for fake" by Welles, "The conversation" by Coppola, "La nuit américaine" by Truffaut, a few years before Antonioni's Blow up. In the root of all this projects (and some others) is, to my view, this cinematic concern of understanding whether cinema represents life, stages life, or is pure fiction which may influence life. This is probably the least interesting answer of the works i mentioned, but it is still worth a look.
The reason why i think this is less rewarding than the films i mentioned above is because Godard, at this point, tended to ruin partially his films by dulling the viewer with his childish half baked conceptions of political ideologies. So he doesn't focus so much on cinema as he does on politics. I like to believe that even than he had the notion of the lack of deepness in the ideas he depicts, but chose to understand that posture as a motivator of certain aesthetics conceptions. So, regarding cinema:
The film is in itself a rough structure, which contains several rough structures inside. The result is that we are able to check the mechanics of all the issues we watch: film, politics, and personal relations. Of these three, the only one that matters is the issue film-making. All is denounced so, in the beginning, we have a shot in which someone signs checks to pay film-related services (photography, film, script, etc) followed by an off dialog translating a stylization of the beginning of the film making process. Than we get a beautiful hole sequence inside a factory. We see the factory as a section, so we are able to simultaneously get what happens in every division of it (this structural denouncement was to be used in different context by von Trier, with Dogville). Even before we are allowed to understand we are watching a set, never for a moment one believes to be watching a real location (the colors are those of the french flag). The performances by the workers are also ostensibly stagy, so one doesn't suspect we are watching real life being captured. So, fiction is announced. Like Truffaut in "la nuit américaine", Godard finally assumes that film has a kind of dynamics which has not that much to do with life, and the role of cinema is not to capture life, but to create a life of its own, which has roots in real world, but has its own inner laws.
Than Godard ruins partially the experience. He assumes the political speech. He places still on the factory context several workers (actors performing workers, good to remember) unleashing terribly boring monologues (at least from by point of view, i'm not a May 68' guy, older folks please comment on this) concerning their rights and their complaints. He places the actors talking directly to the camera, assuming once more there is a filming being made. Later he even assumes we can make our own film, when he puts Montand talking side by side with a camera pointing at us.
The third and clearly least worked out issue is the personal relation between Fonda and Montand. It is also told caring for the structure of the thing. So everything is stylish, cliché, but it is supposed to be like that. We end the film with possibilities on how their relation ends.
This is a cinematic sketch, like the demo of a film. I like that attitude, i like the aspect of "unfinished" project, roughness, provisional look of the film. It's as if we were part of the process. And indeed we are.
Oh and there is a shot, that alone makes this worth watching. The relatively famous shot on a supermarket. We have the camera moving for about 15 minutes over a straight line, we watch the normal life of a supermarket, stuff happening, a staged "ideological" fight. Just that. The camera comes and go, the line it follows is parallel to the line of register boxes which register the clients shopping. We see the things at the level of the registers box workers. It's just beautiful. It's cinema, maybe not the cinema of truth, but true cinema. Really.
My opinion: 4/5
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Perhaps I'm insufficiently attuned to the works of Jean-Luc Godard--though I'm a huge fan of Breathless and Weekend--but Tout va bien plays like a comedy to me. The film satirizes multiple targets: the conventions of film-making, the pompous self importance of the bourgeoisie, the underdeveloped logic of the lumpen proletariat, and so much more, including Godard himself. Did you enjoy the legendary tracking shot in Weekend? Well, you'll love the multiple tracking shots in Tout va bien, which take place in the offices of a sausage factory (what could be more emblematic of commercial film-making?) and in a supermarket where riot police are doing battle with shoppers. Yes, there's plenty of political content for those so inclined, but for me, this film is akin to Lindsay Anderson's acerbic Britannia Hospital: nothing is sacred. Highly recommended, and I'd have given it a '10' if not for the presence of the eternally irksome Jane Fonda and her horrible '70s shag hair-do.
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