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King Lear (1987)

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Everything returns to normal after Chernobyl. That is, everything but art. Most of the great works are lost, and it is up to people like William Shakespear Junior the Fifth to restore the ... See full summary »



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Title: King Lear (1987)

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Uncredited cast:
Mr. Alien (uncredited)
Freddy Buache ...
Professor Quentin (uncredited)
Edgar (uncredited)
Virginia (uncredited)
Professor Pluggy (uncredited)
Suzanne Lanza ...
Kate Mailer ...
Herself (uncredited)
The Great Writer (uncredited)
Don Learo (uncredited)
Michèle Pétin ...
Journalist (uncredited)
Cordelia (uncredited)
Peter Sellars ...


Everything returns to normal after Chernobyl. That is, everything but art. Most of the great works are lost, and it is up to people like William Shakespear Junior the Fifth to restore the lost artwork of the human race. He finds strange goings-on at a resort enough to remind him of all the lines of the play, dealing with mob boss Don Learo and his daughter Cordelia, a strange professor named Jean Luc-Godard (sic), who repeatedly xeroxes his hand for no particular reason. He is followed by four humanoid goblins that keep tormenting Cordelia. There is also the gentleman whose girlfriend, Valerie, isn't always visible. Then the film is sent off to New York for Mr. Alien to edit. Written by Scott Hutchins <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A Picture Shot in the Back. See more »


Comedy | Drama | Sci-Fi


PG | See all certifications »




| | |

Release Date:

3 April 2002 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Jean-Luc Godard's King Lear  »

Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Cannon Group owners Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus signed Godard to a contact to make the film on a napkin at the Cannes Film Festival. See more »


The Great Writer: For words are one thing, and reality, sweet reality, is another thing, and between them is no thing.
See more »


Edited into Histoire(s) du cinéma: Le contrôle de l'univers (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

31 March 2010 | by (IN) – See all my reviews

This is by far one of the weirdest films ever made, as I've said before. Godard is probably my second favorite director (right behind Kitano), and this isn't his first really weird film or anything (I'd go so far as to say all of his films in his unfairly-neglected-but-superior "late period" are quite strange in some way, either in their fractured narrative, or in their hardcore deconstruction of typical movie-making -- "Where's the story?" indeed...). But this is kind of a mix of everything he'd done with his newer stuff, when it came out; all the themes and elements and ideas he had been exploring, and it even predicts a bit of his stuff after this. People usually get interested in this film for its genesis and some of the bizarre happenings in this film (Godard signs a contract on a napkin; Godard recorded telephone conversations with producer and put it in the film, which peeved the producer off; Godard never actually reads past page 3 of King Lear itself; this film was made from like 4 or 5 different aborted scripts cobbled together; a father and daughter sign on to do this movie, do 5 takes or so, and then walk off the set in disgust, all of which is captured in the movie, with a voice-over explaining this; Woody Allen was hired to be in this film and he had no idea what he was doing so he drinks some coffee, puts some safety pins in some film, recites a few verses from the play King Lear and that's about it).

Well, it goes far beyond that, as far as strangeness is concerned... seeing Molly Ringwald in a Godard film is just bizarre, first of all (keep in mind she was HUGE at the time; Pretty In Pink and all that stuff). Second of all, Godard's narration is absurd. I mean, you can barely even tell what he's saying, in English (this is also his only English film from beginning to end!). He might as well have been recorded through a voice box. Godard plays a guy with a headdress made of hi-fidelity wires, so he can jack himself into the unknown at any time. He is looking for "The image". Since Godard never actually read King Lear, the film instead asks if King Lear is even an important work of art, if it's even valid a radioactive, post-Chernobyl landscape. So, the main actor (who actually says the line, "Oh yeah, by the way, my name is William Shakespeare Junior the Fifth." in a comical tone) is "searching" for, uh, something, and he encounters a bunch of crazy characters, in an extremely, EXTREMELY fractured narrative, with scenes ending abruptly, double (sometimes triple) voices of characters constantly on the soundtrack, and pretty much everything crashing, colliding, and being completely out of sequence, out of time, out of tune. Oh, let's not forget the soundtrack, which is made of slowed-down and electronically-manipulated versions of Beethoven symphonies; also, there is a loud, annoying, seagull sound about every 3 minutes in the movie.

Sounds like a disaster, doesn't it? Well, I gotta say, it's one of the best films -- not just by Godard -- but EVER. Even beyond the "strangeness" that attracts me, there is a strange, otherworldly beauty to the proceedings. Godard designed the film to fail, but he did so in a way that's really, really interesting, and is actually extremely experimental, especially when you consider that this was designed to be a mainstream film! Godard himself said he never got page 3 of King Lear, it didn't interest him at all... he said the film was the first 3 pages of King Lear and the rest of it is him trying to "Get past" the rest of the play. Which is hilarious, absurd, and reason enough to check it out...

A powerful film, misunderstood to be certain, groundbreaking and unconventional in every way, I'd say anyone into Jodorowsky and stuff like that should probably want to seek this out and have their mind blown.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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