Feature-length documentary film featuring real-life letters written by American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines during the Vietnam War to their families and friends back home. ... See full summary »
J. Kenneth Campbell
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Ambitious project, more or less successfully executed
Vague is the important word here. It's a shame that Godard spoils the memory of a truly remarkable genre of films in using the title, New Wave, for this disappointing effort from 1990. Vague is screen legend, Alain Delon's expression throughout the film; vague is the message which Godard fails to communicate; vague is the attempt which the auteur makes to be innovative and relevant, so many years after his genius first sparked revolution in the seventh art.
Down to the nitty-gritty: Godard attempts a film whose dialogue is based on a mixture of abrasive, noisy hyper-realism, and sombre, philosophic truisms. In this sense he achieves some grade of success. The film skips on at it's own idiosyncratic pace, jerking one way, and then another, through the landscape of late-Twentieth-Century, European capitalism and empty, absurd avarice. Some of these jagged, philosophical bursts of conversation are successfully framed by the mechanical and natural surrounds in a manner unique to Godard. He disdains obvious narrative constructs in favour of a more jarring technique, throwing together literary and cinematic quotations to raise questions which seem never to be answered. However, many of the ideas presented appear overly contrived and incoherent, almost as if he has given up attempting to resolve any of the larger philosophical issues, and instead satisfies himself with an indulgent, dignified surrender to the inevitable.
Domiziana Giordano's performance, as the ponderous, Italian heiress Elena Torlato-Favrini, is more irritating than poetically captivating, as might have been the director's intention. Her limited emotional range, her unnecessary mix of languages, and Alain Delon's almost bemused reaction leaves a tone of falsity and pretension hanging in the air, and ringing in the viewer's ear. Delon himself seems lost and miscast in his double role of hapless, taciturn, accident victim Roger Lennox, and his self-assured, gregarious twin, Richard. The film's confused, and ultimately superfluous plot, restricts his potential to inject any significant improvisation, charisma or depth into either of these crude alter egos. If anything, he is more successful depicting the ambitious, devil-may-care doppelganger than portraying the silent, submissive apprentice, reluctantly introduced into the shallow world of Godard's European upper classes.
Visually, of course, Nouvelle Vague has many of the marks of the great French filmmaker. He paints, with the excellent collaboration of cinematographer William Lubtchansky, visions derived from a world comprised of memory and half-understood dreams. Nostalgia is always on the threshold, as Godard revisits the luxuriant, natural environment of his youth, now lit with late evening shadows and golden autumn tones. Also to be welcomed are the touches of humour which offer some relief from the cumbersome, and often clichéd, musings of the various characters. Chief amongst the running jokes is the existential angst, represented by a recurring question pronounced by Raoul Dorfman's (Christophe Odent) beautiful, young, trophy girlfriend (Maria Pitarresi): "What will I do ?" His pragmatic response: "Admire the nature"; "admire the architecture"; "admire the furniture !". Less welcome is the discordant soundtrack, which makes viewing the film a decidedly uncomfortable experience.
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