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In part one there is talk of a project on the subject of love, with the example of three couples, one young, one mature and the other elderly. At this point the author comes into contact with a young woman he had already met three years earlier. Just as the project is about to become reality, all problems of an artistic or financial nature having been resolved, the author learns that the young woman has died. Part two concerns the events of three years earlier. While interviewing an historian, the future author meets for the first time the young woman, who is training as a lawyer. She has been asked by her own grandparents, formerly of the French resistance, to examine a contract offered to them by Americans who want to make a film about their activities during the Nazi occupation of France. Written by
Be warned: It's not a movie! At least not in the way we commonly understand this word: it's not entertaining. And, don't be misled by the title, it's not a love story either. It's a reflection from one of the most important thinkers and intellectuals of our times, on age, memory, history, resistance, society, culture and sense of life. If you are familiar with Godard's always-experimental style, you'll be fine and leave the theater thinking of the questions he raised or more precisely, the questions he formalized for us. Godard is important because he always helps us to formalize concepts that are sometimes difficult to put in words. In his earlier films he has raised questions about love, relationship, adaptation to a changing society, rebellion and resistance. Now Godard is 71 and looks back at life reflecting, as an old man will, on memory and history, as a way to reclaim our lives (as a character says in the film) diluted if not stolen by our modern society. As he says all over the film "there is no resistance without history" and that is a very important statement, no matter which way you want to use it. Godard began resistance a long time ago as one of the founders of the French New Wave, defining a new art form by taking the camera into the streets, and shooting with direct sound as a way to tell the truth. (He used his camera to show life as it was, undiluted) Truth has always been one of his important fights. Not because he is a moralist but because he opposes the ones who try to make us believe that lies are the truth.
In"In Praise of Love" he uses the image of Spielberg and Hollywood, which steals history, diluting it and reclaiming it in a more convenient way. We see an American agent coming to buy the rights to the story of two French resistance fighters to make a movie, the way Spielberg made "Schindler's List". However, the reality is that the old woman actually betrayed her lover during the war then they reconciled and stayed together after words. Of course Hollywood would never show this type of betrayal, the separation or the reconciliation although this is the undiluted truth.
But as Godard says with humor, "North Americans don't have a name", "Mexicans are North American and they are called Mexicans, Canadians are North American and they are called Canadians", but North Americans don't have a name and it's why they have to steal other people's history to make their own. The same way the Nazis stole paintings from Jews during the war that another character in the film is trying to reverse by buying back the paintings. This desire for truth is emphasized by the main character, a director who is working on an uncertain project that may take the form of a film, an opera or a play where the only thing he knows is that it will be on the "four moments of love: the meeting, the physical passion, the separation, then the reconciliation." This same character is helping our director because he wants him to make something in his life "more than money". We now touch on Godard's resistance to the failure of a modern society that pushes people to commit suicide, as two characters in the movie do. We know everything has a price and is sold and bought: history as North Americans have, memory as the two resistance fighters do in order to fix their hotel, sex as a prostitute tries in the film, and of course, art. As an old man looking at his life, Godard wonders how "memory can help us reclaim our lives", in other words: who am I but a product sold and bought, manipulated and lied to? The present is filmed in beautiful black and white 35 mm and the past uses video images shown in even more beautiful saturated colors, similar to the way memory intensifies the past (All the young directors who made video their medium of choice, should take lessons from the old man!).
Godard's video images are a major source of emotions, and as his character says in the film: "emotions should bring events and not events emotions". Can memory then, as well as history, help us resist but even more, learn? Of course we should learn from history and memory, which the contemporary society tries to avoid, and here is the central subject of the film: becoming adult. As Godard explains, when we see a child or an old man in the street, we say here is child or an old man. We never say, here comes an "adult". Like North Americans, adults don't have a name they have stories to define them. But, at the end of their life what remains? Only stories or bits and pieces of a story like the film?
Yes, the film is made of bits and pieces, intercut by a black screen and people talking on top of each other. But isn't this the way life is?
It's an effort to get into the true message of the film. But thanks to Godard, truth doesn't come for less. The movie more than praising love, praises resistance, resistance to this mediocre culture which falsifies the truth and take us down to mediocrity with it. The style is as much an act of resistance than the content.
"In Praise of Love" is a masterpiece of reflection, to help us enter in resistance and look at ourselves. Cinema can't do much more than that.
Movies can't make a difference more than that. Let's hope that Godard will make movies
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