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A symphony in three movements. Things such as a Mediterranean cruise, numerous conversations, in numerous languages, between the passengers, almost all of whom are on holiday... Our Europe. At night, a sister and her younger brother have summoned their parents to appear before the court of their childhood. The children demand serious explanations of the themes of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Our humanities. Visits to six sites of true or false myths: Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona. Written by
Thank goodness truly provocative cinema still exists
We recently screened Godard's contentious "Film Socialisme" at a small art-house cinema in Boulder, CO where I live and I couldn't be more delighted by the response. Namely, there were many people who were infuriated about the film, leaving in droves and upset that such a film both exists and/or would be shown at said theater (the only art-house theater in the city, actually).
One patron was even angry enough to leave a note behind for the concessions stand stating that she "speaks French" and was particularly upset about the subtitles of the film. She'd probably be the kind of person to get upset about the "punctuation problems" in ee cummings' poems. And don't get her started on Andy Kaufman!
First and foremost, "Film Socialisme" is without a doubt a beautiful film. The way in which it was shot and edited is visionary, a true patchwork of modern/post-modern society/cinema today. The kind of film that -- as with the majority of Godard's ouevre -- may be ahead of its time but will certainly be enjoyed by sincere cinephiles looking for something new, bold and fresh. Beyond any sense of provocation, there were true moments of visual/audio splendor that simply cannot be seen anywhere else (by sheer merit of the fact that, yes I agree, no one else would be "allowed" to make/distribute such a film; and that in itself is important when considering whether or not you should spend the money/time on seeing it in the theater).
Clearly, the subtitles of the film -- which are minimalist and fractured (clearly intentionally) - - are a play on one of the film's many themes: the breakdown of communication and language (think Gertrude Stein texting you viz. her thoughts on modern society). That people are growing angry about the challenging and innovative way Godard has aptly chosen to play even now with the very subtitles of his film is extremely exciting. Not to mention the fact that, again, aside from the "gimmick," the subtitles become a poetic innovation unto themselves in which Godard combines words into fascinating portmanteaus that invoke clever wordplay a la some of the greater avant-garde/surrealist literature.
He has finally gone that extra distance in deconstructing every aspect of the film (including, at times, a brilliant dalliance with the audio mix that clearly has confounded viewers a la similar experiments by the likes of the Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, Andy Kaufman and La Monte Young; there are moments in which you truly wonder whether or not there is an "actual" breakdown of the film being shown -- especially if you're lucky enough to see this film through digital projection; "Is there something wrong with the disc?! Oh no!!" Very exciting. Audience interaction, indeed!)
Ultimately and as per Godard's typical (?) MO, the film is a firm lashing of the perpetuated bourgeois culture (particularly in America; hence his giving us the finger for not knowing French or the many other languages interspersed throughout the polyglot film; "You don't want to learn another language? Fine. Try figuring THIS out!!")
Like Lenny Bruce and a younger John Waters, with "Film Socialisme" Godard is shaking up audience members -- particularly his "greatest fans" -- by provoking them in ways they may not be comfortable with, in ways that may simply repel them. "You want to be shocked? I'll shock you, but be prepared to be, well c'mon: shocked." We don't go to Godard films to watch a clear narrative or to understand everything that happens. It's poetry, it's visual/audio artistry, it's -- ultimately -- play and experimentation. And Godard has once again succeeded in creating something that will not allow us to remain static in our seats. If you can't handle that, he is saying as always, then feel free to leave and don't forget to ask for a refund on your way out.
The megaplex is right down the street. Or, hey, buy a copy of "Breathless" and watch a nice "really weird and wild!!!!" noir film with a plot. It's all up to you!
In the end, the film defies quotation marks. If you want "challenging," you've got plenty of it on Netflix. If you want challenging, however, see "Film Socialisme." Just don't be too upset if it... challenges you.
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