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Éloge de l'amour (2001)
Man with no balls allows girl to slip away.
One thing is for sure. When Edgar is walking along the train tracks, he pretends to be too involved with what he is reading (a blank book) to acknowledge the train's greeting. But he is involved with the outside world. Even though his face is in the book he carefully steps over the obstacle in his path. He is a poser.
The girl's situation begins to make sense to her only when she considers her history. American media does not give us a history. That's why Godard sometimes talks about "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon", a movie in which the John Wayne character is so concerned about the Indians. So, of course, things are not going to make sense to us. We are going to see things as they are presented to us. Cool cars and hot chicks! But the naked girl in Friedman's "Steambath" says "I did well, didn't I." While we're thinking she's great (as a sex object), she's looking to be related to as a human being.
Edgar wants to be an adult. He wants to see himself in connection with his childhood and old age. He doesn't want to be someone who lives as though they would never die--and thus go with the way things are presented to him. He gets on the train of the city with "future" in its name, but then steps out. Who can imagine a future in such a place? And then she tells him: The man comes home and tells his little girl that he did good work that day. He could have had it. She takes off her jacket and whispers to him, and he stays objective. No, no, it is perfectly fine for me to stand out here on the outside of the window looking in--no problem. This is why the film ends in a train station: it is where he didn't get on.
And what a girl! The reason why she is poor now is that she refused to read the American-type lines in the soap opera she was performing in: a truly virtuous person. In "Forever Mozart" the captives nod to each other before he takes issue with their captor's mistaken remark about Danton and the Directory. They know they are going to be in for a hard time, but they don't think of what they shall eat or what they shall drink; they just pursue righteousness.
On the old man in the shower. The young man holds her hand. She is not relating to him as an old man who can hardly walk down the steps, she is relating to him in continuity with the very agile young man that he once was. The young man is present.
If you don't relate to the present or to the future what do you have? It's like a poor man's dream, I'm going to get material stuff, and then more material stuff. We go from flower to flower thinking that summer will never end. What a joke, being proud of how much your car costs in a world in which 4 million children a year die from the effects of malnutrition.
History has been replace by technology. We are conditioned to look for the boobs, or whatever by TV. It trains our eyes. That's why Godard characters walk along the side of the road. They don't want to be separated from reality by technology. Contrast the World War II boat going over the waves with the helicopter. The sports car just zooms off. It's occupants merely relate to its interior, not to the world about them. Relating to the world around one would mean respecting people's humanity. Rather than needing a pep talk to be tough with them (hand hitting palm), they would not be cheating them with a tricky contract. Indeed, isn't that what the hand hitting the palm means: be tough; don't start relating to them as fellow human beings.
Edgar stops visiting the old art dealer as well. The pen drawing up ink represents how the old man draws life from Edgar. But after Edgar stops coming by whatever ink is there is dried up.
The sunlight reveals the Vietnamese maid's body through her dress as she looks into the distance, just as you can see the black bra of the girl was in love with as she looks into the distance. But the old man just relates to her as a servant. An old man couldn't very well love the maid. Though he could arrange for another old man to have a prostitute. The maid says that the Americans are everywhere. "Who remembers the Vietnamese resistance?" She has got the same insight as Edgar. He could draw life from her as well. He's like Edgar this way. Just do what is expected. Give the girl a tip. Hell, he doesn't even say anything to her. She's just a maid. He doesn't even give her an acknowledgment of what her people went through. He does better than Edgar though. At least he commits to Edgar, even though he is counseled against it. He is responding to his own need.
When the film asks whether humanity will survive, it is talking about non-Americanized humanity. It seems to be implied that humanity will survive if it deserves to survive. If we strive for real life we will receive. But hey, I'm tired now. I wonder what's on TV?
'Je vous salue, Marie' (1985)
The story of Mary and Joseph illustrates that love is a response to the mystery of the other person's spirit.
I like this film a lot, but I first have to get past my reaction to the whale game. The problem is not merely that mother and son are involved in an erotic game, but that they play it with such enthusiasm. She just mentions the possibility of not playing the game later on, and they are both quick to play it, like lovers who can't wait for nighttime and who dive into bed at the thought of sex. What it means must be connected to the scene in which Marie is bathing and talking about enjoying showing her body to God. Her son is somehow the same as God. Even at the end of the movie, Joseph still isn't getting anything; this is Mary's only sexuality. Of course God is spirit, but her son would be spirit incarnated. Because it is just a question of exposing her body, there would be no physical love. So I guess it is just Mary's way of reestablishing her relationship with God.
If we were on a different planet we would all look different. As we are, we would look strange to someone from a different planet. As the doctor said, women are essentially mysterious. Joseph loves Marie rightly when he has that sense of her mysteriousness.
There is a contrast with the affair between the professor and one of his students. He thinks that evolution requires some sort of intelligent design, but sees it in terms of a more advanced race coming to earth to steer the evolutionary process. He acknowledges the girl's suggestion of the possibility of God being the intelligent designer, but only as an afterthought. When he eventually leaves her he says that the world is not sad; it's big. The particular is not important; it is just part of this big scheme of things. The scheme of things dwarfs the particular, and thus there is no sadness. On the other hand, if you see the particular as coming from God, the particular is of the highest importance. It becomes mysterious through its relationship with its mysterious sourcethus enabling right love.
I felt that all this was confirmed by one of those bird calls. The bird, for one reason or another, is announcing it's presence. There is something out there over and above what our senses present to our mind's eye. That's the point of all the animal noises. On the other hand, the sound of the wind represents the presence of God. The sun and the moon represent the eternal. The significance of the repeated words "At that time" would be that the various events are happening in the temporal world. The angels come in at the airport; the landing airplanes represent the eternal becoming directly involved with the temporal.
All the writhing on the bed would be Mary's effort to deal with temptation. The long shot of the fingers in the bush indicate that the temptation is that of masturbation. Hence someone can say, "Hail Mary!" Her chastitywhich is not the chastity of do not lead me into temptationwas a real accomplishment. What she couldn't get from basketball's excitement and exhaustion was comfort. But flesh qua flesh is not comforting. It is the presence of the spirit in the flesh that allows flesh to be comforting. This spirit is suggested by the shot of Mary's open mouth at the end of the film. There is something mysterious animating this body.
When the professor is talking we hear Godard's own voice repeating the word "earth" in a reverential way. Godard has a reverence for this mysterious world we find ourselves on.
There must be some connection between the first film and the second. Marie needs the comfort that Mary finds in God. There's no comfort for Joseph though. No wonder at the end of the film he is still threatening to leave. Worse yet he has to see his wife playing whale with the child. Seeing her nakedness was all the sex that he had, and now the kid is having it too. But, no; it's different. He expressed love in response to her nakedness, and she is just telling the kid what people call various parts of the body. What is said conventionally about the body is the opposite of appreciating the mysteriousness of the body.
The shots of the dog and the shots of the paired animals and the donkey at the end of the film are meant to represent the strangeness of the body. Seeing the body as a freak mutant along with other freak mutants helps give us the sense of the (mysterious) spirit that is housed in the mysterious body.
When Mary asks the doctor whether we are spirits with bodies or bodies with spirits, it is very important to her. If we were bodies with spirits, then her denial of fleshly comfort would be denying what is primary.
There is something going on with money. Joseph can pay in two years. The rich people make Joseph wait days for them. The second naked girl gives the professor thousands of franks. She thinks he is a zero when he acts cool about giving it back to her. He is merely thinking about his status as he leaves her. He shakes hands with some other people after saying goodbye to her. Saying goodbye to her is just one more duty. He is acting as if there is nothing significant there, so she honks as the bird calls: I am here!
King Lear (1987)
Man determined to relate to something beyond the images in his mind
I have watched this film perhaps 100 times, and many of those times I feel as if I am watching it for the first time. It is incredibly rich.
Quite a bit of philosophical sophistication is presupposed, so let's start with some basics. When Plato says that what you hear does not come from what you see he is perfectly correct. The colors that are produced in your mind by a message from your optic nerve do not cause the sounds that you hear. The green is not in the grass, only in your mind. The grass absorbs various radio waves, and your eye picks up on the unabsorbed reflected waves. The green is your body's miraculous way of letting you know about the radio waves around you. You are actually experiencing a series of still pictures, approximately 24 per second. If they were significantly faster than that, you would experience a movie as a series of still pictures. You are active in this process, because you organize the raw sensations. This can be seen in a gestalt shift.
In everyday experience we are isolated people. All we relate to are the images that are in our minds. Zen Buddhists think we can have direct contact with the mysterious outside reality--not merely contact with images that those objects helped produced (satori). Godard is concerned with satori, but he is also concerned with experiencing the projector of the series of still pictures that he is experiencing. Your mind is working incredibly hard organizing everything you are experiencing 24 times a second. The incredible amount of organization it takes for you to read this sentence is but a small fraction of what your mind has just done.
If a child were very bored with a movie, he might look around and see that it all comes from this light in the back of the room. If you had no interest in the images thrown up on your private movie screen by the ground of your being, perhaps you too could turn around and experience this projector. I take the projector to be Atman. Brahman (which I take to be the same as nirvana) would be actually going into the projection room. This is what they are trying to do in the movie theater. But (Oh no!)they are not innocent, and we get caught up with these images (which together their relationship to other images Kant calls reality); they are like the child who is too interested in the movie to look around.
Now it is like choosing the first fruit from a cornucopia. I had some understanding of the ending this time, so let's start there. Here comes the spoiler: a seagull calls. It is trying to make it's presence known for some reason or other. We experience merely the result of a message from the nerve from our ear. It significance is just that: it's merely in our minds, but it comes from an outside reality that is trying to makes its presence known. It is part of the world that is not mere representation. That world (sacred to Godard) is really out there. The movie ends with that reminder.
The visual image at the end is merely the words: King Lear A Study. Godard is saying that he has figured out something about King Lear. What that might be is indicated by the preceding lines read by a female voice: "Lend me a looking glass, if that her breath will mist or stain the stone, why then she lives." A looking glass presents images that are recognized as images. Lear is hoping against hope that Cordelia is still alive. He would have been satisfied if she could have heaved her heart into her mouth, if the unseen reality could become manifest to him. But now there might be something that is not a mere image on the looking glass--the mist or stain. This mist would represent Cordelia's life. Of course it is just a representation or image of her life, but for Godard their are images and images. An image is strong (which means that it has greater emotive force) if the association of ideas is distant and true. The opposite of this would be a flat image, as if perspective had been abolished. When Godard goes back and forth between images that tend to merge into each other, we are relating to them as two dimensional. Cordelia could not heave her heart into her mouth, but if Lear had been perceptive her silence could have shown him about her inner reality. The mist on the stone would show her that she lives, and would thus have strong emotive force. He could relate to her inner reality through the representation.
It is not Lear's voice that reads the lines at the very end of the film, but the same resonant female voice that is associated with the symbolism of the white horse. The horse would be the emotion that finds its occasion in the strong image. There is something within us that wants to break out of our isolation and rises to the occasion when an opportunity to do so presents itself. This wholehearted response to an image allows me to be without reservation, and thus for my solitude to know yours (satori).
Right before that we have Lear saying "She is as dead as earth." This corresponds to the image of Lear with Cordelia's dead body looking out at the source of the waves. The pebbled shore would be the private movies screen with its many objects. The waves would be the 24 times a second movement that throws itself onto the movie screen. Lear is not letting death defeat him. He's using the emotive power of her death to try to succeed to turn toward the projector. Wait Cordelia. The earthly reality is not the only reality, and he would relate to that reality that now has Cordelia.
Man commits himself to living without ulterior motive
Will you take seriously what is before you in the present moment or will you see it merely as fitting into the scheme of things?
The colors you see are just in your mind. You feel like you are looking through glass at the exterior world, but all the colors are just a result of a message from you optic nerve. Goddard is a dualist; he believes that there is an outward reality that corresponds to the inner representations. He vows to love that reality, to take it seriously. You do not invade Iraq when you take your present situation seriously. When you invade Iraq you are relating to your scheme of things; you would like to make some alterations in the scheme. That children will be frightened by your bombs seems insignificant in comparison to the grander scheme of thing, if it even crosses your mind.
The end of the movie corresponds to the reference to Being and Time near the beginning. We need to move beyond thinking about how we are judged by others (either as being up there or down there). The Dick Cheneys of the world would be trapped in this concern for THEM as they rearrange the scheme of things. This could be seen quite clearly in the first President Bush.
Our minds present us with 24 or so different still pictures every second. Our lives (apart from satori or nirvana) are like a flip book.
If I am all there in the present moment won't I end up on welfare? Don't I have to look out for number one? Godard will take his chances. This is not because there is something great about being natural, and it is not because there is something awful about being artificial. It is because he loves. And then when we care about something we build up a predisposition to care about the same sort of thing. At Republic 485d Plato illustrates this phenomenon by talking of channels in our souls. The more water goes down one channel and makes it deeper, the less water will flow down the other channels. Sainthood would come at the end of this process, but the key moments are at the beginning and in the subsequent reaffirmations. If you try to be pure in the present often enough (and with real passion, Kierkegaard would add) you'll end up with an inclination to be that way in the future. It will be easier once you've got the inclination. Then what other people think of you will not be such a deep channel. The real struggle is now.