A woman involved with a terrorist group becomes dangerously close to the police officer guarding the bank they plan to rob.A woman involved with a terrorist group becomes dangerously close to the police officer guarding the bank they plan to rob.A woman involved with a terrorist group becomes dangerously close to the police officer guarding the bank they plan to rob.
This desire to be open does not mean, of course, that Godard forsakes his idiosynchracy, the habitual criticizing. He plays himself in the film, the half-mad middle aged crank director chomping on his cigar like a Sam Fuller, at some point he says that "Mao was the best chef, he fed all of China", but that's almost a bad joke or an afterthought (bitterly ironic considering the hundreds of thousands Mao starved to death in that effort to feed them), and I get the impression from Prenom Carmen of an attempt to ruminate on the transience of life and time, the beauty of nature. These moments of quiet beauty, the shots of waves crashing on a beach, an evening sky with an early moon, night trains passing each other on the rails, show the desire of the director to reflect at a kind of peace.
The commitment is not total though, because Godard still clings to outside conditions, he still feels the need to comment politically, but that's only when he himself comes on screen. What used to be an object of serious consideration though, is now relegated to a quirk, to a caricaturist's signature. As such, I read it as a sign of disillusionment, like Godard partly views himself as the crony pariah of cinema he portrays in the film, pushed to the side, babbling and ranting to himself.
The film about a film device is put to rather average use, it's an opportunity to set up a heist plot then pushed to the side again. What intrigues me a lot here is the overlapping timeline. As the bank heist erupts in gunshots, the film cuts to a string quartet rehearsing Mozart, they stop and one of the players asks the girl to play with more violence. Later we see the same girl peering up close to the tablature to see is there something to be deciphered in the notes, doing that she mutters to herself a question about the clouds and "will they part to reveal torrents of life".
A central tenet in the film is something about the innocent and the guilty and how they're on opposite corners, but the suggestion on injustice is only vague, a sketch without backbone. Other quotations are banal or obvious, but the difference for me from his New Wave days, is that irreverence is no longer an aspiration. It's a source of humor, but there's an effort to reach out for the poetic. Godard playing himself in the film says at some point that we need to close our eyes, not open them, but I believe he's beginning here to open himself up to something more than interpreting or criticizing, to the possibility of seeing the world. From my little investigation, I'm looking forward to see if he carried that over to films like Nouvelle Vague and Helas pour Moi.
- Feb 19, 2011