- 1h 20min
An indictment of modern times divided into three "kingdoms": "Enfer" ("Hell"), "Purgatoire" ("Purgatory") and "Paradis" ("Paradise").An indictment of modern times divided into three "kingdoms": "Enfer" ("Hell"), "Purgatoire" ("Purgatory") and "Paradis" ("Paradise").An indictment of modern times divided into three "kingdoms": "Enfer" ("Hell"), "Purgatoire" ("Purgatory") and "Paradis" ("Paradise").
"Notre Musique" is divided into three sections: the first (12 minutes) is subtitled "Kingdom 1 Hell" and the last (6 minutes) is called "Kingdom 3 Heaven." The long middle section (62 minutes) is "Kingdom 2 Purgatory." "Hell" is a montage depicting scenes of war battles and the carnage that is created by war - made of clips from documentary archival footage and fictional feature films. "Heaven" is a contemporary shoot in a lush park-like setting next to a lake, where it's peaceable and sunny, a lovely stream meanders through, and a few people frolic about. Both of these brief sequences could easily have been made by film school students.
It's difficult to describe the main middle section. It takes place at an international conference in Sarajevo of intellectuals, literati, journalists, diplomats and arts people. Was it an actual conference or something staged for the film? You can't tell just from watching. Several well known people play themselves, including Godard. But mixed in among them are actors playing roles of people given other names.
There's lots of talk. A number of big ideas are casually put on the table, some intriguing but entirely unexplored (example: "killing a man to defend an idea isn't defending an idea, it's killing a man"), some certainly questionable or debatable (examples: "humane people don't start revolutions, they start libraries or cemeteries," or "if the house is already on fire, it's foolish to try to save the furniture"), others simply false on the face of it (example: "The only serious philosophical problem is suicide").
There are allusions to the Nazis; to the destruction - during the Bosnian war - and recent reconstruction of the nearby ancient Mostar Bridge, first built in 1566; to the perennial middle east problem of Palestine and Israel; to the seeming universality of man's inhumanity to man (example: Native Americans in full tribal regalia standing solemnly alongside the Mostar Bridge).
There is footage wasted on various moving forms of transportation planes, buses, cars, trains, streetcars and on people getting into and out of cars, like typical filler footage in a third rate TV drama from Burbank, CA. And there are little meaningless toss off scenes, like an impassive waiter serving flutes of wine carefully to six people seated around a table, a scene that segues into another, in which a fat male guest intrusively wraps a hammy arm around a shapely impassive waitress and pushes her through a little faux dance. So what's that all about the well off even intellectuals exploiting working people? Who knows.
The best bits occur in a seminar conducted by Godard himself, about the way in which cinema can portray opposite tendencies in human nature and society, what he refers to as "shot" and "reverse shot." He mentions several such polarities, e.g., certainty vs. ambiguity, victim vs. criminal. Another example: Godard asserts that the story of Jews in Israel is fiction, while the story of the Palestinians is documentary. What does that mean? One wonders.
Well, it's true that a larger-than-life romantic aura has developed around the Israelis and their struggle to secure a homeland over the past 60 years, while we think of Palestinians instead in undramatic, concrete terms of poverty, joblessness, lack of infrastructure, ineffective leadership, and so on.
Regarding cinema, Godard's comments made me think of scenes from the recent propagandistic documentary about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela, "The Revolution Will Not be Televised." In that film there is a sequence in which shots are fired from a bridge into a crowd below. Viewed from one angle, the scene invites the interpretation that opposition snipers are firing on a pro-Chavez crowd, but, viewed from another angle, the opposite conclusion is possible: that Chavez's people are shooting at opposition protesters. What is the truth? Both versions? Neither?
Animating this theme further are two young women who seem also to represent opposites. There is Judith Lerner (played by actress Sarah Adler), an Israeli journalist who chooses to live in Palestine. She has come to Sarajevo because "I wanted to see a place where reconciliation seems possible." Judith is an optimist. On the other hand we have Olga (Nade Dieu) who is depressed and suicidal, despite her comfortable life. She holds herself back from suicide only because she fears pain and the next world. In the end she is shot by marksmen, we are told, and we rejoin her in the final Heaven sequence.
I do agree with Godard that Purgatory could easily be imagined as a place where endless pseudo-intellectual blather keeps confusing and mesmerizing people, to their detriment. It's the sort of place that people who conduct themselves in this manner during life deserve to be stuck in for the hereafter. Talk is cheap and yet sometimes it has the power to move whole nations toward war or self destruction. Is this what he's driving at? Who can tell?
The only basis for recommending this film is that it is the creation of one of the great filmmakers of the last 50 years, and we owe Godard this respect, to observe any new work of his, approaching it soberly and with openness. But we are not required to genuflect to the master, casting a blind eye toward mediocrity. (In French, Arabic, English, Hebrew, Serbo-Croatian & Spanish) My rating: 6/10 (B-). (Film seen on 02/07/05). If you'd like to read more of my reviews, send me a message for directions to my websites.
- Nov 6, 2005