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The idea is simple: A married woman and a single man meet. They love, they argue, fists fly. A dog strays between town and country. The seasons pass. The man and woman meet again. The dog finds itself between them. The other is in one, the one is in the other and they are three. The former husband shatters everything. A second film begins: the same as the first, and yet not. From the human race we pass to metaphor. This ends in barking and a baby's cries.Written by
Four years after French auteur Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialisme, he comes back in full-force, toying with the 3D medium along with sticking to his vague methods of storytelling and development with Goodbye to Language. Godard continues to break down every cinematic convention, even over fifty years after revolutionizing just what cinema could be with his barrage of films from the French New Wave period. With this film, he bids farewell to language, focusing explicitly on the beauty of images and the erratic tonalities editing and visual manipulation can bring, continuing to play with the medium he hasn't kept his hands off since the 1950's.
Goodbye to Language is more of a video essay than a conventional film. The bare basic plot follows two young lovers who share sexual intimacy, disjointed, philosophical conversation as if they've just been greeted with Enlightenment principles, and your usual monogamous quibbles. Interjected in the chronicles of this love story are the random adventures of a stray dog named Roxy, who comes between this young couple as the seasons fade into one another and as she wanders through different locales.
The film could be summed up as an analysis of dualities in the world. Godard explores the idea of nature vs. metaphor, dividing the film into two segments of each. He explores the contrasting positions of male and female, European influence and Middle Eastern influence in modern day France through use of symbolic representations, man and nature, man and animal, and even idea and metaphor in one particular scene. This focus on dualism in every day life sets Goodbye to Language apart just a tad from most of Godard's contemporary offerings, which have been even more opaque and difficult to define.
At a certain point, I ceased taking notes on the film from a critical thinking point-of-view and simply begun taking notes on what I saw. Goodbye to Language features some of the most striking imagery I have yet to see in a Godard film. Seeing it in 2D, however, for the first time ever, I felt like I was robbed of something. Godard's interest in 3D filmmaking in the last couple years stems from his interest in technology and its timestamp on culture and culture's progress. He claims that 3D has yet to really be defined in purpose, and that, like cinema, calls for rampant exploration and manipulation. While most use 3D as a flash-in-the-pan gimmick, Godard seemingly uses it as a way to manipulate the viewer in terms of perception and visual order. One particular scene is said to go from one single shot to two separate ones, which could be viewed clearly through the left and right eye, before assembling back into a single 3D shot. I assume that wasn't the only subversive use of 3D in the film, and I feel had I been fortunate enough to watch the film with that added benefit, for the first time, I would've had an experience that really would've affected the film and not just alter the medium I used to watch it.
As is, in its 2D state, Goodbye to Language is still as frustrating as any Godard film. At the end of the experience, I find myself simply going over specific scenes rather than attempting to subscribe a meaning to the film entirely. The film is littered with fascinating shots that say more than narration ever could, with one particular shot being captured on a canted angle, showing the hands of three people at a small stand, two of which playing with their smartphones, the other paging through a book. Welcome to information gathering in the present day. So rarely has the current world been summed up so cleanly and elegantly in one unconventional shot. Another scene is just fascinating to look at, going from a canted angle showing the aforementioned couple naked before slowly panning to the right, readjusting itself to be a more traditional, straight-on full shot, before tilting itself again, this time to the right.
Many videographic changes are present here too. While some scenes are saturated with so many unique colors, movement, and almost psychedelic visualizations, others are presented like soap operas, with very dark and almost artificial sets and moody color schemes to match. Stray musings coming from scattered, mostly unidentified characters like, "soon everyone will need an interpreter to understand the words coming from their own mouths" are heard on a frequent basis, showing that Godard is constantly thinking and feeling rather than showing or telling.
The final Godardian principle Goodbye to Language adheres to is the fact that it's a lot more interesting to discuss than it is to sit through. Ambiguity is too specific to define the project, for not only does it barely qualify as a film but it's so indistinct that it can hardly be assigned any defining term. Beautiful visual poetry and scattered quotes of brilliance lurk all around this film, and my lower star rating is more out of compromise and downright uncertainty rather than an absolute truth. This is a work that can't accurately be defined nor accurately rated. It's far beyond the stars, some would say.
NOTE: Finally, consider one of the most striking musings on the duality between imagination in reality, which comes at the very beginning of the film in form of a title card, a true Godardian convention if there ever were one. It reads, "those lacking imagination take refuge in reality." If Goodbye to Language proves anything, it's that Godard has found purgatory between those two locations.
Starring: Héloïse Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier, and Zoé Bruneau. Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard.
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