If you loved the 1960's Godard for his ultra-hip irreverence, you might find Godard's current work a bit dull. The 1960's Godard used cinema to show how we moderns use culture (novels, films, pop music) to define ourselves--in Godard's world you might say we are what cultural objects we identify with, or, more aptly, "we are what we consume". The 1960's Godard used the idioms of the Italian realist cinema (as well as American noir)in an ironic way to explore the nature of the modern. Godard's narratives tended to mimic (albeit in an ironic, detached way: the essence of hip and cool) those narrative forms that have become so ingrained in our culture as to become cliches (the gangster picture, the heist picture). Godard's characters, however, consume this stuff without the ironic detachment that wpould allow them some kind of self-awareness, and as uncritical consumers they often begin to resemble the B-literatures and B-movies that they spend so much time consuming. The result is that their lives became reproductions of the very B-literature and B-movies that they spend so much time amusing themselves with. If there is a sense of tragedy in the 1960's Godard films (Breathless, Band of Outsiders, My Life to Live...to name a few) it is due to the fact that characters in Godard films are unable to see that even the form their rebellion takes is borrowed from B-movie heroes... Though there are moments of beautiful spontaneity in some of Godard's 1960's films, these moments stand out precisely because they are so rare. Nonetheless these are the moments that make these films memorable.
There are no moments of spontaneity in the late phase of Godard's career. Films like In Praise of Love and Notre Musique are less films than essays on topics that obsess a Godard who no longer believes in irreverence as a form of rebellion. The early Godard had his characters rush through the Louvre in a moment of liberatory irreverence ; the late Godard has his characters meditate on world culture as though their lives depended on it (and perhaps they do). The obsession of Godard's late phase is how humanity has failed to liberate itself from its chronic failings. This new obsession is perhaps just the continuation nof an old one. In one of his most interesting 1960's films, Pierrot Le Fou, Godard showed how obsessively man tries to liberate himself from himself by reading everything. But only in death does man achieve the ability to stand outside of himself. In Notre Musique, however, not even death offers any sort of liberation for even Heaven is a kind of a militarized zone. What Godard seems to be saying is that we cannot imagine an outside (like Heaven) from which to examine our cultural formations(those things that form us), and that even our imagination has been thoroughly colonized by culture. What the young Godard offered was a glimpse of the trap we are in and he directed us toward the few options we have left--spontaneous disruption, the beautiful gesture toward, if not the ultimate realization of, liberation. Godard's aesthetic (like the Italian neo-realists and American noirs he so loved) was always bleak but in the 1960's films there was an integer, an occasional flash, of hope. The older Godard simply shows us the trap.