on 22 March 2009
"humane people don't start revolutions, they start libraries" - so says Jean-Luc Godard, in his own film "Notre Musique".
It's not a cameo, but one of many constituent parts of the whole, and one which culminates in a mini-lecture on shot/counter-shot, drawing parallels between images of Jews arriving on boats in Palestine in the 1940s and Arabs being driven into the sea.
Apart from this scene, Godard is a background character, seen at the airport in Sarejevo smoking a suitably Hitchcockian cigar, whilst waiting to meet other characters attending a literary conference.
A Spanish writer (Juan Goytisolo) and the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish also appear as themselves, Darwish figuring in a central piece in which he is interviewed by an Israeli journalist (played by Sarah Adler), who speculates Ha'aretz would not publish the interview, although they'd like to.
Other characters in the central segment (titled "purgatory") ruminate on the effects of violence, whilst to the viewer the landscape of Sarejevo bears it's hallmarks.
The first segment, "hell", uses library footage awash with colour (reminiscent of "Eloge d'amour"), which show the horrors of war. A photograph is later used by Godard to show how the destruction wreaked in the American civil war looks similar to the destruction of the towns and cities of Europe in the 20th century, some of which we witness in this short opening sequence.
Despite the bleak content, there is truly enough diversion (e.g. the conversations between the journalist and her diplomat relative), and philosophic reflection - not to mention beautiful cinematography - to make this a truly enriching picture.
It is also at 76 minutes short enough to be taken in one sitting, the three parts (referring to Dante's "Inferno" apparently) breaking the film up nicely.
In the final part, "heaven", we learn that another Israeli woman, (played by Nade Dieu), has gone back to Israel after the conference, and challenged a cinema audience to find one other Israeli prepared to die for peace instead of war. When the police or soldiers come and shoot her before she can even reach into her little red bag, it is as if she has committed a sort of suicide, as we learn that all the bag contained were books.
This last segment reminded me somewhat of Weekend (with the people having returned to the forest) or the lush wooded scenes in Pierot le Fou. The latter is my favourite sixties Godard movie. However, with Godard's current output so good, who needs to get nostalgic?