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Film Socialisme [DVD]
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A symphony in three movementsTHINGS SUCH AS: A Mediterranean cruise. Numerous conversations, in numerous languages, between the passengers, almost all of whom are on holiday...
OUR EUROPE At night, a sister and her younger brother have summoned their parents to appear before the court of their childhood. The children demand serious explanations of the themes of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
OUR HUMANITIES. Visits to six sites of true or false myths: Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona.
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In the first part of this symphony in 3 movements, on a Mediterranean cruise liner travelling to different ports, tourism as Empire,in a shrinking Europe of moral failure and cultural decline.He satirises the bourgeoisie,driven in flocks of asinine passivity,demented frenzy. The cruise ship's interior is sometimes captured with high-quality DV, sometimes with lower-grade stock, at other times in pixilated,splotchy,bright fashion probably filmed with cell phone cameras.Alain Badiou,philosopher, lectures about Husserl in an empty theatre,Patti Smith wanders with guitar, a Russian student and detective debate about lost Spanish gold of the Spanish Civil War, gorgeous images of the sea are juxtaposed with the banalities of shipboard life,the quotations of philosophers.Godard's obsessions are with dialectics,binary opposites,returning to the geometry of origins.Inspired by De Oliveira's 'A Talking Picture.'
We then shift to a series of interactions among members of a family who operate a garage in the French countryside, the family of husband,wife and two children,do not become characters,because of interruptions,they remain statues that speak,with a llama and donkey. The children hold their parents to account with questions about liberte, egalite, fraternite. Thence to several brief scenes set in a variety of politically-charged locales, including Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Naples,Barcelona and Greece: six sites where myth predominates, that present how European culture learned how to make both art and language by studying its ancestors.There is a brilliance of framing and editing,the vital interaction of image with sound.Fragmented,splintered,disjointed imagery and sound.The Odessa Steps figure due to Eisenstein,also Orson Welles's Don Quixote.
Film Socialisme prefigures Greece's debt,our debt to Greece,Europe's dependence upon America,the Arab Spring, Palestine,the losses of the ancient sources of our humanity,shoring the fragments of his film essay/images/texts against his ruin(he's 79).He utlises philosophical texts,poems,words of European writers,to invade and modify,with the accumulation of voices,dialogue,the received meanings of each viewer.The concept of video installation comes to mind,now painting and cinema are dead. The individual installment of a body of work.The past and future of Europe is the central subject; the perception of image with text is the experiment.This takes place in many languages, English proper,Navajo English,Greek,Russian,Arabic,French,Italian.His subtitling in Navajo English is a political act of rebellion against English as the dominant language.Clips from Italian neorealist films,Agnas Varda, war archives,Hollywood classics,as well as a series of animals: parrots, cats, a donkey,a llama,a bull,swirling sharks. All should find themselves incomplete, open,messy at the film's end,this memoir that merges film,history and the self,never a finished work.This pathway to the future,the importance of new Godard,liberation extends outwards from the film.Later Godard is in more need of attention than his early out put.
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I was frankly unable to decisively rate this film; two stars seemed too low for a movie that has scenes of such transcendent beauty, but more than three was simply out of the question as the film is deliberately and maddeningly impenetrable, particularly when he gets into the realm of political commentary. Fascism and communism are dealt with, as is socialism, but what he's actually saying is lost somewhere in translation, and one gets the idea that that's just what Godard intended.
The first third of the film was shot on the now infamous "Costa Concordia" and the ultimate fate of that ship makes the theme of a voyage to nowhere even more relevant several years after the film's 2010 premier at Cannes. Onboard the ship there are random snippets of conversation that revolve around various themes (money, opulence, spying, World War Two, etc.) but no real conclusions are ever drawn. None of the characters are approachable, leaving a viewer with more questions than answers. The cinematography in this part is also interesting: most of the shots of the "Concordia" are stunningly beautiful, but they are intercut with deliberately mismatched footage from very low definition sources making some scenes look like they were shot with an onboard security camera. The audio sources are treated likewise, and it is a somewhat disquieting experience. During all this rock legend Patti Smith roams the ship strumming her guitar and a girl walks into a glass partition. This is evidently symbolic of man's inhumanity to man.
After dispensing (mostly) with shipboard life, Godard takes us to a rural gas station where a family is having generational angst that is even more open to interpretation than anything on the ship. The randomesque editing and cohabitation by a llama and mule make this an amusing if confusing passage, but the footage is beautiful with unbelievably vibrant color saturation in parts. The llama at the gas pump at least gives you something to contemplate when the redistribution of wealth discussions are taking place. One thing this film is not is a good advertisement for any specific type of government or monetary policy.
The third part of the film is a summary of historical atrocities organized as a port call list on a cruise liner. Interstitial title cards say things like "Palestine" to set the scene, but then again they also randomly say things like "Kiss Me Stupid." As nonsensical as they sometimes were, I liked the odd wordplay and title cards. The film closes abruptly with large letters saying simply "NO COMMENT," which I view as one of the master touches in the film. The subject of subtitles is bound to come up here, so let me dispense with that as quickly as possible. You have two basic choices, English or Godard's "Navajo English." The English subtitles are merely difficult to follow; the Navajo English take the film to a whole different plane of surrealism: a lengthy passage is summarized with a subtitle reading "Poor things name imposed," in one extremely typical example. If you are only going to watch the film once I recommend the Navajo English subtitles as they make a challenging piece even more baffling. Good luck!
I confess to having become restless during the second third, a "family drama" where a French garage owner confronts his children for their alienation from what seems to them (and Godard) sentimental fealty to and respect for elders. Both generations seems like comic caricatures and I am not sure what Godard wants me to feel, except, perhaps, utter, unbridgeable disconnect.
In the third part, the film regains structural power and has a visceral excitement reminiscent of Stan Brakhage. We are plunged into a 20th century fin-de-siecle collage of images that remind me of William S. Burroughs most Bruegel-like cut-and-paste invocations of societal collapse and disorder. This last part is like a symphonic scherzo. The film left me admiringly breathless. Godard continues to be Godard--making major films that only he can make.