Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ebert Thoughts ‘15—Goodbye To Language (2014) **

UR, 70 min.
Director/Writer: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Héloïse Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier, Zoé Bruneau, Christian Gregori

I recently reviewed Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 film “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her”. It’s easy to see with that film the track that had started in Godard’s career and would eventually lead him to a film like “Goodbye To Language”. While his less narrative, more documentary style worked well with the freer thinking of the late 60s, his cinematic philosophizing has become as confused as the world itself today. While there might be some value to be weighed into that notion, the consumption of it leaves something to be desired.

The film isn’t entirely without plot, however, that plot isn’t even in the back seat of this vehicle; it’s shoved into the trunk ready to be dumped in the closest landfill. Godard is much more interested in philosophizing about modern society, politics, and the human condition than he is in telling any sort of comprehensible story. Even those thinking points are so scattered and unfocused that it’s hard to discern just what it is the once cinematic master is getting at. It’s almost as if he’s philosophizing with images as much as he is with words, but the message is muddled.

The film also marks the first time this legend of cinema has worked in the 3D format. At Ebertfest they will be seeing the 3D version of the film, while for us with Netflix, it is 2D only. I read comments questioning the point of watching the film in 2D. While it does seem somewhat pointless, and I can see that Godard certainly could’ve made an interesting use of the third dimension, I hardly believe that it would’ve clarified any sort of philosophical or artistic intent. I find it hard to believe that 3D can really add much, if any, artistic dimension other than that of spectacle to any film. While some cinematic masters have been able to skillfully wield 3D as a spectacular element, the spectacle of this film seems to be chaos. Sounds go from loud to soft at apparent randomness. Images are distorted by inferior filming equipment or even through editing, but I’m really not sure what any of this spectacle says about our world beyond the fact that it is chaotic. 

Perhaps I’m just not on the same wavelength as Godard. The film is more engaging than I would expect from this particular collage of images. I can’t say it is a worthwhile experience, however. I suppose I can make some sense of it to myself, but if pressed to defend it as a great or even just a good cinematic experience, I would have to concede that I cannot really say it’s something that should be seen by anybody. I suppose if you’ve been following Godard down this road for a while, then “Goodbye to Language” is just part of the natural progression of his artistic journey. But where is this journey leading? Like everything, it leads to death. I’d rather have some fun along the way.

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