Saturday, December 6, 2008

Week End

Godard's Week End sidesteps the conventional mode of filmmaking and narrative. It works slightly through what would be called the "road film." This road film is a little bit different from most road films in that it deconstructs the "genre" to the point of complete disjunction. The paranoiac and erratic journey takes the characters through a wide range of non sequiturs all connecting in that they follow a path, or a journey. The hodological device of the road allows us to move and sequence ourselves according to given paths and routes. We are told what lines to follow to get to a given destination. This is about speed. How do we conquer any given distance in a timely fashion? With technology. With speed. Moving is money. The film makes this apparent. It is a deconstruction of technological currency. Godard, however, shows both ends of the spectrum. When it comes to the cannibal community life is moved off-road, it is somewhere in the woods. Does this suggest that where there is no path there is danger? Perhaps. Or, it explores the idea that without paths there is a (potentially) dangerous autonomy. Without laws or morals, perhaps, there is an any-thing-goes tendency, which propels people into irrational behavior to the point of selfish and inhumane killing. For the cannibal community could easily have become an agrarian community. So why portray the outside, the off-road, as being cruel, brutal, and bloodthirsty? This is not de Sade's mechanical move through irrational sexual tendencies, but it does work to expose the same principle. We are creatures of morals, creatures of paths, a "civilized" society. Yet, perhaps, our behaviors are merely accidental; our moral grounding falls in and out, changes from space to space, changes from time to time, picks up and puts down new connections that fall in the categories "right" and "wrong". Godard makes these changes and the susceptibility/possibility for change quite clear. The diatribes from the garbage-men make these varying perspectives and moral incompossibilities of the world more apparent. These things do not "gel," and yet they tend to flow through culture, through our behaviors; to, again, quote from one of Lang's lines in Contempt "the illogical borrows from the logical." Things do not make much sense in our world and yet some how we rationalize all of these irrationalities. Perhaps I am taking this too far, but this seems to be precisely what Godard is hinting at, what he is saying without directly addressing it. He could go on a diatribe, a bit like I have (above), but that would merely confuse, it would only speak (with language/logic) of these issues; instead, he visualizes these discontinuities, he takes us out of our element in order to turn the mirror on us, as the subjects of this irrational behavior. Take Week End for a (filmic) "comic-strip" if you will; it is the comic strip which displays the hyperreality of everyday life, slices out a moment of life and displays its discontinuities and banalities in order to allow a moment for reflection, it is a morbid humor (without all the gore and violence, which Godard uses, but with good reason; to shock, to startle!).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

2 or 3 Things I know About Her

In the film 2 or 3 Things I know About Her Godard moves further into a critical and overtly political position. He reveals all the gruesome details about the commodities which have slowly dominated Western culture, more specifically in and around Paris. Take for instance the man who both watches the children and, at the same time, lends rooms to the prostitutes. He is paid in commodities: canned goods, beverages, foods, etc. Commodities have become the main circulatory source/force for Western culture. The city itself loses itself to the force of the image. Signs, as he shows, are "drowning reality" against the imagination. The garage shows how cars, these objects, have become little centers of our attention. We care for these objects as much as we would care for another individual. These commodities are our reality. Our encounter with the American goes one step further when he has the two women wear the bags, displaying corporate airline logos, over their heads. This moves us from becoming reliant upon these objects to us fetishizing these objects/signs/logos (these commodities/commodified-images themselves become the object of kind of prostitution). This also becomes clear when we peruse the clothing stores with Juliette. Godard, however, reverses this attack on the image, on the sign, when he displays the horrific images from the War in Vietnam. The power of the image can allow us to be conscious of our surroundings. By displaying these explicitly graphic images Godard imposes on us a move toward Global thinking. This is a rather young idea when it comes to the masses, or rather mass conscientiousness/consciousness. Conquest and conscious understanding of the world were little known to the masses until these “mass-technological” devices were developed. This brings the outside and distanced world to the inside, which forces us to think and feel (about that which fills the image). However, in modern society these world-conscious images are stuffed away in favor of commodity images. It is not the trauma of these countries but the travel to these countries that we see everywhere. These banal images/signs/commodities do not supply us with expressions or passions. Juliette describes this lack of passion when she describes the feeling that something is missing (perhaps she yearns for a creative/authentic experience). These commodities and images are banal because we reproduce what comes from them. We do not create, instead we accumulate. Everyday mundane life is suffocated by these images; we desire these images, and yet once they are attained there is another image to replace the last, another desire, in an endless stream of images/commodities and desires. This might be why Juliette describers herself as feeling scattered. She is so fragmented by these images and the hodological space that they carve into our lives, into our culture, that she loses herself.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Godard's film Contempt is a film that works through the making of a film. He takes us through the process of production, from producer to director and scriptwriter. But the film is not only a comment on the multifarious roles of these individuals; it is primarily a film centered around the woman character, the potential arbiter of the scriptwriter's musings and their anonymous tango with emotional animosity. Godard opens the film with her in a most primeval state, laying prostrate in the nude. This laying-bare of her whole body is juxtaposed with a dialog that fragments her body. Camille (Bardot) asks Paul if he likes parts of her body, all separate parts, and never the whole. The camera follows these parts, tearing away from the unity of her body. This "making-apparent" the assemblage of the body opens up the topic of language. It is words themselves which tear apart and bring things together. He attends to the furtive nature (/the shifting appearance) of language through the various language barriers between characters in the film. But he also brings forth this dimension of the emotional, of body language. This is clearly expressed in the relationship between Paul and Camille, both of whom struggle to cope with their emotional differences. These differences prompt erratic behavior in the two main characters. Life between these two is like a fold or a tide that swallows the action. Instead of acting, they wallow in their indecisiveness, their love loses its potency, its desirous capacity. This emotional landscape, this directionlessness, has a tendency to fold in on ones "frame" of reference. Both Camille and Paul feel the emptiness, and yet they fail to comprehend their emotions. As humans, we try to solidify love, to put it into “truth”. But it is as invisible as the language that speaks of it, it is an emotion. This brings me to Lang’s comment about God, he says, “Now it's no longer the presence of God, but the absence of God, that reassures man.” It is his absence that reassures us, but what fills up this absence other than faith, passion, or emotion? This is precisely the same case for love. Despite the fact that you can “act” love, or show love, it is an intangible unity. It is passion or emotion for something or someone that fills the “frame” with its potencies, its potentials. But in the case of Camille and Paul, this feeling within the “frame” seeps out, and they wonder where it has gone, how they can reclaim it. This seeping finds its way out from the efficacy and assemblage of the fold. New events and “indiscernibles” let loose parts of the fold. We cannot contain within ourselves a single mode of being. There are constantly internal and external stimuli which mold and shape the way we are attuned to other stimuli (including memories, feelings, objects, etc.), so that there is this constant flux. This instability of the individual also brings us back to the instability of truth. Jerry belies the “stability of truth,” he dominates, he wants reactions (he provokes), and furthermore he negates creation. He forces the ills and illusions of “power” over other individuals. Is he not the force behind the rupture between Paul and Camille? Despite the fact that we cannot point to an exact reasoning for this, or a precise moment in the film, we get the sense that Jerry is the wedge between the two main protagonists. Also, Jerry frequents a little book the size of his palm, reading from it various proverbs. This authority of the proverb brings to light how much text and logic add to our own indecisive or “in-between” states and the erratic or "being-lost" behavior that results. This brings to mind the comment of Lang’s that says “the illogical borrows from the logical”. These words (speech, dialog, etc.) “battle” the on-earth of our connections; our inability to express frustrates, and accentuates our earthly being-there/here, our position in the world without relying on language to define our status, our percepts. Godard uses distant shots in order to empty the image of emotion, of passion. This distance has the effect of alienation, we too do not quite know where to place our emotions, so we keep them at a bit of a distance. The few shots that are close-up come at moments of intense emotion. Take for instance, the scene where Paul slaps Camille across the face. Thereafter, Godard cuts to a close-up of her turning her face, which is hiding against the wall at first and slowly turns to reveal itself in all its potency. Camille expresses her desire for newness, spontaneity and potential, and yet, she can not escape; she is folded in, not just into a relationship with Paul, but a social relationship with everything that connects with Paul: the house, the clothes, these items of culture. Overall, Godard shows us that both language and feelings struggle to work together. He shows how language has a tendency to dominate in our culture, to the point where it tries to replace or label our emotions, so much so to the point where we lose touch with emotions and do not know how to respond to them.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pierrot Le Fou

Godard's 1965 film Pierrot Le Fou is different from his earlier films in that he moves beyond deconstructing/mutating genres. Instead, for him, it is about capturing the essence of mutation itself. This leads me to believe that Godard, in this film, works in what Deleuze would call the ballade/ballad (trip/ballad). Deleuze explains that the mutation that comes from the trip/ballad is a sort of "weakness of the motor-linkages, the weak connections, that are capable of releasing huge forces of disintegration." We see this when the characters come into or arrive at situations that challenge their sensory-motor responses, and lead to dislocated movements (sometimes acts, sometimes observations/"seeing", at any rate a happening). Ferdinand does not know what to expect from the trip, instead, he comes into it head on; there is no perception of the action, it is just movement through events opening up to him. The center of attention is not Pierrot or Marianne but rather each event of the film, each new obstacle, becomes a center in itself. The situations themselves become the "characters" looking for action to fill them up, sometimes action arrives and other times it is nowhere to be found. This brings me to the passage Ferdinand reads about Velasquez. Like Velasquez Godard "drift[s] around things like air, like twilight, catching unawares in the shimmering shadows the nuances of color that he transformed into the invisible core." This also speaks of the ballad aspect of the film, which moves through music/song in order to "transform" the events and their relation to the objects (including the characters) at hand. The relationship between Marianne and Pierrot is no different. Details about Marianne spill out onto the scene without any cause, transforming the event without any connectives. For instance, it is revealed that her so-called brother is actually her lover. Also, the relationship unfolds to separate the two characters' behaviors. Pierrot, along the trip, discovers his literary ambitions anew. Marianne, on the other hand, follows her urge to be free, her desire to move away from words and responses, she is about spontaneity and action. These little divisions are little creations/potentials that birth through/in the film. What Godard is filming here, as abovementioned, are these mutations and transformation, and not the concrete (instead, a non-normative storyline, non-solidified characters, etc). He takes this as far as moving through different artistic references outside of film history. Take for instance the color, the primary colors of Piet Mondrian seem to flow through the scene, seamlessly affecting the aura/tone of both the settings and the characters. At the end when Ferdinand paints his face, making an artistic creation of himself (with his face as the canvas), the "International Klein Blue" of Yves Klein richly colors the expression and "faceity" of the scene (especially in the close-up shots of his face). We move through "high art" references without ever seeing a direct re-presentation of the artists' works. These colors become something other, they are a mutation of their original form. But these mutations create new potentials, new combinations; they flow through new spaces, new objects, completely unlike their original space (the stretched canvas).

Some notes: Deleuze - Cinema 2
pp.19: [Characters] of the trip/ballad are unconcerned (they are 'mutants') [...] it is precisely the weakness of the motor-linkages, the weak connections, that are capable of releasing huge forces of disintegration...

pp.19: Godard says that to describe is to observe mutations. Mutation of Europe after the war, mutation of Americanized Japan, mutation of France in '68 [...] cinema [...] becomes completely political, but in another way...

pp.20: A new type of actor [...] professional non-actors [...] 'actor mediums', capable of seeing and showing rather than acting...

pp.20: [Even] metaphors are sensory-motor evasions, and furnish us with something to say when we no longer know what to do...

pp.22: [Elements] of the image enter into internal relations which means that the whole image has to be 'read', no less than seen, readable as well as visible [...] The cinema is going to become an analytic of the image...

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Godard's Alphaville is an exquisitely oblique take on two genres, science fiction and film noir. It was brought up in class that perhaps the film is prophetic, in that it was about the future of our world. But is the film actually about the future? It seems to me that he uses and skews these two genres to create a new world. He uses Lemmy Caution to create a legend. It is what Vonbaun says upon meeting with Caution, "You'll become a legend Lemmy Caution," which adds to the fiction of the world we view, we see myth in the making. The world contains many disjointed and parodic gestures. This parodic aspect can be viewed in several ways. For one, it can be quite unsettling for the viewer, and at the same time it carries a comic element that draws us into the world, but at the same time keeps us from identifying with the characters. We relate to the forces of this cinematic world, but the characters are so abstrusely designed that we are unaffected by them, or do not know precisely how to feel about them. This parodic element also has an element of reflexivity in response to the world, and to ideology. Godard essentially, as abovementioned, creates his own universe in order for the viewer to juxtapose it with our own. This ultimately entrenches us in a new world, with new gestures, new modes of experience, as it is explored through the world of hyper-logic. But this new world allows us to distance ourselves from our own reality, our truth. From this film we can take this distance and look back on our own gestures, and see that they too can appear to be artificial; or that our sense of logic and religion can appear to be quite comic if we see what ritualistic habits they maintain. We get a sense that our own world is perhaps as artificial as Alphaville. The people of Alphaville do not see this in their world, they take reality for truth, "logic" as absolute. It is not until the system collapses that the artificiality is revealed. By then the people become baseless, their hyper-logic grounding collapses, and a crisis emerges. The people are empty, they become tactile, their sensory perception is new to them, it is no longer a trained instrument of action. Lemmy the legend understood this, his otherworldliness allowed him to see, like the viewers, that this is a strange place. Henry on the other hand was carried away by the world of Alphaville. He tried hard to maintain his otherworldliness (his "Outlandness") by looking for love, etc., but ended up forgetting himself, for instance, wondering what the word "why" meant (for it was not in the Alphaville bible). At any rate, Alphaville's relative proximity to our own world allows us to draw intimate connections between it and our own world. As it was mentioned in class, the buildings, the cars, the clothing, etc. are all very similar to our own. It is particularly the idea of Alphaville that takes us out of our worldly element. We see that the characters' behaviors are starkly different from our own. The freeway becomes an interstellar pathway between galaxies. The Alpha 60 computer, this "truth machine", heads the technocracy. The people become as affectless as their "ruler", the computer. Godard uses and construes our everyday objects and spaces to build false truths into this new world, Alphaville. It is precisely this making false of everything that reveals the "idea" of Alphaville. Godard exposes the nihilism of Alphavillean ideology, and Vonbaun's will-to-dominate, as opposed to will-to-power. It is nothing of the will-to-power. Instead, it prohibits creative potential, and adheres to the strict circulation of "logical" rhetoric. And affects or forces become numbed and/or exploited for Alphaville's own negative means.

It is what Nietzsche called the stages of nihilism, the spirit of revenge in various shapes. Behind the truthful man, who judges life from the perspective of supposedly higher values, there is the sick man, 'the man sick with himself,' who judges life from the perspective of his sickness, his degeneration and his exhaustion.
pp. 141 Cinema 2

By raising the false to power, life freed itself of appearances as well as truth. . .
pp. 145 Cinema 2

Friday, October 31, 2008

Les Carabiniers

Despite its political convolution, Godard's 1963 film Les Carabiniers (The Riflemen) is a movement toward the politics of war, and more specifically that of the conquest (which relates obliquely to our present predicament of Globalization). What stands out most is the secondary relationship between the various techniques and themes of the film to that of the work of Nietzsche (specifically ideas surrounding the will to power and the eternal return). The film works through various simulations. Take, for instance, that of the social figures whom are called upon by some higher force, the government or, in this case, the king. The two men, or riflemen, Ulysses and Michelangelo become docile figures in a game of conquest. They are mesmerized into the atrocities of subjugation via social and political illusions. But where does the grandeur of these illusions come from? The two men find more Passion in these illusive possessions (monuments, vehicles, women, animals, etc) than they have for the innocents of whom they selflessly massacre. Dare I say that Godard is suggesting that we are living in a world of sycophants? God is dead. We have replaced god with two complicit illusions: objects wearing opulent masks, i.e. powerful objects of illusion, and supposed higher-values of humanity, in other words subservience to the word of the King, of the government, to law. Godard works further on the theme of simulation from the stand point of the image. In the end, these dupes, these "higher men," are in visible possession of their illusions, they possess the simulacral content of their desired objects, images, or imagined figures (it is all something, something other than the actual object, only virtually connected to the actual object... perhaps an imprint). This is reflexive of the process that leads them to their desires in the first place, they desire their illusions through the illusions of their milieu. For this is what Nietzsche is talking about when he describes nihilism. After the death of God, Nietzsche explains that the "higher man" finds himself in a position to react; this reaction is only an affirmation of the products of nihilism. Negation and reaction prevent the One from becoming the multiple, a multiplicity of heterogeneity. Instead, we follow the one, the King, that is responsible for our milieu. This reactionary position leads to a vicious cycle of circulation and thwarts any action from flowing through life as it is. There is a blockage, transmutation cannot and will not exist if we succumb to the illusion, if we follow the King's hegemonical homogeneity. Our identities are byproducts of this blockage, our being is simple, it reacts and negates. Thus the potential for creation is lost. Instead, we, like the two riflemen, bask and bath in the illusion of the image, an unthinking process then tends toward this repetitive circulation of signs and desires. Such that these atrocious desires, these illusions, lead the two men to rank human relations with an inferiority (and, thus, primacy to these given objects of desire, illusions). The film moves us into thought, indirectly addressing this need to reestablish a connection with Dionysus, with creation and compassion. The will to power, as Deleuze reads it, is about a reciprocity and affirmation between the forces of the multitude, to simultaneously command and obey. The strength of affirmation, of creative potential, is nil in the face of the many reactive forces that internally subtract from such actions in all directions. It stifles our ability to become, and thus repudiates multiplicity ("practical joy of the diverse"). It is thus the One that prevails. Like in Les Carabiniers, we visualize the many in regards to the One -- the being that is made up of one, a Higher value -- that of the King's word. His word, his illusion engulfs these civilians whole, it is a contagion, and if you are not one then you are the enemy; and, furthermore, if you are the enemy then you are dead. This is total negation. Although Godard does not necessarily directly imply action, or revolution for that matter, by essence of what he shows and how he shows it, the invisible call for action (the force toward thought) is there. And, as his work progresses we can see this tendency toward action becomes more and more forthright and explicit.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vivre se Vie

Godard's third film, Vivre se Vie (My life to Live), is a dispersive movement toward pure expression. When Nana declares "I think life should be easy" she ultimately describes the inexpressible nature of patriarchal society. This works in tandem with Godard's subversive use of affection images, the many close-ups of Nana's face, which become expression-in-itself. She passes through the order of things in order to survive. This brings me back to A Woman is a Woman, when Karina's character wants to have a child. She wants to be maternal. For it is this affectual desire that takes the place of the order of things. She is more attuned to these natural relations. The same goes for Nana, the complexity of order is enough to make her want to escape it. But even the escape is an act. She plays a double role here, both actress (of the film) and aspiring actress (in the film). Godard gets at this idea of prostitution through these models of acting. We are prostitutes of our milieu. We sell ourselves until death. These moments of pure expression and moments of contemplation (such as her discussion with the philosopher) explore the limits of language and of the image. When Nana's body circulates through the hands of all these men, the "customers," the pimp, her boyfriend, and even the spectators of the film itself, it is about a circulation of money. Time is money. This is reflexive of the film, as well, where time and money mark and make the image. He reveals for us the status of time. And even the one piece by Poe (at the end of the film) which Godard reads (dubbed) is about gaining time. What is Godard trying to imply? Nana, as abovementioned, is the face of expression, and furthermore is the face of time. She is there to experienced, and there to read for what it is worth. She is both the image and expression that goes beyond language, she is a glimpse of time, in all its simplicity.