Saturday, December 6, 2008
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
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.