It is weird to think that in this age of streaming and almost everything being available on DVD or Blu ray, that some films are still not available to be seen in its entirety. This is especially baffling considering Godard’s status in the film world as an iconic filmmaker who is constantly putting out new material that pushes the boundaries. I read in a youtube comment section while trying to hunt down some of the more obscure titles on Godard’s filmography that most of his work isn’t even available to be seen in France, except by people in the know who are willing to search for years for a complete version of one of his films. Wether or not this is true is up for debate, but I can understand where this commenter is coming from. I have several theories about this lack of visibility for this time period in Godard’s filmography. One, Godard is difficult and he is not a traditional filmmaker. Someone like Olivier Assayas is not necessarily the most mainstream of filmmakers, but his films are easier to grasp than Godard’s films are so he has more visibility in the industry. Also Godard during the eighties especially did a lot of work with video as opposed to film due to the cheapness of the technology. If you look at video work from the eighties and nineties, you will see that most of it still hasn’t been translated to DVD because it is seen as having cheap and throwaway narratives that were just used to sell the VHS tapes which were what had the real value and not the story itself. It is a shame however that I can’t watch these films as Godard intended them or even at all. In order to get a complete picture of his filmography, I would have needed to see them, but I can only content myself with descriptions and snippets. The following films are the films between Tout Va Bien and Passion that I was not able to see in its entirety or at all.
Numero Deux (1975)- I watched a ten minute clip of this film that had this weird bird chirping noise at the beginning. This is supposed to be a dark film where Godard plays with images and split screen. Most of the clip consisted of Godard standing in the shadows with a television screen of his face and a projector next to him. He recites a monologue about trouble getting financing and him feeling alone. I would like to see more of this film.
Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication (1976)- a documentary mini series that started his relationship with Anne-Marie Mieville. (She has become his partner in filmmaking ever since)
Ici et ailleurs (1976)- this is actually one documentary that I wish I could see of Godard’s. The film tells the story of two families; one french and the other Palestinian. Interesting stuff.
Comment Ca Va (1978)- a film about a newspaperman trying to make a documentary about his newspaper. It is supposed to be a study on structuralism.
Every Man For Himself (1980)- His comeback to art house cinema, this film features Isabelle Huppert (which we will see again in Passion) and several other exploring their sexual identities.
The next film, I have actually seen. It is called Passion and it is from 1982. This film brings back Isabelle Huppert as a young Polish factory worker who expects compensation after getting fired from her job. She forms a group with her ex-coworkers and tries to fight the factory for better working conditions. This is intercut with a man named Jerzy (you hear his name a lot throughout the film in somewhat comical ways) who stuck making a film for a contractual obligation. He is uninspired and over budget, but people can’t help but be attracted to him and try to help him. The wife of the factory owner (who I guess gives him money in order to make the film), falls in love with him as he videotapes her singing. She is unsatisfied by her pompous husband and her bourgeois life and yearns to return to Poland.
There are several techniques in this film that are interesting from an intellectual standpoint. The first technique is Godard not syncing up the dialogue with the picture. Several times the camera is on a person who is not actually speaking and then when they are speaking the words don’t match. At first it brought me out of the picture, but then I began to realize that he is doing that in order to show how communication can become fragmented among people when they don’t like what they hear.
Another technique that I liked was Jerzy’s borrowing of master paintings of the past and blending them on one stage. He takes actors dressed up in clothing that resembles the paintings and puts them on a sound stage. He then manipulates them and makes them move. One example of this is the blending of Goya’s The Third of May 1808 and Monet’s Madame Monet. Madame Monet walks with her umbrella in hand through the scene of this massacre that Goya so eloquently put on canvas. This technique works to help develop Jerzy as a character for a couple of reasons. First he is asked several times throughout the film what the story is. He is artistically frustrated to the point that he is borrowing from the masters in order to get true inspiration. It also establishes Jerzy as an overconfident and petulant director when he can’t find the right people to portray these famous figures.
Godard will eventually become fascinated with creating art and artworks of the past. This film is seen as a bridge between his earlier more overtly political and brash work and his quieter and more intellectual work. Huppert’s character represents the political in Godard. She is the picture of the exploited worker who is rising up to get what is owed her. She preserves with a vengeance that is lost on her ex co-workers. Jerzy represents the fascination with creating art. He looks at these iconic paintings and decides to blend all of the, in order to make a statement of relativity. This blending is also a precursor to what Godard will do when he makes his documentaries on the history of cinema.
I liked this film, even if it seems at its heart incomplete. Jerzy never completes his film and Isabelle doesn’t really come to a good conclusion as to what she should do with her money. Instead they all leave to go back to Poland. France has held too much excitement for them. They must return to the cold winter night that Poland must be right now as a I write this.