Every director goes through phases and ups and downs. Not every one of even the best directors’ films will be great or even good. You can look at Hitchcock and see that some of this films, though have his signature suspense, don’t grab you in the way that a Strangers on a Train or Rear Window grabs you. The reason may be several things, maybe he was in his head too much, was looking for just a paycheck, was sad, or had outside influences such as bad backers, horrible stars or less creative freedom. However it is hard to watch what would be considered a minor film in a person’s long and diverse filmography and feel a little cheated by it. Wonder why this film wasn’t as good as Breathless or even First Name: Carmen? Why can he slip so far off to one side and make you watch this dribble that he committed to print? And then I get angry…
The first draft of this review that was lost in some internet malfunctions expressed my anger in much more blunt terms. I hated watching this film with a passion that was hard to contain when pouring out my thoughts on the page. I had several issues with the film itself and how it was portrayed around the internet by various critics, some high brow and some low brow. They took this film as another work of genius of Godard’s that will go down in the history books as the one of his best. I was so not of that opinion that I flew into a mental rage. How dare these people like this film. I also came up with theories that were inexplicably relating to his status as an art director whose films are difficult to understand. A critic never wants to be the one man who criticised Breathless as being incomprehensible. You want to understand art and that want deepens when the art is elevated to the highbrow variety. Let’s face it. Only a certain amount of people will watch films with subtitles and find it an enjoyable experience. My parents will never watch a director like Stan Brakhage and think that is nothing more than images put together in a horrible and stupid way. At one time, I would have thought the same thing. We get stuck in such a need to justify our obscure likes to either our friends, co-workers, family, or even loved ones that we want to praise everyone that tries to make a deeper film and is considered a high brow person in order to be not called out on our shame of not being high brow or “with it” enough. Therefore Godard gets a pass because we do not want to be found out.
This film was not good. I believe that I understood what Godard was going for in this film, and yet he didn’t achieve it in the slightest sense. The “love” story at the main thrust and the one with most plot, just felt like actors being told what to say by a whispering Godard off camera. There was overlap of langauge, images, and connections to each other in this small hotel that was not given any real meaning. I could care less for any character in the film, although it was evident that I was supposed to feel for two characters; the old pilot man who is trying to keep his marriage together and the older man who is investigating a killing of this Prince character. I didn’t care about their emotions, their words or their feelings because I don’t think they had anything to say or feel. The characters weren’t flushed out. At the end of the day, if you want to say something in a film, you have to give the viewer something to anchor them with. This can be with the scenery, the character, the plot, the camera movements or just the soundtrack. This film had no real scenery, character, plot, camera movements or soundtrack that was appealing to the audience.
I respect Godard for taking chances. He is always taking chances, never wanting the same thing on camera, constantly moving, thinking and reworking. Sometimes his experiments fail, but most of the time I can find something enjoyable about his films. Unfortunately this is one of those films that fails for me. You may have a different opinion. In fact I hope you do.