When I first started this blog, I used it as a platform to dive deeper into certain sections of film history that I wanted to know more about. I created blogathons that people (very few of them) could follow along with me in some sort of logical pattern. One of my first blogathons and the only one that was true to my rigorous standard was the auteurs of the French New Wave. Every week I systematically went through Godard, Truffaut and Chabrol (I stopped there because I became less interested in the project) filmographies and watched how they evolved from these scrappy young innovators into serious and developed directors. Godard was the first director I did and the one that has stuck with me the most. To see how evolved is to also see how art and philosophy can evolve within an artist. When he was first starting out, he used innovations to tell a simple story, but as he proceeded from one movie to the next the plot lines became more obscure and the innovations were placed at the center of the art piece. He started distancing himself from standard filmmaking that made him become one of the most difficult directors to understand. And yet his innovations and his art are still vital and still worth seeing. He is one of the few original French New Wavers that are still alive and working today and he still produces work that is strange yet innovative. Goodbye to Language is his latest effort. It stays true to his reputation as a crazy European art house director.
There is a dog. There is a couple who are mostly nude arguing about equality. There are cell phones juxtaposed with books. There is a boat that keeps sailing into the sea. There is a running commentary about war, technology and obscure philosophical concepts. But most importantly there are images. Images of flowers, women drinking out of water fountains, a dog wandering around in the forest and getting stuck in a river, words that overplay each other and classic film scenes of movies no one has ever heard of. A plot of any sort never enters the mind of Godard and nor should it for the audience. He is not creating a linear narrative.
He is creating a thinking and moving image using one of the most commercial technologies that has ever been invented: 3D. Art movies do not use 3D. It is too expensive. No. Only super hero movies, sleazy horror movies and terrible movies wanting to cash in use 3D technology. They use it not immerse you in any complex emotion, but to throw things at you from the screen. Nothing jumps out at you from the screen, there are no hands grabbing for things in front of your face or snowflakes falling. And yet the 3D is the most striking concept about this movie. He uses it to enhance a ginger’s bright and curly hair, to emphasize the mundane situation of a boat coming into shore like it has a million times before, the fullness of a bush of flowers or see the never-ending motion of the waves falling around a dog. While he is talking about the philosophy of a dog as the ultimate sign of naiveté, we see a dog playing dirty snow. This is not a typical image of commercial 3D and yet his using 3D gives us the ability to notice the strangeness and the intellectual possibilities of what he is saying.
Godard is famous for his collages. He collages here like there is no tomorrow. He cuts, he splices and he realign everything that we have seen before. At the beginning of the film we are following one couple that all but disappear and evolve into another couple who we see at their most intimate moments. But then again while we are just recovering from this shift, he brings us back to the dog who plays such a monumental yet silent role in this film. He layers on music only to cut it off at an awkward time. He gives us an image that is beautifully composed but does not seem to follow the following image. All of this he does in order to dislodge the comforts of watching a film. He wants the viewer to be constantly aware that this is in fact a film that they are watching and not some escapist drivel. He wants the viewer to pay attention to what is being said, if only what is being said that equality is like pooping.
His main idea is about the break down and destruction of language. This is obvious from even the title. But what he explores is deeper. He seems to say (at least this is how I interpret it now. I may change my mind at different time and if you have seen this movie you may disagree with me. This is a complex film and there are no easy interpretations.) that language as it relates to relationships is evolving to the point where one must have a translator in order to understand them. That the moment something is said and it is put into words that emotion or idea can be misinterpreted. We see this in the conversation between the naked couple throughout the film. She is saying one thing and he is always saying something else. She is naked and he is trying to cover her up with her jacket. It isn’t necessarily that they are talking of love. They talk about anything and it is misunderstood. The most classic example of this is one of the first speeches the couple has where the woman is talking about wanting to be equal with him and he talks about pooping as the ultimate sign of equality. He gives no justification for this idea and she dismisses it and yet it seems to illustrate what is wrong with their relationship. As the film goes on, we see the dog evolve from being this curious and wild creature in the forest to being a domesticated and depressed thing on a couch. He is bombarded by noises, shouting and other noises that can only be heard by him. The dog seems to be us as we become more civilized. When we were once happy just out in the wild not naming anything or caring for anyone besides new sensations and experiences, we were fulfilled. However now that we are stuck indoors, creating words and barriers against the outside world, our inner selves have become depressed.
All of these ideas that I have may be wrong about this movie. However what is great about this movie and other Godard films is that they can be interpreted in a myriad of different ways. What one viewer sees is not necessarily what another one sees. This is why Godard is still interesting even in his old age.