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Goodbye To Language review: Jean-Luc Godard returns – in 3D!

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Fresh from winning the Jury Prize at Cannes, veteran director Jean-Luc Godard’s latest film Goodbye to Language is a triumph of 3D technology that looks set to be the talk of the London Film Festival

 

Just when you thought nothing in the cinema could shock you anymore, along comes the news that Jean-Luc Godard has made a movie in 3D. The challenging intellectualauteur is the last director you would expect to come over all Michael Bay, let alone at the age of 83. But then Goodbye To Language (Adieu à Langage) is not 3D as Hollywood would know it.

Godard uses the new technology to build up a multi-layered, richly textured visual poem of sometimes breathtaking simplicity and beauty. But it also inspired him to discard film-making conventions and start from scratch. He reinvented cinema once, with Breathless (A Bout de Souffle), which in 1960 introduced the jump-cut and inspired a generation of Hollywood directors. Why not again?

“3D is still an area where there are no rules,” Godard said recently. “There are plenty of rules once you’ve invented them, and I’m then less interested because there are only rules: it has to be done this way or that. Whereas, when technique is at the very beginning, like a child, it has no rules.”

Using a variety of mini-3D cameras, he achieves a deliberately lo-fi result, with super-saturated colours and grainy textures. Most disorientating, he sometimes plays with the placement of the two lenses, moving one and not the other to stretch and distort our perception in order to emphasise the space and lack of understanding between the film’s lovers.

In the same recent interview, when talking about the problems of language, Godard points out that the word for “editing” carries different shades of meaning in English and French. “Editing” derives from a literary tradition; whereas the French “montage” has more to do with construction. Begun without a screenplay, Goodbye to Language is indeed a film that is built, piece by piece and layer by layer, rather than simply edited. The sound reflects that: music starts, cuts off abruptly, then starts again back at the beginning; dialogue is obscured by other noises, or continues after the scene has shifted.

It sounds challenging, and it is. Gloriously so. There is barely even a narrative in the conventional sense. There are two parts, later repeated in slightly different form (Godard here follows a dictate of Hitchcock’s, that if you want something to be understood, you must say it at least twice). In the first, people discuss philosophy while a kind of film noir plays out near them, to their complete indifference. There is a murder, but we don’t see who is shot. An angry husband holds a gun to his wife’s head. “I couldn’t care less!” she shouts, and goes back to discussing philosophy on a park bench. This could be Godard’s own comment on narrative-driven crime cinema.

The second part is a romance, but there is no romance in it. The adulterous couple spend much of the time naked, and smoking cigarettes. There is no real joined-up dialogue, merely the occasional portentous pronouncement. Meanwhile Godard’s own dog, Roxie, which attaches itself to the couple, gets equal screen time for its wanders in the woods: it needs no language to thrive. The film won the Jury Prize at The Cannes Film Festival; Roxie, its real star, was awarded the “Palm Dog”.

What does it all mean? It’s futile to expect a film called Goodbye To Language to be easily decoded. View it as a farewell to traditional cinema and, perhaps, the birth of a new genre (the film ends with a baby’s cry); view it as a provocation or as a ravishing visual spectacle. But view it.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/