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Film Socialisme
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2011
His 60s classic output had a vibrancy,colour,storylines,graphics,playful punning with language,irreverence,jumpcut techniques,love of Hollywood.They swept you along with them in the New Wave of French film and auteur theory. Pierrot Le Fou,Breathless,Le Mepris.After 1968, Godard took off with socialist perspectives,becoming more obscure, didactic projects,less accessible.Film Socialisme is in the run of excellent later films starting with Slow Motion, In Praise of Love and now Film Socialisme.Often written off by critics who oppose the anti-narrative school,they write Godard off as being cranky, perverse,curmudgeonly,unable to communicate or not wishing to.The ideals that led to him making films are still strong,hence the intellectual currency of socialism. Film Socialisme is a film in three parts: "Des choses comme ça" ("Things like that"), "Quo Vadis Europa" and "Nos humanités" ("Our humanities"). This is a variation of his Dziga Vertov phase.Inspired in part by De Olievera's A Talking Picture.

In the first part of this symphony in 3 movements, on a Mediterranean cruise liner travelling to different ports, tourism as Empire,in a shrinking Europe of moral failure and cultural decline.He satirises the bourgeoisie,driven in flocks of asinine passivity,demented frenzy. The cruise ship's interior is sometimes captured with high-quality DV, sometimes with lower-grade stock, at other times in pixilated,splotchy,bright fashion probably filmed with cell phone cameras.Alain Badiou,philosopher, lectures about Husserl in an empty theatre,Patti Smith wanders with guitar, a Russian student and detective debate about lost Spanish gold of the Spanish Civil War, gorgeous images of the sea are juxtaposed with the banalities of shipboard life,the quotations of philosophers.Godard's obsessions are with dialectics,binary opposites,returning to the geometry of origins.

We then shift to a series of interactions among members of a family who operate a garage in the French countryside, the family of husband,wife and two children,do not become characters,because of interruptions,they remain statues that speak,with a llama and donkey. The children hold their parents to account with questions about liberte, egalite, fraternite. Thence to several brief scenes set in a variety of politically-charged locales, including Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Naples,Barcelona and Greece: six sites where myth predominates, that present how European culture learned how to make both art and language by studying its ancestors.There is a brilliance of framing and editing,the vital interaction of image with sound.Fragmented,splintered,disjointed imagery and sound.The Odessa Steps figure due to Eisenstein,also Orson Welles's Don Quixote.

Film Socialisme prefigures Greece's debt,our debt to Greece,Europe's dependence upon America,the Arab Spring, Palestine,the losses of the ancient sources of our humanity,shoring the fragments of his film essay/images/texts against his ruin(he's 79).He utlises philosophical texts,poems,words of European writers,to invade and modify,with the accumulation of voices,dialogue,the received meanings of each viewer.The concept of video installation comes to mind,now painting and cinema are dead. The individual installment of a body of work.The past and future of Europe is the central subject; the perception of image with text is the experiment.This takes place in many languages, English proper,Navajo English,Greek,Russian,Arabic,French,Italian.His subtitling in Navajo English is a political act of rebellion against English as the dominant language.Clips from Italian neorealist films,Agnas Varda, war archives,Hollywood classics,as well as a series of animals: parrots, cats, a donkey,a llama,a bull,swirling sharks. All should find themselves incomplete, open,messy at the film's end,this memoir that merges film,history and the self,never a finished work.This pathway to the future,the importance of new Godard,liberation extends outwards from the film.Later Godard is in need of more attention than his early output.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 22, 2012
Intriguing cinematography throughout makes this a massive visual success, but this film is inscrutable as text. It is "scrutable" (?) only to a small clique of Godardophiles. Unfortunately, when Godard gets political he also gets extremely abstract. The political history that he so often references both verbally and visually is obvious enough, but what we are to do with that history is not so clear.

There are many different Godard's though. Sometimes you get the playful cineaste and sometimes you get the political historian. In the recently released Histories we get the playful cineaste and the political historian considering the complicated and uncertain relationship between image & reality. I recommend the Histories without hesitation.

Film Socialisme, however, is not really a film you can review as anything but an aesthetic object/a piece of abstract underground cinema. In many ways it covers the same ground as the Histories but its much more abstract and much less resonant as a discourse on image, reality, history, politics.

As fond as Godard is of texts, he resists stable readings/meanings of any texts including his own. Thus his fondness for word play in many of his works including both the Histories & Film Socialisme. But in the Histories word play is not the only form of discourse. In Film Socialism it is.

In Film Socialisme, the word play is sometimes amusing, but an hour and forty minutes of word play as the only text will leave any viewer (even the most loyal Godardophiles) hungry for something solid to respond to. In Film Socialisme there are plenty of breathtaking images but since the meaning of each image remains elusive there is no accumulation of meaning and when the film is over one is left only with a handful of fleeting impressions.

The following is just a dose of what you will find in this film:

Chapter One: The Sea and the Decks and Interiors of The Costa Concordia

Gorgeous cinematography of the sea juxtaposed with generic tourist activity.
No real characters to connect with. Suggestions of stories but just barely.
Overheard utterances are all three and four word collages evoking history & politics (esp Algiers).
A girl in a white dress repeatedly walks into a wall of glass and then falls into a pool and floats face down. No one notices.
Patti Smith haunts the corridors with guitar.
There is a strong sense that this is a voyage to nowhere and that all voyagers (tourists and intellectuals and artists alike) are all equally lost. But this is highly speculative on my part.
The sea.
Funerary music.

Chapter Two: The Gas Station Bordering Lush Green Farmlands

Unbelievably gorgeous use of primary colors (reminiscent of Pierrot Le Fou). And light.
A film crew tries to capture something about the family that runs the rural gas station but the something is resistant to capture.
As in part one, dialogue is all patchwork, abstract.
Here though, in this context, the "text" feels like rural resistance to urban intellectualizing. Again, this is highly speculative on my part.
Country life looks and feels more attractive than ship life. It is perhaps no more scrutable than life at sea but more humble, more rooted, and the characters display more feeling.
Godard exercises his (these days rarely seen) Bunuelian humor by placing a llama and/or a donkey in many scenes.

Part Three:

Footage of the horrors of history. Some actual footage, some cinematic renderings of historical events. Juxtaposed with art history slides.
Brief cut to passengers exiting the Costa Concordia.
Footage of contemporary cafe life & student revolutionary stirrings.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2012
"Film Socialisme" is really a triptych that starts with a riveting modern-day "Ship of Fools" Mediterranean cruise in which some passengers lament various socialist conundrums that have high value to revolutionaries but, alas, no one else. Maybe I should call the film a modern-day "Ship of Fool's Gold" as one of Godard's characters questions the disturbing fate of Spanish Republic gold on a floating casino bound for Spanish ports. As we watch tourist liquidity squandered in gaming rooms, it is impossible not to see this ship as a symbol of triumphant but self-destructive corporate capitalism: the world as one vast and aimless Club Med. Since Godard is a Brechtian film maker, expect no conventional characterization or narrative. Ideas are what matter here and they are very compelling ones--given power by ironic juxtapositions with the film's setting. To wonder about the failure of revolution on a pleasure cruise is absurdly heroic. Nevertheless, the first third of this film is one of the best Godard has made.

I confess to having become restless during the second third, a "family drama" where a French garage owner confronts his children for their alienation from what seems to them (and Godard) sentimental fealty to and respect for elders. Both generations seems like comic caricatures and I am not sure what Godard wants me to feel, except, perhaps, utter, unbridgeable disconnect.

In the third part, the film regains structural power and has a visceral excitement reminiscent of Stan Brakhage. We are plunged into a 20th century fin-de-siecle collage of images that remind me of William S. Burroughs most Bruegel-like cut-and-paste invocations of societal collapse and disorder. This last part is like a symphonic scherzo. The film left me admiringly breathless. Godard continues to be Godard--making major films that only he can make.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Film Socialisme" is a sometimes maddening, often puzzling piece of art from the legendary French New Wave director John-Luc Godard. This film is a departure into the far fringes of anti-narrative filmmaking, and must be appreciated as such; those expecting a conventional movie need not apply.

I was frankly unable to decisively rate this film; two stars seemed too low for a movie that has scenes of such transcendent beauty, but more than three was simply out of the question as the film is deliberately and maddeningly impenetrable, particularly when he gets into the realm of political commentary. Fascism and communism are dealt with, as is socialism, but what he's actually saying is lost somewhere in translation, and one gets the idea that that's just what Godard intended.

The first third of the film was shot on the now infamous "Costa Concordia" and the ultimate fate of that ship makes the theme of a voyage to nowhere even more relevant several years after the film's 2010 premier at Cannes. Onboard the ship there are random snippets of conversation that revolve around various themes (money, opulence, spying, World War Two, etc.) but no real conclusions are ever drawn. None of the characters are approachable, leaving a viewer with more questions than answers. The cinematography in this part is also interesting: most of the shots of the "Concordia" are stunningly beautiful, but they are intercut with deliberately mismatched footage from very low definition sources making some scenes look like they were shot with an onboard security camera. The audio sources are treated likewise, and it is a somewhat disquieting experience. During all this rock legend Patti Smith roams the ship strumming her guitar and a girl walks into a glass partition. This is evidently symbolic of man's inhumanity to man.

After dispensing (mostly) with shipboard life, Godard takes us to a rural gas station where a family is having generational angst that is even more open to interpretation than anything on the ship. The randomesque editing and cohabitation by a llama and mule make this an amusing if confusing passage, but the footage is beautiful with unbelievably vibrant color saturation in parts. The llama at the gas pump at least gives you something to contemplate when the redistribution of wealth discussions are taking place. One thing this film is not is a good advertisement for any specific type of government or monetary policy.

The third part of the film is a summary of historical atrocities organized as a port call list on a cruise liner. Interstitial title cards say things like "Palestine" to set the scene, but then again they also randomly say things like "Kiss Me Stupid." As nonsensical as they sometimes were, I liked the odd wordplay and title cards. The film closes abruptly with large letters saying simply "NO COMMENT," which I view as one of the master touches in the film. The subject of subtitles is bound to come up here, so let me dispense with that as quickly as possible. You have two basic choices, English or Godard's "Navajo English." The English subtitles are merely difficult to follow; the Navajo English take the film to a whole different plane of surrealism: a lengthy passage is summarized with a subtitle reading "Poor things name imposed," in one extremely typical example. If you are only going to watch the film once I recommend the Navajo English subtitles as they make a challenging piece even more baffling. Good luck!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2014
The first screening of Film Socialisme was filled with people presumably expecting some kind of grand artistic summation along the lines of Ingmar Bergman's Fanny & Alexander or something equally conclusive. Not surprisingly, Godard instead presented them with an odd meditation on the current state the the world utilising a free-wheeling blend of digital video ranging from the gorgeous to the grungy with a near-total disdain for even the most basic conventions of cinematic storytelling. Inevitably, the critical reaction was sharply divided between those who were convinced they had seen a masterpiece and those who dismissed it as pretentious twaddle from a once-great director who had long since taken leave of his artistic senses. While it certainly pales in comparison to the landmark works which he first made in the 1960s, the film is a flawed-but-fascinating work that, if it turns out to be Godard's finale, concludes one of the most fascinating filmographies on an appropriately oddball note.

The film is divided roughly into three separate sections that deal more or less with Europe's dark, war-driven past and uncertain unification- driven future. The first and longest section takes place on a Mediterranean cruise filled with a cross-section of elite passengers as they blithely indulge in all the ship's comforts while the more ethnically diverse members of the crew quietly keep things moving along. The joke, of course, is that the passengers rubbing shoulders at the exercise classes and buffets are the descendants of ancestors who used to be at each other's throats and every once in a while, that history bubbles to the surface in the form of old World War II newsreel footage and the like that comes out of nowhere like a bad memory. The second part of the film is a more conventionally structured episode set in and around a remote gas station in the south of France where a now- conservative couple are questioned by their increasingly radical young children about their history in a manner meant to suggest that they represent all of Europe's political and historical failings as they stagnate while living off of the fruits of Third World resources. In the final movement, Godard returns to the more free-form approach of the first segment in which he briefly chronicles some of the grim failings of the West via newly-shot footage juxtaposed with clips ranging from The Battleship Potemkin to the Steve Reeves version of Hercules before enigmatically concluding with a title card reading "NO COMMENT."

For most viewers, even those few who have kept up with Godard's output since his initial artistic heyday in the Sixties, the mere experience of Film Socialisme will prove to be strange and occasionally frustrating. Having flirted with a return to straightforward storytelling with his last two features, In Praise of Love and Notre Musique, Godard has returned to the frankly experimental narrative approach that has marked much of his work over the last couple of decades. To make things even more perplexing, the dialogue is spoken in a number of different languages and while there are subtitles to be had, they serve as yet another form of commentary by coming across as abstract condensations of what is actually being said and unless one actually speaks all of the languages, it is impossible to fully determine what is being said and further underlines Godard's uncertainty about how the very languages that they speak - in his eyes, even the seemingly universal language of art can separate more than unite. The closest thing the film comes to a non-enigmatic statement occurs when the first section concludes with the rueful statement "Poor Europe. Corrupted by suffering. Humiliated by liberty." and even that is kind of pushing it.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Godard once again demonstrates his ability to create rapturous symphonies of sound and vision. Visually, the look of the film, the first feature that Godard has shot entirely on digital video, veer wildly between lushly beautiful images featuring colours that appear ripe to bursting to shabby, artifact-riddled bits that appear to have cobbled from deteriorated VHS tapes or defective cell phones, but often are just as beautiful to look at. In addition, there are numerous individual moments that are striking to behold as well-the young son from the gas station family cheerfully goofing off in the kitchen while his mother does the dishes is among the most touching on display. There are even occasional bits of levity as well, such as the cuts during the second section that almost suggest a strange homage to the blind camel in the immortal Ishtar.

At an age when most filmmakers are either dead or worse-trapped on a never-ending awards circuit receiving the Lifetime Achievement awards from industry colleagues who a perfectly content to offer up empty platitudes about past achievements but who would most likely blanch and the thought of helping to put together a new project-Jean-Luc Godard doggedly continues his reign as the world's oldest infant terrible by continuing to create films that test the boundaries of what can be said and done with the tools of the craft and continuing to test the patience of even his most loyal supporters by challenging and provoking them and their ideas about cinema at every turn. In other words, he is somehow still making the films of a young man-works that are by turn energetic, earnest, pretentious, and borderline silly-and even if they do not always work, there is still something about them that makes them more fundamentally interesting and intriguing than the efforts of a more mature talent whose sense of daring has dulled over the years. Godard may be one of the last living godfathers of the French New Wave but based on his work here, he is still a punk through and through, and while they may not always appreciate that, the film world continues to be all the better for it.
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on May 21, 2015
Powerful, enigmatic. A document that said goodbye to standard film language long before he said it in Adieu au langage. With late Godard you have to anticipate no narrative and a certain installation-like quality of film. These could be projected effectively in galleries, for example; indeed, they might be shown to more powerful effect in that context. I first saw this in the theater, in Seattle, and didn't like it; and for a year I couldn't stop thinking about it. I still don't know why, but those images have some kind of alchemy.
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8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2012
French dialogue surtitlefragments
bore pretentious hogwash
cruise ship hiddencameras
surrealism empty dada
fake noart silly
stockfootage mishmash
phoney nolike
llama gaspump paperbackBalzac
bigwaste oftime
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7 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2012
As one of the biggest names associated with the influential French New Wave of the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard has been in the business for a long time, and he's one of the few who has remained steadily busy over the course of his entire career. His latest film, Film Socialisme, first screened in 2010 at the Cannes Film Festival, but opened here in the States during the Summer of the following year to very little fanfare, leaving theaters as quietly as it had entered them. The film, Godard's first to be shot entirely in a digital format, is broken into three "movements:" the first follows conversations on a cruise ship, the second features two young children putting their parents on trial for the answers to some big questions, and the third visits six world sites of historical importance. This will please mostly only ardent Godard fans, as it lacks a traditional narrative and serves as more of a visual essay on European culture and politics. This one's a gamble for anyone not already familiar with Jean-Luc Godard.
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