Film Socialisme [Blu-ray]
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Legendary director Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless) returns to the screen with Film Socialisme, a magisterial essay on the decline of European Civilization. As a garish cruise ship travels the Mediterranean (with rock legend Patti Smith among its guests), Godard embarks on a state of the EU address in a vibrant collage of philosophical quotes, historical revelations and pure cinematographic beauty.
SPECIAL FEATURES: An essay about Film Socialisme by Richard Brody (author of ''Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard''), trailers, stills gallery.
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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!
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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bore pretentious hogwash
cruise ship hiddencameras
surrealism empty dada
fake noart silly