• Introduction to one method of making genuine cinema. For any who find Godard obscure or "avant-garde" (how I hate that term!), this is the contrechamp, twenty minutes long (shot on PAL video) and easy to digest, pitched for rewatching. It marks the moment in Godard's oeuvre in which the video-based works shifted in focus from the analytical pedagogy to the leçon de choses; here, filmmaking's the thing. How does a film get made? One makes images, edits sound. If one can understand this, then one can understand A Few Remarks on the Direction and Production of the Film Sauve qui peut (la vie).
"What I would like to show you is a way of seeing. For example: superimposition, and cross-fades. And then slow-motion, slow-motion either during superimposed images or a regular shot, to see if there is something to see, about which something can be said, that might alter the ligne du récit. The ligne du récit should take off from what has been said, what has happened. The plot should flow out of what's happened."
• One makes images, edits sound.
"Start with a sequence of images — the image of a sequence."
• A few years ago Godard said that "these days every kid who picks up a DV camera thinks he's Stanley Kubrick." Now more than ever, our technology allows the gesture to come first, the thought second. Of course to make a good movie it should be the other way around. To think is to work, and then one can build; over time of craftsmanship, the thought and the gesture become one and something (something else, or something more) happens. There are good, meaningful, mysterious and spacious images. But always still human, artisanal, framed, made. It's a lesson that goes back to Lumière, Monteiro, Hou, Costa. Work the image. To which Godard frequently adds: "The Image will come at the time of the resurrection."
"Sometimes we should dig deeper into the images, the way we dig deeper into the story, the story of something in the body."
• Don't use the image to "illustrate" the thought. Think, then construct the image. An image is strong when it's capable of doing its own thinking.
"All things may happen differently — re-examine the sequence — if there's motion, it doesn't mean the dialogue necessarily creates the motion — there's another way to do it: just motion; an event; 'work'. The dialogue can be something separate."
• And yet if Godard's image-track in A Few Remarks... seems at all illustrative, the exception is proving the rule in a very full sense. The images glissading beneath Godard's voice-over and sound-track are instructional, but only insofar as they are comparative, both in relation to the voice-over, and in contrast with the voice-over; in relation to one another, and in contrast with one another. That they seem to depict, occupy, and create a third space beyond their own relationships to the narration and to one another — i.e., a woman arranges flowers while a man recounts a real-or-imagined scenario based around a crime-thriller, in which he may or may not assume a dramatic role — that is, whether small video-narrative or JLG-screen-test, a small documentary and a fiction — reveals a new quality which incorporates (as though all this were mathematical process of proof) thesis and antithesis, and forms synthesis: the images are illustrating the thoughts, while the images operate, function, cogitate on their own. (The relationship between two images forms a third image in the mind's eye, and this is montage.) — These are images instructional, comparative, and computational. Thus, these are strong images.
"Sometimes we shouldn't use shot-countershot, which stems from the idea of a dialogue, or ping-pong — this idea of a 'match' as opposed to an event, really."
• The signatures of every good artisan differ, and A Few Remarks..., in discussing universal principles, allows us a way of articulating the manner in which Godard's cinema might be distinguished from that of other filmmakers. I'll take one cross-section: American filmmakers. Above I spoke about the time when thought and gesture combine, and I think that in the American cinema or, more broadly, in American art, this combination — no, commingling — of thought and gesture is facilitated by a peculiar trauma specific to American life. So this comes first — then a natural flow. To think is to build, and from this merging-that-is-collapsing: Gus Van Sant, Abel Ferrara, Jerry Lewis, Barbara Loden, Harmony Korine, Charles Burnett, David Chase, Vincent Gallo, Shirley Clarke, William Greaves, Samuel Fuller or John Cassavetes — cogito ergo sum. It's difficult to explain The American Danger to the rest of the world; talk's so cheap. — If, as Godard puts it, "the silence of speed" is perceived in the face, the silence we American filmmakers must carve from that which surrounds us grants us our speed.
• Closing benediction, with remembrance of Fernando Pessoa: JLG suggests that first one see, then find the thought in seeing. ("To see if there's something to see.") I would add that the part that's not there, that's the silence of the speed of thought. Seshadri wrote in his New Yorker poem after 9/11, "This is you at the speed of light." You are thought, then light is thought, and you are light.
"I might have bored you a bit, but that doesn't bother me — that's creation. We're in the servants' quarters, and we're far from the masters. And that at least was something."
Image from The Wit of the Staircase by Theresa Duncan, July 10, 2007: