Monday, May 31, 2010


Now here's something that really deserves reading, and which, as far as I'm aware, is no less than the greatest essay ever written on the subject of video games.

That such a treasure should have been at last unlocked will not strike the conscientious reader as too too surprising — will not, that is, once he or she detects its artificer's mark: B. Kite.

"State of Play" — which figures as something around 10,000 words in length, and arrives halved into installments published successively over the last couple weeks by Moving Image Source — is the essay that the world has required: to be sure, a contextualization of video games within the larger dimension of present (and ancient) culture and social activity — but more significantly, a lucid articulation of the interrelationship between aesthetics and experientiality. In his essay, Kite eradicates all the dire angoisse around whether or not the one concept subsumes the other, and it would sure be a snappy tack to cast plague upon the houses of both "games are too art!" partisans on the one hand and "games have given us neither 'their' Middlemarch nor 'their' Citizen Kane" brahmins on the other — but Kite is too good for facile 'too-good-for-you' provocation. It is enough, then, to say that even though his tone in "State of Play" never calls attention to such, he is operating intellectually on a level far above the prejudice of the vested entrenched — and above dispassionate dilettantes who might only pursue the whole matter as editorial assignment... or anthropological conquest.

This essay is a deeply serious piece of work: deeply poetic, deeply cerebral, and, what's more, deeply readable, i.e., not at all 'academic' in the sense of that overreaching and embarrassing idiom; an exploration that in the process of its own discoveries — and self-realization, even — and never deigning to cater to cultics — beautifully resolves dilemmas both self-introduced and extant in the wider sphere of the world. In the process, "State of Play" permits that the circuits of its conclusions should remain decidedly "open" — no small feat. In fact it's a gargantuan task, given that the Frogger-esque intellectual leaps played by the article come at an astonishing, albeit perfectly paced, clip — even while the broader scopes-of-focus exhibit in turn an adventurous, elastic quality, their rates of acceleration varying as needed.

Unlike with, say, Roger Ebert's or Harold Bloom's, 'I am made happy when I read Kite's work.' I might not be able to elaborate well why this should be without betraying a compulsion to champion his oeuvre to date, but so be it. Put simply, there's great satisfaction to be had following Kite's multiple trajectories of thought, both bounded within the discrete work and pitched across the entire array he's developed over time. B. Kite for Initiates would include his Criterion essay on Bigger Than Life (the best piece ever written in English on Nicholas Ray); his two-part, 20,000-word blood-on-the-walls forensic of Rivette (the best piece ever written in English on the director); his two-part, Believer-published rumination on Jerry Lewis (the best piece ever written in English on that director too, aside, of course, from Jerry's own words about himself); either of his two looks at Kiyoshi Kurosawa (by now you've no doubt detected a pattern; read them in Exile Cinema and the booklet for the MoC Blu-ray/DVD of Tokyo Sonata, respectively); and his two-episode (to date) video-essay American (the best — and most aesthetically advanced — examination of Orson Welles likely not only to ever be directed but also likely to be outright ever conceived).

So what can one expect addressed in the new essay on vid-games?

-- The anxiety of gaming and play as time-wasting activity, examined through the lens of Johan Huizinga and his remark: "This ‘only pretending’ quality of play betrays a consciousness of the inferiority of play compared to ‘seriousness,’ a feeling that seems to be something as primary as play itself.”

-- "[T]he perpetual hype-cycle of an enthusiast press."

-- Will Wright's body of work ("beautifully designed") and its implicit worldview (the exertion of his "pet set['s] ... subtly coercive influence": "a capitalistic land value ecology" in SimCity, etc.).

-- Games as "a medium of displaced tactility" that elicits a "physical empathy" which has a correlative in the movie-watching experience (cf. Astaire / Bresson's models / Laurel).

-- "[T]he threat of inexpressive or even awkward juncture" / the uncanny / "the unalive face."

-- Gus Van Sant's Elephant — "an anti-shooter that keeps restarting itself, as if to delay the arrival of guns and slaughter."

-- Grand Theft Auto IV, "an intense nostalgia for the world outside your window," Phil Solomon, Still Raining, Still Dreaming.

-- Jacques Rivette, Out 1, Le Pont du Nord.

-- Hollis Frampton's Zorn's Lemma and Raúl Ruiz's Poetics of Cinema.

-- Joyce / Nabokov.

-- The recently reignited Roger Ebert kerfuffle-non-kerfuffle, variant texts, Shakespeare, a consideration that "[p]art of the reason games are so often thought of [as either a fundamentally narrative medium, or as wanting to become one] is undoubtedly due to a hype contingent among both developers and the press that takes any opportunity to tout some coming together of film and games — 'interactive movies' — as the inevitable future of both media," a double thought-experiment in which Roger Ebert is transported back in time one hundred years and then at the dawn of the photographic mechanism.

-- Finnegans Wake as "a possibility space," and Foreman / Warhol / Tati.

-- Keita Takahashi, Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari, and the recent Noby Noby Boy.

The above comprises only an arbitrary selection of "topics covered." The integral exploration resides at the following two links:

State of Play, Pt 1

State of Play, Pt 2


The photographs by Marco Anelli for Marina Ambramović's The Artist Is Present are incredible. MoMA's full Flickr photoset containing the Anelli portraits of every sitter (along with multiple images of Ambramović) can be accessed here.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chris Marker in 1984 / 2010 / 2084

I just saw that Artur Renzo has posted to YouTube the 10-minute masterpiece in miniature by Chris Marker made for the 1984 Visions du Réel festival in Nyon, Switzerland — 2084. Embedded below. English and Portuguese subtitles optional.


Also: one week ago The New Republic posted here a selection of recent photos taken by Chris Marker in the Paris Métro. David Thomson provides the short introduction, but the essay beneath the slideshow is clearly written (in the third-person, voilà) by Marker himself.

"When he first started the project, Chris Marker was an elderly gentleman, but still nimble and fit — so he was not often noticed. He may have been 89; he could not always remember. But he had spent most of his life one way or another underground, and he did not need a message from outer space to tell him in this strange time that the newcomers — the aliens, whatever — might be seen first underground. [...] They had a mission, and their loveliness — he thought everyone was lovely in the metro’s white light — was their purpose. It was all journey and destination."



Late update: Thanks to Bill Krohn, who just pointed out to me this "post-scriptum" to the ten-part/two-hour JLG interview from April 27th conducted by Edwy Plenel, Ludovic Lamant, and Sylvain Bourmeau for Mediapart. (All of the ten parts are embedded at the post here.) A shot — taken in JLG's work-studio, at his own prompting — of a film in-playback: an unreleased short by Godard around the painter Georges de La Tour. Footage embedded below. The accompanying text at Mediapart can be accessed here.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jean-Luc Godard Interviewed by Jean-Marc Lalanne in LES INROCKS: "The Right of the Author? An Author Has Only Duties"

The following is my English translation of an interview by Jean-Marc Lalanne with Jean-Luc Godard, dated May 18th 2010, in the French cultural weekly Les Inrockuptibles. The original French text can be accessed at the Inrocks site here.


The filmmaker received us at his home in Switzerland for a provocative, and intimate, interview. Welcome to Rolle.

Rolle's not exactly the center of the world. Just a small, slightly dreary town on Lake Geneva, 40 kilometers from the city of Geneva. But it's also an Eden for multimillionaires seeking a tax-haven. For the nice taxi driver who takes us to the gare de Genève, this geography of celebrities has kept few secrets: "You see the house on the shore at the bottom of the hill — that's Michael Schumacher's. And there's where Peter Ustinov lived. Phil Collins is right over there..."

And what about Jean-Luc Godard? "Once, a Japanese guy got into my car," the driver continues, "and asked me if I knew where monsieur Godard lived. I told him yes, and I took him there, at which point he said: 'Wait just one minute,' — he took three photos, got back into the cab, and asked me to take him back to the gate. He's known all the way to Japan, monsieur Godard!" Whether or not he's the most mythic ("all the way to Japan") resident of the Vaud, monsieur Godard doesn't live in Rolle for the same reason as his neighboring celebs.

A resident of France, that's where he pays his taxes. He lives in Switzerland because he was born here; because he can't do without "certain landscapes", he'll tell us in an interview which, as always with this man, is greatly panoramic. For four hours, in his slightly messy, very functional office, right next to his work area with its half-dozen flat-screens and its shelves filled with countless VHS tapes and DVDs from which he pulls his citations, we spoke about history, politics, Greece, intellectual property, and, of course, cinema — but also about more intimate things: such as his health, and his relationship to death.

—J.-M. L


LALANNE: Why the title Film Socialisme?

GODARD: I've always had the titles in advance — they give me some indication of the films that I might make.

A title coming before every idea for a film is a little bit like 'setting the tone' in music. I have a whole list of them. Like titles in the sense of nobility, or titles in the sense of a bank. More like titles in the sense of a bank. I started out with Socialisme, but as the film started taking shape, it seemed less and less satisfactory. The film could just as well have been called Communisme or Capitalisme. But there was a funny coincidence: Jean-Paul Curnier [a philosopher. —JML], while reading a little presentational brochure I'd sent around, where the name of the production company Vega Film came before the title, read it as "Film Socialisme" and thought that was the title. He wrote me a twelve-page letter telling me how happy this made him. I said to myself that he must be right, and I decided to keep Film in front of Socialisme. It lends the word a little dignity.

LALANNE: Where does the idea of the cruise through the Mediterranean come from? Homer?

GODARD: At first I was thinking of a story that would take place in Serbia, but it didn't work. So I had the idea of a family in a garage, the Martin family. But it didn't work for a feature-length film, because then the people would turn into characters, and whatever took place would turn into a narrative. The story of a mother and her children, a film that might be made in France, with lines of dialogue, and 'moods'.

LALANNE: Indeed, the members of this family almost resemble characters of an ordinary fiction. It's been a very long time since this has taken place in your cinema...

GODARD: Yes, maybe... Not quite, though. The scenes get interrupted before anyone turns into characters. Instead, they're statues. Statues that speak. If one speaks of statues, it's said that "it comes from another time." And if one says "another time," then one takes off on a voyage; one sets off upon the Mediterranean. Where the cruise comes in. I'd read a book by Léon Daudet, the polemicist from the beginning of the century, called Le Voyage de Shakespeare [1927]. The course of a boat was followed over the Mediterranean that carried the young Shakespeare, who still hadn't written anything. So all of it started coming together, little by little.

LALANNE: How did you go about arranging all this?

GODARD: There aren't any rules. The same applies to poetry, or to painting, or to mathematics. Especially to ancient geometry. The urge to compose figures, to put a circle around a square, to plot a tangent. It's elementary geometry. If it's elementary, there are elements. So I show the sea... Voilà, it can't really be described — it's associations. And if we're saying "association," we might be saying "socialism." If we're saying "socialism," we might be speaking about politics.

LALANNE: The HADOPI law, for example, or the matter of prosecuting downloads, or the property of images...

GODARD: I'm against HADOPI, of course. There's no intellectual property. I'm against estates, for example. That the children of an artist might enjoy the rights of their parents' body of work, why not, until they come of age. But afterward — I see no evidence that Ravel's children are getting their hands on the rights for the Boléro...

LALANNE: You don't claim any rights over the images that any artists might be lifting from your films?

GODARD: Of course not. Besides, people are doing it, putting them up on the Internet, and for the most part they don't look very good... But I don't have the feeling that they're taking something away from me. I don't have the Internet. Anne-Marie [Miéville, his partner, and a filmmaker —JML] uses it. But in my film, there are images that come from the Internet, like those images of the two cats together.

LALANNE: For you, there's no difference in status between those anonymous images of cats that circulate on the Internet, and the shot from John Ford's Cheyenne Autumn that you're also making use of in Film Socialisme?

GODARD: Statutorily, I don't see why I'd be differentiating between the two. If I had to plead in a court of law against charges of filching images for my films, I'd hire two lawyers, with two different systems. The one would defend the right of quotation, which barely exists for the cinema. In literature, you can quote extensively. In the Miller [Genius and Lust: A Journey Through the Major Writings of Henry Miller, 1976 —JML] by Norman Mailer, there's 80% Henry Miller, and 20% Norman Mailer. In the sciences, no scientist pays a fee to use a formula established by a conference. That's quotation, and cinema doesn't allow it. I read Marie Darrieussecq's book, Rapport de police [Rapport de police, accusations de plagiat et autres modes de surveillance de la fiction / Police Report: Accusations of Plagiarism and Other Modes of Surveillance in Fiction, 2010], and I thought it was very good, because she went into a historical inquiry of this issue. The right of the author — it's really not possible. An author has no right. I have no right. I have only duties. And then in my film, there's another type of "loan" — not quotations, but just excerpts. Like a shot, when a blood-sample gets taken for analysis. That would be the defense of my second lawyer. He'd defend, for example, my use of the shots of the trapeze artists that come from Les Plages d'Agnès. This shot isn't a quotation — I'm not quoting Agnès Varda's film: I'm benefiting from her work. I'm taking an excerpt, which I'm incorporating somewhere else, where it takes on another meaning: in this case, symbolizing peace between Israel and Palestine. I didn't pay for that shot. But if Agnès asked me for money, I figure it would be for a reasonable price. Which is to say, a price in proportion with the economy of the film, the number of spectators that it reaches...

LALANNE: In order to metaphorically express peace in the Middle East, why do you prefer to sample one of Agnès Varda's images instead of shooting one on your own?

GODARD: I thought the metaphor in Agnès' film was excellent.

LALANNE: But it has nothing to do with that, in her film...

GODARD: No, of course not. I'm the one who builds it, by moving the image. I'm not thinking of harming the image. I thought it was perfect for what I wanted to say. If the Palestinians and the Israelis put on a circus and brought together a bunch of trapeze artists, things would be different in the Middle East. For me this image shows a perfect agreement — exactly what I wanted to express. So I'm taking the image, since it exists. The socialism of the film is the undermining of the idea of property, beginning with that of artworks... There shouldn't be any property over artworks. Beaumarchais only wanted to enjoy a portion of the receipts from Le Mariage du Figaro. He might say, "I'm the one who wrote Figaro." But I don't think he would have said, "Figaro is mine." This feeling of property over artworks came later on. These days, a guy attaches lighting to the Eiffel Tower — he gets paid for it; but if you film the Eiffel Tower, you have to pay this guy something on top of it.

LALANNE: Your film's going up online via FilmoTV at the same time as we'll be able to go see it in a theater...

GODARD: That wasn't my idea. When the film-trailers were made, which is to say the whole film speeded-up, I proposed putting them up on YouTube because it's a good way of getting things out there. Putting the film up online was the distributor's idea. They put money up for the film, so I'm doing what they request. If it was up to me, I wouldn't have released it this way. It took four years to make this film. In production terms, it was very atypical. It was shot in quarters, divided equally with Battaggia, Arragno, and Grivas. Each one set off and brought back images. Grivas went off alone to Egypt, and brought back hours of footage... A lot of time went into it. I think the film would have benefited from a similar relationship, duration-wise, to its distribution.

LALANNE: What does that mean, in concrete terms?

GODARD: I really would have liked to have a boy and a girl be involved, a couple who had the urge to show things, who were kind of involved with the cinema, the sort of young people you might meet at small festivals. They'd be given a copy of the film on DVD, then be asked to train as skydivers. After that, places would be randomly chosen on a map of France, and they'd parachute down into those locations. They'd have to show the film wherever they landed. In a café, at a hotel... they'd manage. People would pay 3 or 4 euros to get in — no more than that. They might film this adventure, and sell it later on. Thanks to them, you get a sense of what it means to distribute a film. Afterwards, only you can make the decision, to find out whether or not it's able to be projected in regular theaters. But not before having investigated everything for a year or two. Because beforehand, you're just like me: you don't know what the film is, you don't know what might be interesting about it. You've gone a little outside the whole media space.

LALANNE: In the 1980s, we saw you in the press, on TV, more often...

GODARD: Yes, it bothers me now. I'm no longer looking to subvert a certain process of television. At the time, I believed in that, a little. I didn't think that it would change anything, but that it might get people interested in doing things differently. It interests them for three minutes. There are still things I'm interested in about television: programs about animals, history channels. I really like House, too. Somebody's injured, everybody gathers around him, the characters express themselves in hypertechnical jargon — I really like it. But I couldn't watch ten episodes in a row.

LALANNE: Why did you invite Alain Badiou and Patti Smith to be in your latest film, but ended up filming them so little?

GODARD: Patti Smith was there, so I filmed her. I don't see why I should have filmed her for any length of time greater than I would, say, a waitress.

LALANNE: Why did you ask her to be involved?

GODARD: So that there would be one good American. Someone who embodies something other than imperialism.

LALANNE: And Alain Badiou?

GODARD: I wanted to quote a text about geometry by Hussserl, and I wanted someone to develop something of his own from that. It interested him.

LALANNE: Why film him in front of an empty auditorium?

GODARD: Because none of the tourists on the cruise had any interest in his lecture. It was announced that there would be a lecture about Husserl, and no-one showed up. When Badiou was brought into this empty auditorium, he was really happy. He said: "Finally, I get to speak in front of nobody." [laughs] I could have framed it closer, not for the sake of filming the empty auditorium, but to show that it was words in a desert, that we're in the desert. It made me think of Jean Genet's phrase: "You have to go looking for images because they're in the desert." In my cinema, there are never any intentions. It's not me inventing this empty auditorium. I don't want to say anything, I try to show, or to get feeling across, or to allow something else to be said after the fact. When you hear: "Today the assholes are sincere — they believe in Europe," what else is there to say? That one can't believe in Europe without being an asshole? It's a phrase that came to me while reading some passages from La Nausée. In those times, the asshole wasn't sincere. A torturer knew he wasn't being honest. These days, the asshole is sincere. As for Europe, it's existed a long time; there's no need to make it into something other than it is. I find it hard to understand, say, how anyone could be a parliamentarian for it — like Dany [Daniel Cohn-Bendit —JML]. Isn't it odd?

LALANNE: A political party shouldn't consist of ecology?

GODARD: You know parties... Parties are always committed [to one thing]. Even their names, sometimes. De Gaulle was against parties. During the Liberation, though, he brought the parties to the Conseil de la Résistance in order to swing some weight around in front of the Americans. The National Front was even there. Except it wasn't the same thing as it is today. At the time, it was one of the Communist Party's endeavors. I don't really know why the other ones held onto that name afterward. A committed party...

LALANNE: The second-to-last quotation in the film is: "If the law is unjust, justice proceeds past the law..."

GODARD: It ties back in with the right of the author. Every DVD starts off with a title from the FBI criminalizing copies. I went for Pascal. But you might take something else away from that phrase. You might think about Roman Polanski's arrest, for example.

LALANNE: Were you spurred on by the fact that Polanski's arrest took place in your country, Switzerland?

GODARD: I'm Franco-Swiss. I pass for Swiss, but I declare residence in France; I pay my taxes in France. In Switzerland, there are certain landscapes I like that I couldn't do without. And further to that, I have my roots here. But politically speaking, I'm shocked by lots of things. Same as with Polanski, Switzerland refused to submit to the United States. They should discuss — not accept. I hope that every filmmaker that goes to Cannes rallies around Polanski, and affirms that Swiss justice is not just. Just as they've done to support the imprisoned filmmaker Jafar Panahi. Just as one might say "the Iranian regime is an evil regime," they should say "the Swiss regime isn't good."

LALANNE: The ban on minarets?

GODARD: That's nothing... As far as Switzerland's concerned, I think of Qaddafi: Romandy Switzerland belongs to France; German Switzerland belongs to Germany; Italian Switzerland belongs to Italy; and voilà, no more Switzerland!

LALANNE: The Greek crisis resonates strongly with your film...

GODARD: We should give thanks to Greece. It's the West that has a debt in relation to Greece. Philosophy, democracy, tragedy... We always forget the links between tragedy and democracy. Without Sophocles, no Pericles. Without Pericles, no Sophocles. The technological world in which we live owes everything to Greece. Who invented logic? Aristotle. If this and if that, then this. Logic. It's what the dominant powers use every day — ensuring that there's no contradiction whatsoever, that we stay inside of the same logic. Hannah Arendt put it well when she said that logic leads to totalitarianism. So today the whole world owes Greece money. Greece could ask the contemporary world for one trillion copyrights, and it would only be logical to turn them over to it. Post-haste.

LALANNE: The Greeks are also accused of being liars...

GODARD: It reminds me of an old syllogism I learned in school. Epaminondas is a liar — and yet, every Greek is a liar — thus, Epaminondas is Greek. We haven't advanced much farther than that.

LALANNE: Did Barack Obama's election alter your perception of American international politics?

GODARD: It's funny, Edwy Plenel [in the Mediapart video-interview. —CK] asked me the same question. Obama's election left me neither warm nor cold. I've been hoping for his sake that no-one would jump in to assassinate him. That he represents the United States — it's not exactly the same thing as when it was George Bush. But sometimes things are clearer when they're at their worst. When Chirac found himself facing Le Pen on the second leg of the presidential campaign, I was thinking that the left should abstain and not vote for Chirac. It's better to let the worst happen.

LALANNE: Why? That's dangerous...

GODARD: Because in a single instant, everyone pauses to think. Just like with tsunamis...

LALANNE: What are we supposed to pause and think about, with tsunamis?

GODARD: About what gets called nature, in which we take part. There are moments when it has to take its revenge. Meteorologists only speak a scientific language; they don't speak philosophically. No-one listens to the way in which a tree philosophizes.

LALANNE: Are you still interested in sports?

GODARD: Yes, but I regret that today football puts nothing more forward than a completely defensive game. Aside from Barcelona. But Barcelona can't play two matches in a row at the same level.

LALANNE: It depends. They won out over Arsenal.

GODARD: Yes, but not against Milan. Why can't they rally? When nothing comes off, you've got fewer matches.

LALANNE: This past winter, you made a very short film in homage to Eric Rohmer...

GODARD: Les Films du Losange asked me to. I wanted to use the titles of his articles, to evoke things that I'd seen or done with him when we were young at the Cahiers in the 1950s. I could hardly say anything about him. You can't talk about people with whom you've shared very little. Of course, this isn't the method of Antoine de Baecque...

LALANNE: Have you read the biography by Antoine de Baecque devoted to you?

GODARD: I've flipped through it.

LALANNE: Could you care less that it exists, or are you bothered by it?

GODARD: It bothers me for Anne-Marie's sake. Because there are false things in it. It also bothers me that people in my family turned documents over to him. It's bad form. But I haven't done anything to prevent its release.

LALANNE: Did you keep in touch with Eric Rohmer?

GODARD: A tiny bit, because he was living in the same building in Paris. So we spoke to one another from time to time.

LALANNE: Have you seen his final films?

GODARD: Yes, on DVD. Triple Agent is a very strange film. I'm really into espionage, but I wouldn't have imagined that such a subject might interest him.

LALANNE: Is the idea of accomplishing a body of work, one which life granted you the time to complete, a matter that weighs upon you?

GODARD: No. I don't believe in the body of work. There are works, they might be produced in individual installments, but the body of work as a collection, the great oeuvre, I have no interest in it. I prefer to speak in terms of pathways. Along my course, there are highs and there are lows, there are attempts... I've towed the line a lot. You know, the most difficult thing is to tell a friend that what he's done isn't very good. I can't do it. Rohmer was brave enough to tell me at the time of the Cahiers that my critique of Strangers on a Train was bad. Rivette could say it too. And we paid a lot of attention to what Rivette thought. As for François Truffaut, he didn't forgive me for thinking his films were worthless. He also suffered from not ending up finding my films as worthless as I thought his own were.

LALANNE: Do you really think that Truffaut's films are worthless?

GODARD: No, not worthless... Not any more than anything else... Not any more than Chabrol's... But that wasn't the cinema we were dreaming of.

LALANNE: Posterity, leaving a trace behind — does this concern you?

GODARD: No, not at all.

LALANNE: But has it weighed upon you even for an instant?

GODARD: Never.

LALANNE: I have a hard time believing that. You can't make Pierrot le fou without having the urge to create a masterpiece, to be the champion of the world, to take your place in history forever...

GODARD: Maybe you're right. I had to stake that claim in my early works. I came back down to earth pretty quickly.

LALANNE: Do you think about your death?

GODARD: Yes, inevitably. With health problems... You end up being a lot more introspective than you used to be. Life changes. In any case, I've made a break with the social life for a long time now. I'd really like to take tennis back up again, which I had to stop due to knee-problems. When you get old, childhood starts coming back. It's good. And no, I don't get particularly distressed about dying.

LALANNE: You seem pretty detached...

GODARD: Mais au contraire! I'm very attached! [laughs] And further on this topic: Anne-Marie told me the other day that if she ever ends up outliving me, she'd write on my tombstone: "Au contraire..."


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jean-Luc Godard Speaks with Daniel Cohn-Bendit: A Smile That Dismisses the Universe

My English translation of the conversation between Jean-Luc Godard and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the cover story of the latest issue of Télérama, no. 3148 and dated 13 May 2010, follows. The original French text can be accessed at the Télérama site here. The photography that accompanies the piece, reproduced below, is by Patrick Swirc for Télérama.


Every March 22nd, Dany the Green [ex-Dany le Rouge. —CK] and the hermit of Rolle think about one another. What brings them together? A mutual respect, and Le Vent d'est, a "leftist spaghetti-western" by JLG, which the two shot together forty years ago. So what do two personalities, so different from each other, have to talk about when they pick up the thread of their dialogue? Europe, ecology, and cinema, of course. But also: Palestine, llamas, Bulgarians... and Film Socialisme, the latest work by JLG, presented in Un certain regard on Monday the 17th. Below, an audio extract of this discussion between the hellion and the filmmaker.

[The audio excerpt can be downloaded here.]

"More popular than the Pope, and just a little less so than The Beatles," François Truffaut said about him in 1967. That year, Jean-Luc Godard was going vaguely "Mao" with La Chinoise. One year later, he was upstaged by a wry young anarchist who launched his "appeal of March 22nd" from Nanterre; Daniel Cohn-Bendit was in rehearsal for his month of May. Le joli month unfolding, and the anarchist denied residence, our two accomplices went off to Italy to shoot Le Vent d'est, a "leftist spaghetti-western" forgotten today. [Not by me, nor by tens of thousands of others, nor by JPG. —CK] Forty years have gone by: Jean-Luc and Daniel "are well-known, are recognized, have gone off the radar..."

Off the radar? Dozens of films down the road for one of them — and a euro-eco-liberal-libertarian turn for the other — here we learn that every March 22nd [in commemoration of the "Mouvement du 22 Mars," when Cohn-Bendit — who was a German national — et al occupied the administrative building at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense. —CK] they stop a bit to think about one another. And therefore, on the occasion of the release of Film Socialisme, Jean-Luc Godard, from his Rolle retreat, on the shores of Lake Geneva, wanted to discuss Europe, in Strasbourg, with Friend Dany.

Europe is at the heart of Film Socialisme, which takes us along on a sea-cruise across the Mediterranean with pleasure-seekers who have known war and its affairs. "Poor Europe!" says an African woman, as she leans against the rail of the deck. "I don't want to die without having seen Europe happy once again," echoes a young Russian girl. Both sufficiently enigmatic to instill within Dany the desire to seek out Jean-Luc, but on the shores of Lake Geneva. JLG, 79 years old, with a devilish twinkle in the eye, greets us with a nasty surprise: he's getting ready to sell off the den where he's worked for forty years. Silence — no more filming? Dany, out of sorts about the film's title ("Socialisme," "Cinéma Socialisme"...), tried for two hours and forty minutes to get to the bottom of this story. Extracts:


COHN-BENDIT: These screens, this equipment, these videos, these books... you're really gonna get rid of everything?

GODARD: But it's not getting rid of things — it's all just a bygone era. Anne-Marie [Miéville] did it before I did. It's over — you can barely create anything. The cinema is a small society that was formed a hundred years ago, in which there were all these human connections, money relationships, relationships having to do with women — and that's gone. The history of the cinema isn't one of films, just like how the history of painting isn't one of canvases. The cinema barely existed. I personally attempted to turn it into something else. But these days, I'm on my last legs.

COHN-BENDIT: That's not true — there's an incredible energy in your film. What amazed me is that you portray so many different layers — you're on the Mediterranean, and then you show social strata...

GODARD: The production went very smoothly. But afterward, you stumble into distribution, circulation, and it's a whole other story. I wanted to distribute my film across the same amount of time that the production took — meaning across four years...

COHN-BENDIT: You put four years into this?

GODARD: Yes; I told them: it's going to take four years to make it — actually, no, I didn't tell them that. And I wanted to distribute it like this: you take a boy and a girl, or two or three small groups, you give them video copies, you drop them out of an airplane by parachute, they have a map of France, they don't know where they're going to land, and you let them sort things out, go into cafés, show it a few hundred times... Then you look at what's happening — they get the lay of the land, they find out what people think about the film. In the second year, you show it in a few screening rooms at small festivals. Afterwards, you no longer need to release it — you'll have recouped everything, especially since the producers have put in so little — 300,000 euros — but this will have taken four years. In lieu of that, it's being distributed into a world for which it wasn't produced...

COHN-BENDIT: But the film's going to Cannes?

GODARD: "They" sent it to Cannes.

COHN-BENDIT: You're not going? In Berlin, everyone was waiting for you the entire night — you were supposed to received the Prix du film européen.

GODARD: But I said no.

COHN-BENDIT: They said you said yes.

GODARD: But I never said yes.

COHN-BENDIT: I knew that you wouldn't show up, and I wrote them telling them so. Wenders put together a beautiful text...

GODARD: But I responded to him, to Wim — to tell him I wasn't coming. That's all there was to it. There was a strong feeling, with Anne-Marie, that there's no more need for a big to-do. How do you drum up a small audience, so as to earn a living? Before '68, my audience in Paris was 100,000 people.

COHN-BENDIT: For A bout de souffle — way more than that!

GODARD: But ten years after A bout de souffle, it was a lot lower. It was always fixed at 100,000 tickets sold, because this was the same number of people who attended the burial of Pierre Overney. [footnote: "Maoist militant killed by a Renault security guard on February 25th, 1972."]. We told ourselves: we'll always find them, the audience. The problem is, that there's no longer 100,000 in Paris — there's that many in the entire world. At most you can reach 10% of them. I try to do something, but I can no longer get caught up in everything, URSSAF [Unions de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d'Allocations Familiales, or "the Organizations for the payment of social security and family benefit contributions"], the royalty payments..

COHN-BENDIT: You don't want to, or you're no longer able?

GODARD: I'm no longer able.

COHN-BENDIT: Because you've had enough?

GODARD: No, because the rules have changed. There was a screening of Film Socialisme this past March 22nd. You weren't there.

COHN-BENDIT: You should have let me know...

GODARD: Well, we wrote you, but it got lost in the shuffle. You were in the middle of arguing with Cécile Duflot [national secretary of the Green Party in France]. I spoke with Anne-Marie about this yesterday — I told her: I'm a little worried to see Dany. I don't know why he really wants to see me. We see one another from time to time. It was always me who went to see you, from the time of Nanterre on...


COHN-BENDIT: In this film of yours, Socialisme...

GODARD: No — Film Socialisme.

COHN-BENDIT: Sorry — Film Socialisme. There's a phrase: "The individual is inside of the other, and the other is inside of the individual, and these are three individuals..." In 1969, I remember you made a drawing for Anne Wiazemsky, with a kangaroo; you were inside of its pocket, and you wrote that same phrase underneath the drawing. So, to hear it once again in this film, it's very moving, because for me you're representing a continuity...

GODARD: You for me as well — this is why I was worried about seeing you again. When I saw you for the first time, in 1966 or 1967, you weren't well-known, I was somewhat well-known, this was the era of the university in Nanterre, of Strasbourg situationists' text De la misère en milieu étudiant [On Misery in the Student Milieu], and I was preparing La Chinoise. The second time I saw you, it was February 20th, 1968, at the second demonstration for Henri Langlois at the Cinémathèque, on rue de Courcelles; you got together with us because you had an interest, you saw that there was a movement. The foundational elements of May '68 were the workers' movements in Caen and Redon, and the children of Langlois. Well anyway, you were there...

COHN-BENDIT: I was impressed by the kid, the one from Les Quatre cents coups, Jean-Pierre Léaud, who gave a grandiose speech in front of the Cinémathèque: he recited a text, and we thought it was 1789. Then there was our Italian adventure, Le Vent d'est. As I was thrown out of France, I was crazy about doing anything at all based around a collective idea.

GODARD: We decided to go to Italy where there were all these leftist militants. We had to make a living — we had money, a nice young Italian producer. We held general assemblies in the morning to decide what to shoot in the afternoon. But nobody cared about the film I was trying to make, except for you, Dany, who felt somewhat responsible... These days, I say to myself: I've become an unknown, and he's become more than well-known, but I don't know what brings this about. The event of seeing you as a European parliamentarian, I have the impression that you've taken a side, if one might say, or rather, taken by a side. ["tu me fais l'effet d'être de parti pris si l'on peut dire, ou plutôt pris par le parti."]

COHN-BENDIT: My wife has been saying to me for two days now: why are you nervous? Our last meeting, in 1996, in Strasbourg, for the preview of your film about Sarajevo, For Ever Mozart, didn't go so well...

GODARD: There, it had nothing to do with you — I was in an argument with an actress because she didn't want to speak about the film. Every March 22nd, for a long time, I've sent you a little note. After a while, when you've been carrying a suitcase around for a long time, you just can't carry it anymore. I thought about this again when we had that screening, this past March 22nd. I remembered that, after May '68, when you were expelled from the country, I went to see Deleuze — you were on your way back from his place — we crossed paths on the sidewalk, and I didn't recognize you, because you had a pipe. You said: "It's so I won't be recognized."


COHN-BENDIT: To come back to Cinéma Socialisme [sic], it's a film that touches me. When you say "the Americans liberated Europe by making it dependent..."

GODARD: That's Malaparte; that's not me.

COHN-BENDIT: We all left something...

GODARD: The film might provide some ideas. Take Greece — it's what used to be called one of our humanities. And now one can only speak of Greece's debt.

COHN-BENDIT: Whereas we're indebted to Greece...

GODARD: You're right — it's normal enough that the Greeks did nothing for thirty years, since German tourists, who were on a complete rampage, were bringing them money.

COHN-BENDIT: The Swiss were pretty good at this, too...

GODARD: Yes, but the Swiss are very German... I'm kidding. But Greece, you can't talk about it in the way that politicians talk about it. They only draw up reports — they don't put their feet on the ground; they don't do any investigating.

COHN-BENDIT: I don't define myself as a classical politician. I'm from that world, I take part in it, but I've never drawn up a report in my life.

GODARD: This is why I like following your career, because you are to politics what I was to what was called cinema.

COHN-BENDIT: You still are that, in cinema.

GODARD: No, I'm in films, in the fabrication of films.

COHN-BENDIT: Yes, but in our imaginary cinema, in our European culture, in people's minds, you loom very large. A young filmmaker who starts to see your films today, to discuss them — this is a reality!

GODARD: Maybe, maybe... I personally see that there are films, there's television, there's still literature, there's no longer painting, only installations, and that's weak. It's very difficult to talk about it, you start to contradict yourself. I'm often accused of contradicting myself, but it's not for the fun of contradiction.

COHN-BENDIT: It can be fun...

GODARD: Yes, a little fun, but it's to provoke an argument, in the sense intended by the Greeks.

COHN-BENDIT: This is why Cinéma Socialisme [sic] is interesting, because it provokes arguments.

GODARD: No, it will provoke itself into being forgotten pretty quickly. An interesting contradiction, I still hope. What do you find interesting in this film?

COHN-BENDIT: Several things, starting with the connection that you have to Europe, which is, for you, a great deception.

GODARD: That's how it is! They started out with coal and steel. They might just as well have started out with something else.

COHN-BENDIT: This was for reasons of war, that they said —

GODARD: The war is over! But Truman said: we're going to make peace like we made war. A shrink would tell us he wasn't listening to what he was saying.

COHN-BENDIT: You're taking issue with Europe by saying: I wish it were something else.

GODARD: I would have liked it to be something else! But you can't wish it so. Even in the cinema, you're no big deal, you're five or ten thousand people in France. A film crew, it runs from two to forty. For a few months, it exists. Bachelard says there are two kinds of images: the explicit image, and the implicit image. I try to make an implicit image. It can't be made consciously.

COHN-BENDIT: But what you're doing in Socialisme, by posing the problem of Europe, is to speak about the Mediterranean, with stories.

GODARD: I put down five or six places that made me who I am. Africa, Palestine, the Russian revolution, Odessa, Greece, Italy. And Spain to cap it off. Then I added stories in German, as Germany was something important in my life.


COHN-BENDIT: Money keeps coming up in this ocean voyage with these Europeans, these Whites...

GODARD: These pleasure-cruisers...

COHN-BENDIT: It's somewhere between touching and malicious. These pleasure-cruisers on this immense ship, this completely insane society.

GODARD: That wasn't made-up, the world of the retraités. The problem with getaways is being spoken about in France at the present moment. Well, if you want getaways like that, like that cruise, go ahead, be my guest!

COHN-BENDIT: Why all these stories about money? This gold from the Komintern?

GODARD: I had coffee with Jacques Tati, when he was in financial ruin. When it came time to pay the check, he left an old gold coin, a doubloon from the time in America of the Incas. I paid for his coffee; he kept his coin. And then I wondered: how did it come about that Tati would have a gold coin like that? And I thought up a plausible scenario: his last producer, Louis Dolivet, produced Orson Welles' Mr. Arkadin in Spain, but before that, he was the secretary for Willi Münzenberg...

COHN-BENDIT: Münzenberg, the propaganda-chief for the German Communist Party in the '30s...

GODARD: Louis Dolivet was also involved with the Komintern. After the invasion of France by the Germans, the Komintern transferred the gold from the Spanish bank over to Russia; they loaded it in Barcelona onboard the France Navigation company, which belonged to the French Communist Party. But upon arriving in Odessa, a third of the gold disappeared, and a second third again disappeared before arriving in Moscow... I imagined that the Germans had infiltrated the ship, that they had taken a portion of it — that's how the old French policeman tells it in the film. But the young Russian girl who goes rummaging through the archives figures: the third that's missing, Komintern took it, and the rest wound up in Louis Dolivet's pockets, whose fortune can't be explained otherwise...


COHN-BENDIT: You also show that Europe's original sin is Palestine. You put this across with two or three images and a very old photo.

GODARD: That's one of the first photos that we have of Palestine, and it's Elias Sanbar who tells the story: in 1839 Daguerre presented his invention, the daguerréotype, at the Académie des sciences. A swarm of photographers then rushed off to the holy lands, and nowhere else. Probably because there was a desire to see if the words of the Bible were true.

COHN-BENDIT: There are people obsessed with the Jews, and when they're told, like Shlomo Sand, that there are Jews, but that Jewish citizenry is a legal creation of the '40s, they go nuts and don't accept this discussion. And there are others who are obsessed with the Palestinians. The two tell me so much about how things operate. They're looking for the ultimate victim, shoving it in our faces. I for one say: cut it out, I'm not on any one side, let's try and have a discussion... Why this obsession with Palestine in your work?

GODARD: Palestine is like the cinema: it's searching for independence. It took me ten or fifteen years to say to the producer: you've agreed to put out so much money, give it to me, I'm the one who handles it. That's been a real fight, even with Jean-Pierre Rassam, to get control over the film. Just like with my father: you've agreed to give this to me, don't ask me what I'm going to do with it, have faith in me. Nicolas Seydoux, of Gaumont, told me: well look it, the money I'm giving you — are you gonna blow it?

COHN-BENDIT: If someone proposed to you to set off for Israel and Palestine with your new little cameras, would you go?

GODARD: But you don't film that way! Some people do it, they're documentaries, sometimes interesting ones. I watch the discussion programs a lot, like C dans l'air, but I do it for practice, to see if I still have the ability to give a comeback.

COHN-BENDIT: Like in tennis, against the wall...

GODARD: Yes. You can't film that way. I'm trying to show things in relation to peace in the Middle East — for example, if she gives me the right to do so, I take a lovely shot from Agnès Varda where we see two trapeze artists, then you hear a girl's voice chanting the Talmud and a girl's voice chanting the Koran. I'm not in power, so I can't do anything else.


COHN-BENDIT: When I saw the llama in your film, I said to myself: that llama is Jean-Luc!

GODARD: Not at all — that llama lived on the side of a garage; I saw him everyday, and I said to myself: we're going to use him. There was a donkey too. I was able to use a few animals, this world we don't have much conscience towards, that supposedly has no language when in fact it does have one, supposedly no face when in fact it does have one: Levinas was wrong. [footnote in the original: "The philosopher Emmanuel Levinas developed his reflections on the face in Ethique et infini and Totalité et infini..."] In any case, it's plausible, with this llama.

COHN-BENDIT: Like that USSR T-shirt worn by a child?

GODARD: I'd brought that back from Germany a while back. The child probably doesn't know what it is. In a film called Film Socialisme, we can still place the symbols of so-called socialism.

COHN-BENDIT: For you, is "socialism" still something that has a meaning?

GODARD: If we're talking about getting to the bottom [du fond] of things, the bottom of the sea, of Rousseau, yes. I had first called this film Socialisme, but it seemed to have too many connotations. Film Socialisme is different: a philosopher wrote a dozen pages to me saying it's wonderful to have seen "film" with "socialism," because this is saying something else, above all it means "hope."

COHN-BENDIT: Myself, I would have put "ecology"...

GODARD: Film Écologie?

COHN-BENDIT: Yes, if I get asked for my conception of society, of the bottom of the sea as you say, these days, it would no longer be socialism.

GODARD: Europe and ecology, I like it — and it hurts to see you here, it touches at the core [au fond].

COHN-BENDIT: Why hurts? Seeing me in those environments?

GODARD: No, because nothing's able to work out. Whereas making a film, writing a book, one's still able. I stay in my domain, I note that the only ones who wanted to make a European cinema were the Germans in 1933.

COHN-BENDIT: But it doesn't interest you, the idea of creating a space in Europe where the cinema is able to exist? Burning the bridges of American cultural dependence?

GODARD: But it's 150% here! And if you want to make a film with Eurimages, you need tons of paper, and everything is made with lies, with false estimates. My film was declared for 25 million, while it cost 300,000 euros. Why is that?

COHN-BENDIT: These are the lies of the system, just like the Greek lie...

GODARD: ...and Greece goes on lying, and also telling its truth. You don't create a system for European painting, for European music — so why one for cinema? They give aid to cinema, fishing, agriculture, and they don't come around... It has to slow down, to limit itself. I'm not for decline, but for periods of growth and periods of decline.

COHN-BENDIT: I agree completely.

GODARD: When we met for the first time, in Nanterre, we had nothing in common, but we lived in communal situations. We haven't moved away from one another, because there's a fraternal side, although we're poles apart. When I think back to you announcing that you were going to throw a big party when you turned 68!

COHN-BENDIT: Because I'll finally be a '68er! You have to come.

GODARD: I've never been to a nightclub in my life.

COHN-BENDIT: But that's not what it will be! First we'll show some films...

GODARD: And after your party, what are you gonna do, hold conferences?

COHN-BENDIT: I'll have contracts drawn up with L'Equipe: there'll be enough sporting events to cover in an intelligent manner — we'll go to Brazil together for the World Cup, you'll come with your camera, and we'll pitch it to Arte.

GODARD: No, that's a lot of to-do, and I don't want to be caught up in the thick of it anymore. I have been too often, and to my detriment. Chardin said at the end of his life: painting is an island I approach little by little; right now, I see it very blurry. I'll always make painting in my own way. Even if it be with a camera-pencil or three photos.


GODARD: Levinas never had to look at himself in a mirror — maybe this is why he said that one can't kill when one sees the face of the Other. Myself, when I look into a mirror, for a few years now, I say: that's not me, it's an Other. Now, I see myself behind me. But I have to admit that others see me that way. Most people think: "I am myself and he is himself." There's little chance we might agree, or if we do only superficially; after all, why not, if the superficial works, but people shouldn't complain.

COHN-BENDIT: That comes back often in your work. People are responsible for what is. They don't have the right to complain.

GODARD: They have the courage to live their life, but they don't have the courage to imagine it.

COHN-BENDIT: And you, you have the courage to imagine it but not to live it...

GODARD: Alas, I imagine it all too well.

COHN-BENDIT: But when you make a film like Cinéma socialiste [sic], you're living it — these are three intense years.

GODARD: Yes, like any creation. But I don't understand why old people can't be used for work, there's a lack of interest from the other, whereas they'd benefit.

COHN-BENDIT: You say you want to sell off, or you have sold off, I don't know, all your equipment, your books, your videos...

GODARD: I'd like it to come to an end. I shut down my production company because, although I pay my taxes in France, the State doesn't know too well how to do things. Our accountant's name is Fada, and he is what he is, he's super great, but he has to get paid, and it's too much. I'd rather have a maid than an accountant.

COHN-BENDIT: But when we see your three sets of shelves here, where you have all the film's documentation, these two hundred books accumulated for Cinéma Socialisme [sic], I find it absurd to say: voilà, it's all getting disbanded.

GODARD: No, it's had its time.

COHN-BENDIT: But a ton of things have had their time — paintings have had their time, and you still look at them. And that there, that's a painting. Walter Benjamin said: "Es ist eine Kunstwerk an sich," it's a work of art of oneself.

GODARD: Well, someone will buy me and scatter all my stuff.

COHN-BENDIT: But you mustn't let them scatter this work of art.

GODARD: I don't need images... heirlooms.

COHN-BENDIT: This isn't a question of heirlooms. When I was young, I came to Lausanne because Cira was there, the Centre d'archives, d'information et de recherche anarchiste. It was an old Bulgarian woman who kept all these documents about anarchy. Dispersed, it wouldn't have made any sense.

GODARD: Well, long live old Bulgarian women! All I've found is a young Egyptian. I love archaeologists.

COHN-BENDIT: Your book and film collections — they speak. Jean-Luc Godard, these are your films, and these documents. They're speaking!

GODARD: They've spoken to me, and that's fine. But a museum isn't going to get made. It's a half-material, half-intellectual contraption that has functioned with me. We're coming to an end! This is what's allowing me to live another year.

COHN-BENDIT: Did the Egyptian tell you what he wants to do with it?

GODARD: It doesn't interest me. This place will be remodeled into offices; they'll be put up for rent in the month of July. And whoever comes after won't have to pay the security deposit. There's no recovery, in Switzerland.




On Friday, The Independent reported the following:

"The legendary French film director Jean-Luc Godard, whose latest work, Film Socialisme, is showing at Cannes this week, has decided to run its subtitles in 'Navajo English' as in old Westerns where the Native Americans spoke in choppy phrases. Because the drama takes place on a cruise ship where no one speaks the same language, Godard has fashioned his subtitles concisely to say the least. If a character is saying, 'Give me your watch,' the subtitle will read 'You, me, watch.' "


Following screening, preliminary number "ratings" out of 10. From Letras de Cine here. Some friends are present in the list. —

Cristina Nord ( Die Tageszeitung Alemania): 8
Fernando Ganzo (Lumiere, España): 10
Gabe Klinger (The Auteurs Notebook, EE.UU.): 10 (It may be 10, it may be a 0... it doesn't matter. It was moving,
infuriating, liberating, painful, beautiful, ugly. In short, nothing
less than we expect from Godard. Not conventional in the least, as
some suspected, and clearly a work with consistent vision and of an
articulate mind, whatever the detractors will inevitably say)
Emmanuel Burdeau (Mediapart, Francia): 9,5
Sergio Wolf (Director artístico de BAFICI, Argentina): 10 (I vote only this time. Wolf)
Leonardo D'Espósito (Crítica de la Argentina, Argentina): 10
Mark Peranson (Cinema Scope, Canada): [when asked about the film] NO COMMENT
Jaime Pena (El Amante, Cahiers du Cinéma España, España): 10.9 (or 11)
Alejandro G. Calvo (, España): 9
Olivier Père (Director artístico Festival de Locarno, Francia): 10
Carlo Chatrian (Panoramiques, Duellanti, Italia): 9
Diego Batlle (La Nación, Otros Cines, Argentina): 7
Luciano Monteagudo (Página/12, Argentina): 10
Scott Foundas (Filmlinc, EE.UU): 10
Carlos F. Heredero (Cahiers du Cinéma España, España): 8
Eugenio Renzi (Independencia, Francia): 10
Robert Koehler: (Variety, EE.UU.): 10
Roger Alan Koza (La Voz del Interior, Argentina): 10
Gonzalo de Pedro (Cahiers du Cinéma España, Público, España): 10


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

FILM SOCIALISME Press-Book: Interview with JLG by Renaud Deflins

An English-language version of the Film Socialisme press-book has been posted at the Festival de Cannes website as a PDF. You can download it here. The French-language version PDF can be downloaded here.

I reproduce below (with minor textual-tweaks) the English-language translation of the interview with Godard conducted by "Renaud Deflins" for "SUD Rail Magazine", April 15th 2010, contained within the press-book. —pour N.B.—*

Side-note: Godard's signature has been placed at the top of a petition in support of Polanski, organized by Bernard-Henri Lévy and posted at Lévy's site La Règle du Jeu. Others who have signed, up to the present evening: Mathieu Amalric; Xavier Beauvois; Agnès Varda; Bertrand Tavernier; Olivier Assayas; Jean-Stéphane Bron; Patricio Guzmán; Jean-Paul Civeyrac; Katell Quillévéré; Cristi Puiu; Louis Garrel. Petition in French and English can be found here.

Another piece (this only in French) extremely worth reading, and which I hope to get a chance to translate here soon, is BHL's April 6th editorial about Godard, and the remarks about his own remarks quoted in two recent biographies. It can be accessed here. The closing statements, worth reproducing for the immediate instant (and without yet translating the details on Terre promise), are as follows:

"Que le rapport de Godard au fait juif soit complexe, contradictoire, ambigu, que son soutien du début des années 70, dans « Ici et ailleurs » par exemple, aux points de vue palestiniens les plus extrémistes fasse problème, qu’il y ait dans les « Morceaux de conversations » d’Alain Fleischer (2009) des séquences que je ne connaissais par définition pas lorsque furent lancés chacun de ces projets et qui, aujourd’hui, m’ébranlent, cela est incontestable. Mais déduire de tout cela un péremptoire « Godard antisémite ! » et s’appuyer sur cet antisémitisme supposé pour, en une démarche de plus en plus courante en cette basse époque de police de l’art et de la pensée, tenter de disqualifier l’œuvre entière, c’est faire injure à un artiste considérable en même temps que jouer avec un mot – l’antisémitisme – à manier, je le répète, avec la plus extrême prudence.

"J’ai hésité avant d’écrire ces lignes. J’ai lu et relu, pour cela, le paquet de notes et de documents que j’ai conservés au fil de ces années. Mais c’était affaire de clarté et, je crois, de probité."

And now on to the Film Socialisme press-book interview.

* UPDATE: (Nicole Brenez clarifies things further in an email she sent me this morning: " 'Renaud Deflins' is a reference to the Usine Renault de Flins, a hotspot in '68's political fights. SUD [Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques] is the farthest-left union of workers, and SUD Rail the branch that distinguished itself for being the most radical for the defense of the French public service (opposite to all the liberal and capitalist system, frontline to our governmental politics). It was co-founded by one of my cousins, who just died last week. So I'm extremely touched and happy for him and his comrades. This new junction between Jean-Luc Godard and the fighting workers is great news.")


DEFLINS: Production, distribution, exploitation?

GODARD: Since the end of the big studios, after the Second World War, the order was inverted, with the aristocracy henceforth coming first, and the "third estate" last.

DEFLINS: Cinema and films — the difference?

GODARD: The same, cinema is not necessarily to be found in films.


GODARD: Very quickly: the dimension of time has disappeared and space has been flattened, Cinemascope, 16:9.

DEFLINS: And what, what about geometry?

GODARD: Euclid understood the language of the Pyramids, not Aristotle.

DEFLINS: And the word "why"?

GODARD: Freud didn't study the birth of the word after birth, when the infant still speaks without words. Animals alone will be its custodian.

DEFLINS: Peace in the Middle East — when?

GODARD: As soon as Israel and Palestine introduce six million dogs, and stroll around with them in the vicinity of one another without saying a word, without saying a single word about anything.

DEFLINS: Tragedy and democracy?

GODARD: Without Sophocles, no Pericles.

DEFLINS: And copyright?

GODARD: We forget that Beaumarchais' real problem wasn't retaining ownership of Le Mariage de Figaro, but simply getting his share of the receipts.

DEFLINS: What are our humanities?

GODARD: In the past, in French high schools, Greek and Latin were identified as such. We can define humanity as an infinite curve in all its points save one where it is null. (cf. L. Schwarz)

DEFLINS: A happy Europe?

GODARD: Rather than receive historical wisdoms, we'd do better to understand that our Europe was created by the German princes in the process of their unification. And therefore that in the present day, France, Poland, Hungary are nothing more than "Länder". And, in its desire to "fara da se", Italy already presupposes future Axis forces.

DEFLINS: In rhyming "equality" with "shit"?

GODARD: Our "?" is the sign of it. The only behavior in which animals and humans inhabit an equality — chamberpot, seat, chairs, etc.

DEFLINS: Fixed shots only?

GODARD: The chemist doesn't do tracking shots in front of his microscope nor oil companies when drilling into the sea-bed.

DEFLINS: And the face of the Other?

GODARD: Unfortunately for him, the philosopher Levinas didn't walk out onto the battlefield with a camcorder and his reversible mirror.

DEFLINS: Blogs and text-messaging?

GODARD: In a way, behind this young thinking similar to that of an earthworm, one thing matters to all these passionate Phoenixes: to survive and find in the depths of chaos a chance to resurrect. (cf. Prigogine)

DEFLINS: Politics again?

GODARD: Yes, as modern democracies, by rendering politics a domain of separate thought, are predisposed to totalitarianism.

DEFLINS: IXE [Information Exchange for Economics] plus three equals one?

GODARD: Not an Einstein-style formula — a metaphor at the apex and the roots of all montage. If financial, for example, it allows the current debt of Greece to be brought near the hordes of German tourists. In Montesquieu's phrase: when finance is privileged, the State is lost.

DEFLINS: And images?

GODARD: The old magus Bachelard spoke about implicit and explicit images. We might cite Jules Renard with his image of silence: snow falling on water.

DEFLINS: A vision of the future?

GODARD: Even with Final Cut, the most humble or most arrogant of editors is in prison, bound to the past as to the future and must deal with it for the present. Only cinema reproduces this human work.

DEFLINS: One final film?

GODARD: Nothing more than a title: Farewell to Language.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Two-Hour Interview with Jean-Luc Godard on FILM SOCIALISME

Thank you to Andy Rector, who alerted me today to a two-hour video interview filmed on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010 with JLG at his home in Rolle, Switzerland, on the topic of Film Socialisme (et cetera). The interview was conducted by Edwy Plenel, Ludovic Lamant, and Sylvain Bourmeau. One new installment of the total ten will appear online at each day from today, May 10th, on up until the theatrical premiere and release of the film in France on May 19th. Note that at the present there are no subtitles.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010


This week I was watching Jeanne la pucelle — I woke up today still unaware of course and during morning shower I thought about Lubtchansky who reduced the distance between the image and the emulsion — I was writing a piece on Kentucker Audley's Open Five and a long section turned out to be about Lubtchansky — dear Willy — alone in the mercantile world of technicians — Lubtchansky — ("a metaphor for something old") — an artisan — Willy Lubtchansky — ("knight errant") — the plumbline and tape — the lumens of the candle — the lamp and the mirror — impedimenta of this wise-man —

Tonight, William Lubtchansky too, the greatest of all cinematographers, sleeps the sleep of the just.

Five days ago from Andy Rector at Kino Slang here.

Elsa la rose

Les Créatures

Pourquoi Israël

L'An 01

Ici et ailleurs

Scènes de la vie parallèle: 2: Duelle (une quarantaine)

Scènes de la vie parallèle: 3: Noroît (une vengeance)

Numéro deux

Six fois deux, sur et sous la communication

Toute révolution est un coup de dés


Comment ça va?


La Mémoire courte

Sauve qui peut (la vie)


La Femme d'à côté

Le Pont du Nord

Trop tôt trop tard / Zu früh zu spät / Too Early Too Late


L'Amour par terre


Les Saisons du plaisir

Nouvelle Vague

Le Petit criminel

La Belle noiseuse

La Belle noiseuse, divertimento

Die Antigone

Jeanne la pucelle

Du fond du cœur

Un vivant qui passe

Von heute auf morgen, Oper in einem Akt von Arnold Schönberg

Secret défense


Il viandante (Le Chemineau)

Le Rémouleur

Va savoir

Lundi matin

Petites coupures

Histoire de Marie et Julien

Une visite au Louvre

Les Amants réguliers

Ne touchez pas la hache

La Frontière de l'aube

Itinéraire de Jean Bricard

36 vues du Pic Saint-Loup