Monday, May 22, 2023

Marcos Uzal's First Impression of Jean-Luc Godard's TRAILER OF THE FILM THAT WILL NEVER EXIST: "PHONY WARS" at Cannes 2023

I've translated the following dispatch from Cannes by Marcos Uzal that was posted at the Cahiers du Cinéma site yesterday:


JLG: Torn Pages

Even if his closest collaborators (Fabrice Aragno, Jean-Paul Battaggia, and Nicole Brenez) have announced that other films for which Jean-Luc Godard has left materials and instructions will soon see the light of day, Film annonce du film qui n'existera jamais «Drôles de guerres» [Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist "Phony Wars", 2022/2023] is the final one that he'll have totally completed and approved while he was still alive. At the image level, it's essentially made up of shots showing the pages from the preparatory notebook for the trailer of a film that he won't end up shooting (Phony Wars). It is thus the rough outline for the announcement of a film. Even if it is going unreleased under that form, the act is not new. Scénario de Sauve qui peut (la vie) [Scenario of Sauve qui peut (la vie), 1979], Scénario du film Passion [Scenario of the Film Passion, 1982], Petites notes à propos du film Je vous salue, Marie [Small Notes Regarding the Film Je vous salue, Marie, 1983] — showing how many ideas at the origins of the films are applied to the feature-films themselves are only at base the sum of associations of images and sounds, of sensations and forms, and that in this they never constitute a completed, full whole. For Godard, whose very first short-film, Opération béton [Operation Concrete, 1955] was a documentary about the construction of a dam, every movie is a construction site, and every film construction site is itself a film. In its radicalness, in the proper sense (at the roots) Film annonce... thereby synthesizes all of his art: a cinema of collage, that encompasses painting (images fixes free in a precise temporality), music (sound and rhythm, even before the image), and poetry (cited text, as a color, a vision, a music). A film that would also be a book, an exposition, a conversation between friends...

The emotion that embraces us is also due to the way in which Godard is present here. First off, because we hold more than ever to the work of his hands, which wrote, underlined with colors, and glued together these papers and these sentences. And then, between bits of music and fragments from the soundtracks of his films, we hear his old-man's-voice, soft, quavering to the extreme. Notably, he dwells on the evocation of the Belgian communist writer Charles Plisnier whose short story "Carlotta" he would have liked to adapt. At one point, he says of him: "He made portraits of faces." And suddenly the stripping of pages from the notebook is broken to give way to shots of women's faces taken from his films (Notre musique in particular), and we understand that through Plisnier it's indeed a result of him that he also spoke, and that here Godard has just given us what might be a posthumous definition of his own work. Yes, he made portraits of faces. Elsewhere, it is written on one page of the notebook: "Just a share." ("Juste un faire part.") And this Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist moves us like the last murmur of a man who is preparing to leave. It is not sad; it is absolutely luminous. Simple and clean, like the ultimate sketch of a genius.


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