On Godard: Fragmented Thoughts And Experience

I knocked at the door of his studio, then walked in. Hakuna Matata1) jumped from his chair and waved pointing to his large TV screen.

‘Listen to this. It’s Susan Sontag2) talking about Jean Luc Godard3).’

art-group-meeting-01I sat next to him and watched Susan Sontag in her woollen jumper smiling at us as she spoke. The expression on her face was mostly serious with an occasional half smile aimed not at the audience but at the beauty of this world.

‘Godard proclaimed that nothing is alien to his work,’ she said.

‘From cultural appetite at this scale comes the creation of work that is: casually encyclopaedic, anthologizing, formally and thematically eclectic, and marked by a rapid turnover of styles and forms. Thus, one of the most striking features of his work is a continuous effort of hybridization, involving mixtures of tonalities, themes, and narrative methods. Various techniques from literature, theatre, painting and television mingle freely in his work, alongside witty allusions to movie history itself.’

art-group-meeting-03‘The elements often seem contradictory, but the results of their merger turn out to be something harmonious, plastically and ethically engaging, and emotionally tonic.’

‘He is probably the first major director to enter the cinema on the level of commercial production with an explicitly critical intention. The extent to which his works contain elaborate and often humorous reflections on the media of film itself, presents an elaboration of a well-established tendency of the arts to become more self-conscious, more self-referring.’

‘Like any important body of work in modern culture, his films are also events. Thay push their audience to reconsider the meaning and scope of the art form of which they are instances; they’re not only works of art, but meta-artistic activities aimed at reorganising the audience’s entire sensibility.’

‘His procedures are: light-hearted, playful, often witty, sometimes flippant, sometimes just silly.
Like any gifted polemicist, he has the courage to simplify himself. This simplistic quality in much of his work is as much a kind of generosity toward his audience as an aggression against them.’

‘The attitude that Godard brings to the film medium is often called ‘literary’. What’s usually meant by this charge, as when Satie4) was accused of composing literary music or Magritte5) of making literary painting, is a preoccupation with ideas, with conceptualisation, at the expense of the sensual integrity and emotional force of the work.
More generally, it points to the habit of violating the essential unity of a given art form by introducing alien elements into it.’

‘Onart-group-meeting-02e noticeable influence of Brecht6) resides in formal devices Godard uses to counteract ordinary plot development and complicate the emotional involvement of the audience. He uses the rhetoric of disorientation and practices many sensorial techniques that serve to fragment the cinematic narrative.’

‘For example, fifteen minutes into the film, Godard off-camera says, ‘For the latecomers, what’s happened so far is …’
Thereby two different but concurrent times are established in the film – the time of the action shown, and the time of the narrator’s reflection on what’s shown, allowing the free passage back and forth between the first-person narration and the third-person presentation of the action.’

Then we were interrupted by energetic knocking at the door. It was his girlfriend, the front-girl of a heavy metal band and we were running late for their gig. She was nervous and we immediately left in silence.

More than ever I was convinced that large TV screens were invented for watching pornography, because body parts magnified to satisfy everyone’s erotic appetite. It seems that bigger is better.

We rushed to the car and I sat next to Mr Verdi7). He did not comment on the interview, as he rarely does on matters not related to political activism or music.

To avoid heavy traffic, we decided to take a longer but faster route. In one of the side streets we passed a solar powered sign:

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Footnotes:
1) Hakuna Matata – Originates from a Swahili phrase, translated as ‘no worries’. More on Wikipedia
2) Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004) – a Jewish-American writer. More on Wikipedia
3) Jean Luc Godard (born in 1930) – a French-Swiss film director and critic. More on Wikipedia
4) Erik Satie (1866 – 1925) – a French composer and pianist. More on Wikipedia
5) René Magritte (1898 – 1967) – a Belgian surrealist artist. More on Wikipedia
6) Bertold Brecht (1898 – 1956) – a German poet, playwriter and theatre director. More on Wikipedia
7) Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901) – an Italian opera composer. More on Wikipedia