TORONTO DISPATCH: C’EST WHAT? GODARD IS HARD

OKCMOA Film Curator Brian Hearn is at the Toronto International Film Festival, and will be posting some of his thoughts on what he’s seeing. Here’s his first report:

Greetings from lovely and amazing Toronto. The 35th Toronto International Film Festival, arguably THE main event in North America, (other than deadCENTER of course!) kicked off last night and I got things started with the 100 proof stuff. By that I mean Jean-Luc Godard’s latest, “Film Socialism.” It’s incredible to think that Godard helped reinvent the language of cinema fifty years ago with his first feature “Breathless.” We’re in a different century now and he is still pushing the envelope of what cinema can be and do. “Film Socialism” could be described as anti-narrative and decidedly experimental. Godard called it a “symphony in three movements.” Unfortunately, my French sucks and of course there were no english subtitles so I just sat back and rolled with it. Oddly enough much of the film is set on a cruise ship, one of those massive, gaudy pleasure boats crammed with tourists making ports of call in Barcelona, Naples, Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Odessa (Potemkin anyone?). The film was shot with hi-def video, cell phone cameras, and numerous digital still cameras intercut with all manner of stock footage from World War II, Hollywood films, and news clips to make an utterly mind boggling metaphysical mash up. Cameras of all kinds were a repetitive visual theme as was the act of image making/taking. The numerous protagonists in the film passionately recited texts from literature and philosophy, mostly in French and German. Did I mention rocker/poet/artist Patti Smith wanders in and out of the film strumming her guitar on the cruise ship? The audio was often intentionally distorted and remixed. Intertitles between scenes were in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, French and the final frame of the film simply stated “NO COMMENT.” Okay, I have no idea what it all meant. But here are some of the visual impressions that are still with me. Water is the opening shot of the film appearing again and again. Our planet is covered with it, we are mostly made of it, and it will likely replace petroleum as the most contentious natural resource in the near future. War is a central preoccupation for him and he pulls no punches. Ancient or contemporary, our species appears to be addicted violent conflict. Who knew Godard was an animal lover!? This film had owls, cats, donkeys, and my favorite, a grubby llama tied to a gas pump. Um, this movie will not be coming to a cinema near you. Nevertheless, Godard still has the fire in the belly some fifty years later. He’s all the more endearing to me for turning his nose up at an Honorary Oscar earlier this week.

-Brian

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