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Goodbye to Language 3D (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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“Goodbye to Language 3D” is an entertaining, complex and yet cerebral film.  One that requires multiple viewings, a film that requires you to be fully in the zone and not distracted as you may miss certain important references or dialogue.  And with over 70-years of dedication of cinema, Jean-Luc Godard has managed to challenge the cineaste and will continue to do so as long as he is creating cinema. “Goodbye to Language 3D” is recommended for the cineaste ready for a challenge! 

Images courtesy of © 2014 Kino Lorber. All Rights Reserved.


TITLE: Goodbye to Language 3D

FILM RELEASE: 2014

DURATION: 69 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 2D and 3D, 1:78:1 for 3D, 1:85:1 for 2D, Original Aspect Ratio, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English Subtitles

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: N/A

Release Date: April 14, 2015


Written and Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Produced by Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval, Alain Sarde

Cinematography by Fabrice Aragno


Starring:

Heloise Godet as Josette

Kamel Abdeli as Gedeon

Richard Chevalier as Marcus

Zoe Bruneau as Ivitch

Christian Gregori as Davidson

Jessica Erickson as Mary Sheley

Marie Ruchat

Jeremy Zampatti


Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Goodbye to Language 3D is a triumphant masterpiece from Jean-Luc Godard. Using 3D technology to mind-bending effect, the film follows a couple whose relationship breaks down along with the images, which in its second half takes a dog’s-eye view of the world. It is a meditation on history and illusion that creates 3D effects more spectacular than any Hollywood blockbuster, figures merging and weaving across the screen along with the film’s ideas about romantic love and being-in-the-world. It has the feeling of a final statement, but knowing Godard’s penchant for re-invention, hopefully it is yet another beginning to an extraordinary career.


In 2014, French director Jean-Luc Godard would create his 42nd feature film, a French-Swiss 3D experimental narrative essay which Godard also wrote.

The film would star Heloise Godet (“Girl on a Bicycle”, “Errance”), Kamel Abdeli (“Djihad!”, “Une Journee sur la terre”), Richard Chevallier (“Cafe de Flore”, “Part-Time”), Zoe Bruneau (“Les gazelles”, “Pas tout de suite”), Christian Gregori (“Attention aux chiens”, “Les Petites couleurs”) and Jessica Erickson (“8th Wonderland”, “Graduation Day”).

Wanting to collaborate with cinematographer Fabrice Aragno, Aragno was dissatisfied with modern professional 3D cameras that he created his own custom rig with Canon 5D DSLR camera, Canon 1DC and inexpensive Flip Minos.  And for four years, both he and Godard shot footage, with Godard editing the footage in 2D and Aragno via 3D with color correction and surround sound.  But also experimenting with double exposure 3D image and shots with parallax.

The film would win the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and won Best Picture at the 2014 National Society of Film Critics Awards.  And as such with many Godard films, there were film critics who praised the film and others who dismissed it as incomprehensible.

And now “Goodbye to Language” both in 2D and 3D (2-Blu-ray Discs) will be released in April 2015 courtesy of Kino Lorber.

I will not bother giving a summary of the film, because the film is demanding of the viewer to watch it several times.  Even watching it several times may not make a connection to the viewer and the characters, female actresses Heloise Godet and Zoe Bruneau and male actors, Kamel Abdelia and Richard Chevallier, will no doubt confuse viewers as both look like each other, which the casting was intentional.

“Goodbye to Language” is an experimental narrative about a couple who are having an affair.  The stories are “1 Nature” and the other “2 Metaphor” focus on couples Gedeon and Josette, the other on Marcus and Ivitch.  Davidson is possibly a scholar, and Marie and her boyfriend also make an appearance.

We know there are discussions of Vladimir K. Zworykin, Adolf Hitler, Rodin’s “The thinker”, Mao Zedong’s opinion of the French Revolution and quite possibly, an affair between one of the couples.

Meanwhile, Jean-Luc Godard’s dog, Roxy is seen, swimming, taking a dump, paraphrasing Clifford D. Simak’s “Time and Again”.

During the film, while people are talking, clips of many films show in the background and makes references to art, science, literature, philosophy and political theory.


VIDEO:

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:84:1 aspect ratio) and is presented in HD. Because of the experimental style of this film, shot with DSLR’s and other types of cameras, the scenes vary to clear, noisy, soft and for the most part, not going for consistent but experimental in nature.

AUDIO:

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is presented in French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Don’t expect Godard to go on easy on the audiophile as the lossless audio can get a bit frenetic.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Goodbye to Language 3D” comes with the following special features:

  • Canon Europe Interview – (46:19) Featuring an interview with Jean-Luc Godard about the making of “Goodbye to Language” and more.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:27) The theatrical trailer for “Goodbye to Language 3D”.

Leave it to Jean-Luc Godard to explain his movie and making it seem so simple.

Godard said about his 2014 film, “It’s about a man and his wife who no longer speak the same language.  The dog they take on walks then intervenes and speaks.”

In many ways, I can understand where Godard is coming from.  A failure of a marriage and relationship is often due to the lack of communication, often the differences between the individuals.

But unlike earlier Godard films in which the relationship is straightforward, “Goodbye to Language” is not.

In fact, I think “Goodbye to Language 3D” as a film for Godard to take on new technology, to take on the growing number of 3D films and break convention and as always the rebel, buck away from traditional Hollywood practices and give us his version of a 3D film.

Working with cinematographer Fabrice Aragno who decided to do away with the 3D technology employed in Hollywood, opting for DSLR’s and mini-digital recorders, “Goodbye to Language 3D” is an interesting experiment with these technologies to create a narrative of two couples, who look very much like each other but the circumstances are similar and also very different.  Like the red and blue of 3D glasses, they work similarly but the colors are very different.

Throw in a professor, a young man and woman and a dog who then occupies most of the film and we are left with a movie that is intellectually unforgiving, a movie that is possibly to some incomprehensible and for others, leaving them with a smile on their faces, because Godard has created a film that few will truly understand (or so they think they do).

What I can best say about “Goodbye to Language 3D” is that it is a film about multiple stories, which reference to many other multiple stories and despite having watched this film several times, even I can’t tell you what I watched, because one time I focused on the couples, then I found myself focusing on the dog and then I found myself zeroing on the references, may they be archival and another time, I tried to see if the experimentation used in the film served any major purpose.

The answer is yes, but how they correlate, I’m not even sure myself if they are supposed to.

While watching this film, there are parts of me that want to give off this maniacal laugh because I feel like other Godard films, there is a subtle “Fuck you” message from the filmmaker who could care less whether or not you understand the film or not.

Once can read a plethora of reviews from those who get the film, yet each give off their own different perception of what the film is about.  I have watched the film several times now and I find myself fighting what I thought what I thought was what the film was, just to find out that I came up with another new perspective.

And while my best memories of the film are naked people and a dog having fun in the country, the narration is complex, thought-provoking and I keep going back to it, because there are many references but I try to zero-in on the message.

Every Godard film that I have watched, I found a message, no matter how complex or political, I got it.  “Goodbye to Language 3D” is problematic for me as a reviewer because it’s a first for me to watch a Godard film and yet, fighting my every thought of the film which I think I understand, but really don’t.  Maybe that was intentional, like the experimental use of video and audio for the film.  You take things as they are, whatever your interpretation is and go with it.

Overall, “Goodbye to Language 3D” is an entertaining, complex and yet cerebral film.  One that requires multiple viewings, a film that requires you to be fully in the zone and not distracted as you may miss certain important references or dialogue.

And while this may be a first for me watching a Godard film in which I continually contradict each perspective I originally had for the film, perhaps that is a good thing.  But yet, I can’t help but give out a maniacal laugh to Jean-Luc Godard for creating films that people will love, hate, a film they will understand or not understand but yet, creating a film that he wants to do, the way he wants it to be, under his own terms and could care less whether or not you get it.

And with over 70-years of dedication of cinema, Godard has managed to challenge the cineaste and will continue to do so as long as he is creating cinema.

“Goodbye to Language 3D” is recommended for the cineaste ready for a challenge!

Every Man For Himself – The Criterion Collection #744 (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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As a fan of Godard’s oeuvre, “Every Man For Himself” is a Godard film that is best experienced than reading reviews about it.  No words can describe the film correctly because everyone will have their own opinion of what the film is about.  But if you have enjoyed Godard’s films from the past to even his later films, one can appreciate Godard’s contribution to cinema.  In this case, a creative, bold and unique film that can never be duplicated.  “Every Man For Himself” is highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 2015 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Every Man For Himself – The Criterion Collection #744

RELEASE OF FILM: 1980

DURATION: 88 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, 1:66:1 Aspect Ratio, French Monaural, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection

RELEASED: February 3, 2015

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Scenario by Anne-Marie Mieville and Jean-Claude Carriere

Music by Gabriel Yared

Director of Photography: Renato Berta, William Lubtchansky, Jean-Bernard Menoud

Edited by Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie Mieville

Art direction by Romain Goupil

Starring:

Isabelle Huppert as Isabelle Riviere

Jacques Dutronc as Paul Godard

Nathalie Baye as Denise Rimbaud

Cecile Tanner as Cecile

Anna Baldaccini as Isabelle’s Sister

After a decade in the wilds of avant-garde and early video experimentation, Jean-Luc Godard (Breathless) returned to commercial cinema with this work of social commentary, star-driven and narrative while remaining defiantly intellectual and visually cutting-edge. Every Man for Himself, featuring a script by Jean-Claude Carrière (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) and Anne-Marie Miéville (Ici et ailleurs), looks at the sexual and professional lives of three people—a television producer (Van Gogh’s Jacques Dutronc), his ex-girlfriend (The Return of Martin Guerre’s Nathalie Baye), and a prostitute (White Material’s Isabelle Huppert)—to create a meditative story about work, relationships, and the notion of freedom. Made twenty years into his career, the film was, according to Godard, a second debut.

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After a decade of focusing on militant left-wing films and becoming a different type of filmmaker unlike the Nouvelle Vague director that everyone had come to appreciate back in the ’60s, by 1980, Jean-Luc Godard was ready to step back into the mainstream.

With more money and well-known French film stars, Godard would create “Sauve qui peut (la vie)” (a.k.a. “Every Man for Himself”), a film which Godard has called his “second first film”.  It was a film which would lead Jean-Luc Godard to promote the film heavily in the United States but it was also a chance for Godard to show the world of his experimental style of filmmaking, which he had dubbed as “decomposition” (which features slowing down of action via frame by frame).

The film would star Isabelle Huppert (“Amour”, “The Piano Teacher”, “I Heart Huckabees”), Jacques Dutronc (“Sightseers”, “Factory Girl”, “Moonrise Kingdom”), Nathalie Baye (“Catch Me If You Can”, “An Affair of Love”, “Tell No One”) and Cecile Tanner (“Three Colors: Red”, “Requiem”).

The film would earn Jean-Luc Godard a Palme d’Or nomination at the 19980 Cannes Film Festival and nominations at the Cesar Awards, which actress Nathalie Baye would win “Best Actress – Supporting Role”.

And now, “Every Man For Himself” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

It’s important to note that this film is not easy to describe.  It’s a film that is rather interesting because of its out-of-left-field dialogue but also because of it’s unusual characters and the experimentation which Jean-Luc Godard employs throughout the film.  From slow motion shots, music and sounds just being cut or shortened and how far each of these characters go in order to find their own happiness or to survive.

The film is split up into three sections.  In the first section, we are introduced to Paul Godard (portrayed by Jacques Dutronc), a filmmaker who is dating his estranged girlfriend, Denise Rimbaud (portrayed by Nathalie Baye).

Denise is trying to decide if she wants to give up a hotel she shares with Paul and leaving her job from a TV station where Paul currently works.  She is often riding a bike.

The second section features Paul, who is picking up his daughter Cecile (portrayed by Cecile Tanner) from soccer practice and immediately, he has discussion with the soccer coach if he ever felt like touching his own daughter or having sex with her.  We see Paul’s relationship with his ex-wife and his daughter, but also the arguments that he and Denise tend to have.  Meanwhile, Paul meets Isabelle (portrayed by Isabelle Huppert), a prostitute.

The third section focuses on Isabelle and we get to see her life as a prostitute and the unusual requests that she gets.

By the final segment, everything comes full circle and we see the connection between each character.

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VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Every Man For Himself – The Criterion Collection #744″ is presented in 1:66:1. Before I begin, it’s important to note that if you want the best picture quality, you will want to get the Blu-ray version of this film.

On DVD, the film looks very good for a film of its age. While I’m sure the Blu-ray version is superior, “Every Man For Himself” shows good contrast, clearer picture quality and grain. While I noticed no film damage during my viewing of the short film.

According to the Criterion Collection, “This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative.”

Audio is presented in French monaural and according to the Criterion Collection, “The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the 35mm sound negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube’s integrated workstation, and iZotope RX 4.”

Dialogue is clear through the monaural soundtrack with no sign of hiss or pops.

Subtitles are in English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Every Man For Himself – The Criterion Collection #744″ comes with the following special features:

  • Scenario De “Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie)” – (5:47) A 20-minute video submitted to the Centre national du cinema, in place of a screenplay, to secure Godard financing for the film.
  • Sound, Image, and Every Man For Himself – (25:54) Film historian Colin MacAbe explores the way Jean-Luc Godard plays with sound and image.
  • Jean-Luc Godard on the Dick Cavett Show – Featuring a promo plus two episodes (25 min. each) of Jean-Luc Godard being interviewed by Dick Cavett for “The Dick Cavett” show.
  • Godard 1980 – (16:19) A short film featuring Jon Jost, Don Ranvaud, and Peter Wllen interview Jean-Luc Godard.
  • Interviews – Featuring interviews with Marin Karmitz, Isabelle Huppert, Nathalie Baye, Renato Berta and William Lubtchansky and Gabriel Yared.
  • Trailer – Features the theatrical trailer for “Every Man For Himself”.

EXTRAS:

“Every Man For Himself – The Criterion Collection #744″ comes with a 6-fold insert with the essay “Themes and Variations” by Amy Taubin.

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“Every Man For Himself” has always been a film that I look at in a variety of ways.

Jean-Luc Godard back home from vacation.  Jean-Luc Godard has had enough of a decade without money making militant left-wing films and now he wants to come back to mainstream cinema.

While I did enjoy “Tout va bien” in 1972 and for the most part, the Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin collaborative years, the ’70s was a political time in Godard’s life as a filmmaker.

By 1980, the filmmaker was ready to take on mainstream cinema with “Every Man For Himself” which included a promotional effort by Godard to promote the film.  With the support of producer Alain Sarde, who loved Godard’s films, he was able to obtain financing from television stations from France, West Germany and Switzerland.

Unlike his films from the past, “Every Man For Himself” marked a new direction for Jean-Luc Godard, the filmmaker.  A difference of technology (in this case, it was the use of a video tape instead of a storybook) but also a difference in cinema.  People held a newfound respect towards Godard for his contributions to French cinema.

But on the set, like his previous films, Godard was still Godard and his attitude on the set was well-known to be problematic, challenging and troubled.

The fact is that the character of Paul Godard reflected Jean-Luc Godard, the character of Denise was modeled after Godard’s companion, Anne-Marie Mieville.

No one knew what to expect from the film because Jean-Luc Godard never informed them what the scene would be about.

In one scene in the film, Godard has the camera focused on young actress Cecile Tanner who played the character of Cecile.  A daughter who played soccer, while her father asks incestuous questions to the coach about his daughter.  While Godard filmed Tanner close-up, she had no idea of the discussion the two men were having about the character.

For Isabelle Huppert (known for her performance in “Amour” and “The Piano Teacher”), she would have one of the more memorable scenes in the film, because they revolve around sex. And they are sexual scenes that are quite interesting to watch on the big screen and don’t expect to see in a Godard film.

From the character of Isabelle trying to get her sister involved in prostitution, meeting an older single man in his hotel room and wanting to roleplay or a scene which involves with a wealthy businessman with naughty requests.

But it’s a film where actress Isabelle Huppert shined.  A woman who was the neutral balance to the characters, but in Godard’s words, wanted a character that would be a woman in suffering.

Nathalie Baye would portray the woman, Denise, a woman who wanted to escape.  Escape the man, the city, the job, the home in order to go about her new life.

The film today may feel as Godard’s triumphant “fuck you” to humanity considering he is a filmmaker who walked on the beat of his own drum.   Saying things that may have contradicted himself, cinema.  Saying things that irritated his fellow filmmakers and even those closer to him.  But it’s because of his style of non-wavering to traditional Hollywood form and being unique and different that we appreciate about him.

Using freeze frames and other cinema expressions that would drive most traditional and modern cinema viewers mad, yet to not understand why a director would make such a film.  The initial response received from those who watched at Cannes for “Every Man For Himself” is no different to Godard in the past and Godard in the present, people will say negative things about his film, there are those who will praise him for raising that middle finger in his films to no abandon, but this is Godard.  This is cinema! He has done things his way, not everyone’s way.  Every film, every decade we have seen a different Godard but for me, having appreciated his films for his audacious direction and going against traditional Hollywood norm, I appreciate him for that.

But I have to admit that I was a bit taken back, once you watch the Criterion Collection release of “Every Man For Himself” of the promotion he did for the film.  Of course, he was making a mainstream film…yet Godard is Godard.

Wanting to create a film that he believed in and took the opportunity to promote the film with talk show host Dick Cavett (that was no doubt seemed at times during the interview that it could have been a disaster) and the return of Godard to cinema, alas, this movie should have been celebrated as his celebrated return to cinema but instead he experienced the ire of viewers who were not supportive of the film’s provocative sexual scenes.  Which I can definitely see why the film shocked viewers then and I can see viewers being shocked about it in the present.

To save the film after the disaster at Cannes, the film was quickly called as “a work in progress” but later shown to the same journalists without any edits and interestingly, would be called a masterpiece.  “Sauve qi peut” (Every Man for Himself) became the talk amongst critics worldwide.

“Every Man For Himself” had become Godard’s “second first film”.  A moniker which he created and a film that will be remembered for its audacity and while one will never fully grasp what message Godard wanted to send to audiences, it’s a film that one would discover something new each time it’s viewed.

I enjoyed this film greatly because it was so unlike any film he had made previously.  The sex scenes were unexpected for a Godard film, the dialogue was surprising but there was also some of that older Godard with the halting of music, the tragic death scene, the woman looking directly into the camera, the creative play of editing that would drive most movie fans crazy because they were never exposed to Godard’s art of cinema.

As a fan of Godard’s oeuvre, “Every Man For Himself” is a Godard film that is best experienced than reading reviews about it.  No words can describe the film correctly because everyone will have their own opinion of what the film is about.

But if you have enjoyed Godard’s films from the past to even his later films, one can appreciate Godard’s contribution to cinema.  In this case, a creative, bold and unique film that can never be duplicated.

“Every Man For Himself” is highly recommended!

 

KINO LORBER ACQUIRES ALL NORTH AMERICAN RIGHTS TO JEAN-LUC GODARD’S 3D MASTERWORK GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE, JURY PRIZE WINNER AT THIS YEAR’S CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

June 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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New York, NY – June 30, 2014 – Kino Lorber is proud to announce the acquisition of all North American rights to Jean-Luc Godard’s 3D masterwork Goodbye to Language, after the film’s rapturous reception at its premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Goodbye to Language was the co-winner of Cannes’ coveted Jury Prize and is slated for key festival play in the late summer/early fall. It will open commercially in New York City in late October, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center, followed by a national theatrical rollout on 3D screens. A digital VOD, home media and 3D Blu-ray release is planned for 2015.
Further commenting on the film’s “deeply, excitingly challenging” character, The New York Times’ film critic Manohla Dargis added that it “offers up generous, easy pleasures with jolts of visual beauty, bursts of humor, swells of song and many shots of a dog, Roxy.”

Goodbye to Language also features never-before-seen 3D special effects. “[Godard] experiments throughout with the placement of entirely different images in each eye,” wrote Variety’s chief film critic Scott Foundas, “resulting in a series of strange superimpositions that almost seem to enter a fourth, unclassified dimension.”

The film was produced by Alain Sarde (Film Socialisme and Notre Musique) and Wild Bunch. The deal was negotiated between Kino Lorber CEO Richard Lorber and Carole Baraton, Head of International Sales at Wild Bunch. “To have the honor to release this ecstatically brilliant, career-capping film by the iconic Jean-Luc Godard leaves us appropriately speechless,” said Richard Lorber. “Goodbye to Language is nothing short of a beacon illuminating the future of cinema.”

Carole Baraton commented: “Working with Richard and his team on Goodbye to Language is a natural choice for us. Since the film’s premiere at Cannes, they’ve expressed incomparable enthusiasm and excitement about the film – and their distribution plans for the film are equally daring and exciting.”

Jean-Luc Godard has continually re-defined what cinema can be over his sixty years in the movies. He helped establish the “politique des auteurs” during his time as a firebrand critic at Cahiers du Cinema, and then upended narrative filmmaking with the French New Wave in his self-reflexive debut Breathless (1960).

The rest of the 1960s brought a dizzying series of innovative work, from his pop musical A Woman is a Woman to his evisceration of Hollywood in Contempt. The 1970s brought his politics to the fore, his interest in Marxist thought leading to provocative, knotty treatises on consumer society. Every Man For Himself brought him back to narrative in the 1980s, or a semblance of it, and his work became more digressive and essayistic into the 2000s, anticipating the “hybrid” documentary/fiction films that dominate on the festival circuit.

Goodbye to Language is another advancement, fracturing the tale of an adulterous relationship into 3D – his first feature in the format (he also used it in the 2013 short The Three Disasters).

This “adrenaline shot to the brain” (Variety) follows a couple whose relationship breaks down along with the images, which in its second half takes a dog’s-eye view of the world. It is thick with literary quotation but somehow light on its feet, musing on history and illusion while Godard’s own dog Roxy prances in the park. “You could call it ‘Contempt meets Lassie'”, as Scott Foundas quipped in Variety. It has the feeling of a final statement, but knowing Godard’s penchant for re-invention, hopefully it is yet another beginning.

About Kino Lorber:

With a library of 900 titles, Kino Lorber Inc. has been a leader in independent art house distribution for over 30 years, releasing over 25 films per year theatrically under its Kino Lorber, Kino Classics, and Alive Mind Cinema banners, including four Academy Award® nominated films in the last six years. In addition, the company brings over 70 titles each year to the home entertainment market with DVD, Blu-ray and VOD releases under its 5 house brands, distributes a growing number of third party labels, and is a direct digital distributor to all major platforms including iTunes, Netflix, HULU, Amazon, Vimeo, and others.

Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

February 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are a Jean-Luc Godard fan or a cineaste, “Breathless” is an important film worth owning in your cinema collection.  In the context of importance of cinema and its historical contribution to La Nouvelle Vague, “Breathless” is the feature film that launched Godard’s career and for that, I’m so grateful that The Criterion Collection has given fans a wonderful release.  Highly recommended!

© 2007 Pretty Pictures and Vauban Productions. 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408

YEAR OF THEATRICAL FILM RELEASE: 1960

DURATION: 87 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen: 1:33: 1, Black and White, Monaural in French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: The Criterion Collection

RATED: PG (Action, Smoking and Slang Humor)

RELEASE DATE: February 25, 2014

Directed and screenplay by Jean-Luc Godard

Story by Francois Truffaut

Produced by Georges de Beauregard

Music by Martial Solal

Cinematography by Raoul Coutard

Edited by Cecile Decugis, Lila Herman

Starring:

Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard

Jean Seberg as Patricia Franchini

Daniel Boulanger as Police Inspector Vital

Jean-Pierre Melville as Parvulesco

Henri-Jacques Huet as Antonio Berrutti

Jean-Luc Godard as Informer

There was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless. Jean-Luc Godard burst onto the film scene in 1960 with this jazzy, free-form, and sexy homage to the American film genres that inspired him as a writer for Cahiers du cinéma. With its lack of polish, surplus of attitude, anything-goes crime narrative, and effervescent young stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, Breathless helped launch the French New Wave and ensured that cinema would never be the same.

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Every director has their beginning but for Jean-Luc Godard, his 1960 film “À bout de souffle” a.k.a. “Breathless” was the beginning of a cinema revolution and bringing the world closer to nouvelle vague, the French New Wave.

Godard is a unique director who attracted attention for his innovative editing and his use of jump cuts, his style of not giving his talent a script until the morning of and using improvisation and utilizing film techniques that most directors would never do.  In fact, his filmmaking even infuriated his producer because instead of using a full day to shoot a film, sometime he was in the mood to do only 12 minutes.  But then again, Jean-Luc Godard is not your typical director and in 1960, no one knew what to expect from him.

Many looked at him as a rebel as he wanted to challenge the conventions of traditional Hollywood cinema and for those who watched his films evolve year after year, the more we get to see Godard in his characters but also his political ideologies as well.

But “Breathless” was a film that helped change cinema.  For decades, many followed the Hollywood tradition and sure, Jean Renoir did something unique and special decades earlier with “The Rules of the Game”  (unfortunately, no one at the time was ready for the film until three decades later and people acknowledge that his film was ahead of its time) but it was “Breathless” that inspired young directors and showed them that directors, auteurs can do something different.

From the use of jump cuts to capturing Paris with a hidden camera, the film and its director was hailed for its innovation and it was the beginning of the French New Wave.  Interesting enough, although the film made Jean-Luc Godard a popular name, the director himself was not as thrilled by all the attention and popularity of “Breathless” that led him to create “Le Petit Soldat” (The Little Soldier) which was highly political and banned in France for three years.  Regardless of whether or not Godard enjoyed the success of the film, the film was unique and an inspiration to many filmmakers.

For over 40 decades, “Breathless” has been regarded as a film that cinema fans must watch and eventually own and in 2007, The Criterion Collection released “Breathless” in a 2-disc DVD set, followed by a Blu-ray release in 2010.  For February 2014, with the Criterion Collection now focused on Blu-ray+DVD combo releases, “Breathless” has received another release.

In “Breathless”, Michel Poiccard (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, “A Woman is a Woman”, “Pierrot le fou”, “Casino Royale”) is a troublemaker who idolizes noir-ish Humphrey Bogart.  He steals a car and in the process of running from the police, shoots and kills one of them and now there is a manhunt by the authorities to catch him.

So, Michel decides to go to his American girlfriend Patricia (played by Jean Seberg, “Kill!”, “Lillith”, “The Beautiful Swindlers”), a student studying journalism and works at her job selling New York Herald Tribune newspapers on the streets of Paris.  For Michel, he really wants to seduce her and have sex but he grows angry when she spends time with other men.

Michel ends up breaking into her apartment and continues to try and seduce her, while all this time, she has no clue that Michel is a killer and that he is wanted by the police.

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VIDEO:

“Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408″ is presented in black and white, 1080p High Definition (1:33:1).  Having watched the original DVD release, grain is present.  The contrast and detail for the film compared t to the original DVD is much more evident.  Whites and grays are well-contrast, blacks are nice and deep.  Before on DVD, certain backgrounds were not as clear but now, the clarity and detail is so much present on this Blu-ray release.  Simply, this is the best I have seen of “Breathless”!  Is it pristine?  You will see some edge enhancement but there is no artifacts or major film damage, this is the best I have seen of this film and Jean-Luc Godard fans should be pleased with this Blu-ray release!

According to the Criterion Collection, the film is “approved by director and photographer Raoul Coutard, this high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine from a 35 mm original fine-grain master positive.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s DVNR was used for small, dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408″ is presented in French LPCM 1.0.  Dialogue for the most part is clear and I detected no major problematic audio issues during my viewing of the film.

According to the Criterion Collection, the original monaural soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm optical track print.  Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.  Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408″ comes with the following special features:

  • Interviews – (27:00) Featuring interviews with director Jean-Luc Godard, actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg and filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, recorded for French television between 1960 and 1964.
  • Coutard and Rissient – (22:28) Cinematographer Raoul Coutard (who worked with Godard for 14 films) and cinephile Pierre Rissient, assistant director on “Breathless” recall working with Godard and working on his first film.
  • Pennebaker on Breathless – (10:32) Documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker talks about working with Jean-Luc Godard and his film “Breathless”.
  • Jean Seberg – (18:54) A video essay written by Mark Rappaport (From the Journals of Jean Seberg) reveals the beginning of Jean Seberg and her life ending in tragedy.
  • Breathless as Criticism – (11:09) A video essay written by film historian and author Jonathan Rosenbaum.  Rosenbaum explores the cinematic and literary references in “Breathless”.
  • Chamber 12, Hotel De Suede – (1:18:26) A 1993 documentary by director and popular French TV host Claude Ventura who tracks down, over nine days, the locations and the people who were involved in the making of “Breathless”.  Interviews include actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, filmmaker Claude Chabrol, cinematographer Raoul Coutard, assistant director Pierre Rissient, editor Cecile Decugis and more.
  • Charlotte et Son Jules – (12:42) One of the short films from 1959 starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anne Collette.  The short film is about a boyfriend who continually admonishes his girlfriend.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:02) The original theatrical trailer.

EXTRAS:

“Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408″ includes both the Blu-ray and DVD version of a film which comes with a slipcase. Included is an 82-page booklet featuring the essay “Breathless Then and Now” by Dudley Andrew, “Godard in His Own Words” and “Breathless in Progress”.

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For anyone interested in French New Wave films, “Breathless” is a film that is recommended watching.  It’s a film that changed cinema and launched the career of director Jean-Luc Godard.

What I loved about the film is the acting.  The whole 25-minute improvisation scene in the bedroom is incredible.  I’ve learned through the special features that the scene involved Godard yelling and instructing the Belmondo and Seberg on what to do and also learned that the jump cut scenes were accidental but yet made the film quite creative, unique and artistic.

But is it one of the best Godard films?  This is difficult to answer because personally, there are so many Godard films that I do enjoy but yet this is his first and is an important film in his career. But the problem is, to enjoy Godard films is to know Godard films.  You appreciate his films, the more you watch several of them and learn his unique style of filmmaking.

Also, the film has been given so much credit for its innovation that so many people come to the film expecting something like Orson Welles “Citizen Kane” or a film that with this groundbreaking story and people who experience this Godard film are perplexed and don’t understand what the big deal is. And I think that is what has perplexed Godard after the success of the film.  Godard was very critical of the film to the point that he distanced himself from it and thus created the film “Le Petit Soldat”.

But as mentioned, to enjoy Godard is to know Godard and that is watching his films and learning about them.  Fortunately, The Criterion Collection does a fantastic job with this release of “Breathless” in presentation and also its content.  Not only do you get the film but you get to see the various interviews with the talent, interviews with those who worked with him and easily enough, different interpretations of what people got from the film.  The 1993 documentary “Chamber 12, Hotel de Suede” is a magnificent addition to the film as we get to see and hear from those who are involved with “Breathless”, giving us some insight to Godard and his unique filmmaking style.

As far as my enjoyment of the film, I absolutely enjoyed it!  Godard and Belmondo had a magical partnership during their short time together and as for Jean Seberg, this is an actress that had a bad experience  in her earlier years as an actress, given a chance in “Breathless” (and worked once more with Godard) and had a rollercoaster of a career that ended in tragedy.  If there was one positive, she is immortalized through her role as Patricia in this film.

“Breathless” is a film about two different people, their words and what they mean are different, they talk about themselves but yet never really talk to each other.  Are they even listening to each other?  Do they even care for each other?

There’s no doubt that one can rewatch “Breathless” and see something different each time.  May it be the two talking about paintings, the two talking about Faulkner, this dialogue between the two is something that I found so enjoyable (as I have with Eric Rohmer’s moral tale “My Night at Maud’s” with also a magnificent, smart and enjoyable long bedroom dialogue scene).  There is something about the tone about the film that is just so enchanting.

Despite Michel being the uncaring young bad guy, somehow you can’t help but be intrigued by his character.  He’s a dangerous man but yet Patricia is even more dangerous in some ways.  Compared to other films showing around the world during its time, “Breathless” was fresh, unique and different from what was seen in traditional cinema.

Cinematography for “Breathless” is absolutely beautiful.  Because timing and space was a concern, Godard elected to use a wheelchair to film.  Not wanting to use expensive lighting, Godard wanted to capture a realistic feel of these two characters by using natural light.   So, many different techniques employed in this film.

In fact, when they were seen in public, cinematographer Coutard was hidden in a cart as the two are seen walking down the street.  No one around the two actors are aware that the scene was being filmed.  And of course, I go back to the jump scenes and the editing but accidental as it may be, it was definitely a major part in introducing the world to nouvelle vague and changing the scope of cinema.

As mentioned with this Blu-ray release, the detail and clarity is so much better than its DVD counterpart.  This is the best I have seen of “Breathless” and in no doubt in my mind, fans will be pleased with this Blu-ray release.

With the release of “Breathless” via Blu-ray and DVD combo-pack, those who owned the previous DVD release and the 2010 Blu-ray release may be wondering if it’s worth getting this version.  If you have a Blu-ray player and HDTV, then upgrading to “Breathless” on Blu-ray is indeed worth it!

But with this 2014 Blu-ray release, there is no difference from the 2010 release other than Criterion Collection having released it via a Blu-ray+DVD combo pack.  The booklet and special features are the same and there was no major change in overall picture or audio quality.

Overall, if you are a Jean-Luc Godard fan or a cineaste, “Breathless” is an important film worth owning in your cinema collection.  Is it Godard’s best film?  That’s a matter of preference, as I personally enjoy “Band of Outsiders”, “Pierrot le fou” and “Mascullin Feminin” much more.  But in the context of importance of cinema and its historical contribution to La Nouvelle Vague, “Breathless” is the feature film that launched Godard’s career and for that, I’m so grateful that The Criterion Collection has given fans a wonderful release.

Highly recommended!

Band of Outsiders – The Criterion Collection #174 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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I enjoyed the playfulness, the youthfulness and how entertaining the film came to be. As well as it began to transition to include the more darker undertones. “Band of Outsiders” is just an accessible and enjoyable  film by Jean-Luc Godard and this new Blu-ray release featuring the 2010 Gaumont restoration features much better picture quality with better detail, contrast and looks so much better than its 2008 DVD counterpart!  Definitely worth the upgrade if you owned the DVD and recommended on Blu-ray!

Image are courtesy of © 1964 Gaumont.  2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Band of Outsiders – The Criterion Collection #174

YEAR OF FILM: 1964

DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural in French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2013

Based on the novel “Fools’ Gold” by Dolores Hitchens

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Music by Michel Legrand

Cinematography by Raoul Coutard

Edited by Francoise Collin, Dahlia Ezove, Agnes Guillemot

Starring:

Anna Karina as Odile

Sami Frey as Franz

Claude Brasseur as Arthur

Daniele Girard as English Teacher

Louisa Colpeyn as Madame Victoria

Chantal Darget as Arthur’s Aunt

Georges Staquet as Le Legionnaire

Ernest Menzer as Arthur’s Uncle

Narration by Jean-Luc Godard

Four years after Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard reimagined the gangster film even more radically with BAND OF OUTSIDERS. In it, two restless young men (Sweet Movie’s Sami Frey and Eyes Without a Face’s Claude Brasseur) enlist the object of both of their fancies (Pierrot le fou’s Anna Karina) to help them commit a robbery—in her own home. This audacious and wildly entertaining French New Wave gem is at once sentimental and insouciant, effervescently romantic and melancholy, and it features some of Godard’s most memorable set pieces, including the headlong race through the Louvre and the unshakeably cool Madison dance sequence.

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In 1964, French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard went to work on his latest film “Bande à part” (Band of Outsiders) which was created with a small budget at around $125,000 and unlike his previous film “Contempt” which was in full color, Godard decided to go back to basics by filming in black and white and also to avoid any interjecting of politics in the film and thus many critics have called it Godard’s most accessible film because it s quite different from many of the films he has directed in the 1960′s.

“Band of Outsiders” is a film based on the novel “Fools’ Gold” by American author Dolores Hitchens and a film which Godard describes “Band of Outsiders” as “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka”. For many critics, they like to call the film a B-Noir in which the film contains noir elements but also other elements of humor and things that you would see from a French New Wave film. When it first came out in theaters in the US, not many people could understand the concept of the film and thus it didn’t do well in the theaters. But now as the film is 46-years-old, publications such as Time Magazine has selected “Band of Outsiders” as part of its “All Time 100 Movies”.

In 2008, “Band of Outsiders” was released on DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection and now, the HD version of the film featuring Gaumont’s 2010 high-definition restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack was released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection in May 2013.

“Band of Outsiders” revolves around two wannabe criminals Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and Franz (Sami Frey). Franz who attends an English class with a young woman named Odile (Anna Karina) is told by her that a large amount of money is stashed in the villa that she lives at with her Aunt and Mr. Stoltz. Because of this, Franz has told his friend Arthur about it and immediately, Arthur sees this as an opportunity to make some money and knows that in order to make this happen, he must first gain the trust of Odile. So, Franz takes Arthur to meet her at the English class and immediately, Arthur does what he can to make Odile know that he’s interested in her.

Franz has been attracted to Odile for quite some time but because he’s so shy, he never really had the opportunity to get close to her. But Arthur has much more experience with women and immediately, uses his bad boy charm to attract Odile’s affections and thus gets her to ditch her English class and for her to join him for the day in order for him to learn from her about how much more money is inside the villa. With Odile, hooked to Arthur’s words, when she goes home she happens to finds so much money that when she tells Arthur and Franz, immediately the two start planning on how they can steal the money.

But Odile tells them to wait a few days but with Arthur having problems with other people demanding some money immediately from him, he is forced to steal the money sooner than Odile is expecting.

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VIDEO:

I gave the 2008 DVD review a positive when it comes to picture quality, but with this restored version courtesy of Gaumont’s 2010 restoration of the film, “Band of Outsiders” in HD definitely surpasses its original DVD version in clarity, detail and contrast.  The film is not soft or blurry, you can actually see much better detail in the clothing, well-contrast within the whites and grays of the film and black levels which are inky and deep.

According to the Criterion Collection, the digital master came from a restoration undertaken by Gaumont in 2010.  For the restoration, a high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35 mm composite fine grain at Eclair Laboratories in Epinay-sur-Seine, France.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Band of Outsiders” is presented in French monaural LPCM. According to the Criterion Collection,  The original monaural soundtrack was restored from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive.

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The “Band of Outsiders” comes with the following special features:

  • Visual Glossary – (17:58) Featuring selected quotations from “Band of Outsiders” and an explanation of the quotation.
  • Godard 1964 – (5:17) Featuring Jean-Luc Godard talking about Nouvelle Vague and its Raison D’Etre with filmmaker Andre S. LAbarthe for the documentary “La Nouvelle Vague Par Elle-Meme”.
  • Anna Karina – (18:26) Featuring an interview with Anna Karina, recorded in 2002.  Karina talks about loving films, working with Jean-Luc Godard, Raoul Coutard, running into Claude Brasseur and more.
  • Raoul Coutard – (11:00) Featuring an interview with Raoul Coutard discussing his work with Jean-Luc Godard, the challenges he had in shooting complicated scenes, the French New Wave and more.
  • Les Fiances Du Pont Mac Donald – Featuring the short directed by Agnes Varda (used on Agnes’ 1962 film “Cleo From 5 to 7″) starring Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Daniele Girard and more.
  • Trailers – Featuring the original and the re-release trailer for “Band of Outsiders”.

EXTRAS:

“Band of Outsiders” comes with a 26-page booklet which includes the essay “Get Your Madis On” by Joshua Clover, “The Characters According to Godard” from the original press book and “No Questions Asked” featuring an interview between Godard and Godard critic Jean Collet from 1964.

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“The Band of Outsiders” is a charming and enjoyable film. Is it my favorite Godard film, I would still have to give the title of “My Godard Favorite” to his 1965 film “Pierrot Le Fou” but I will say that “Band of Outsiders” manages to pull me in with its various scenes and its interesting plot. Needless to say that many Godard fans enjoy the film and even prompted Quentin Tarentino to name his production company “A Band Apart” after the French title “Bande à part”.

The title of the film “Band of Outsiders” is about these three individuals who are outsiders. From the two male characters named after Godard’s favorite authors Arthur Rimbaud and Franz Kafka, Arthur is a player and obviously have some experience breaking the law and schmoozing with women, while Franz is the silent type who you can tell is not so comfortable when his friend actually starts to win Odile’s heart. And as for Odile, an innocent girl with not much experience with being around men and she is very much a different person from these two men. When Arthur asks for a kiss with a tongue, her inexperience shows as she sticks out her tongue. But it’s how these three individuals react to each other, you wonder how in the heck can these three people get mixed up together?

But perhaps that was the winning combination that made this film work as the three characters manage to keep you’re eyes glued to the screen. Not knowing what are going to happen to them but knowing that with director Jean-Luc Godard, anything can happen and for the most part, if you submit your 95 minutes to Godard, you’re definitely in for a wild ride. The ending might be a bit bumpy but the actual ride is where you feel satisfaction as you will encounter quite a few surprises, twists and turns and that is how I feel about “Band of Outsiders”.

From Odile (Karina) looking directly to the camera when asking a question, to the moment of silence which almost seems like an eternity but at the same time, you can’t help but be amused by it. From the playfulness of Arthur and Franz play shooting each other and my two favorite scenes, when the three individuals take part in the “Madison dance” and the Louvre scene in which the three try to break the American Jimmy Johnson’s record of how fast they can see all the art inside the Louvre. How fun is that? So, I was quite amused to see that scene but really enjoyed the various scenes that just stick to your memory (a lot of Godard films tend to do that for me).

But the creation of “Band of Outsiders” was somewhat of Godard’s comeback at the time (one of many).  After the beating he took for the film “Les Carabiniers”, Godard decided to work together with his wife Anna Karina (both had separated at the time) and the first time the two worked together since “Vivre sa vie”.  But it was a tough time for both husband and wife who were having problems in their marriage, but it was also a film that helped the two grow closer to each other.

Many will take notice that Karina looks different in this film compared to other films and that is because the film was shot after she came out of the hospital after a suicide attempt.  But because of this film, Karina credits “Band of Outsiders” of saving her life.

For Godard, “Band of Outsiders” gave the filmmaker a chance to try something different and whether or not he succeeded or failed depends on the viewer as the film today is seen as one of Godard’s best, but at the time of screening at various film festivals, the film infuriated audiences and also previous Godard defenders, film critics who had problems with the film.  The film also gave Jean-Luc a chance to name a character after his mother (who died in a scooter accident ten years earlier).

While a low budget film, the film was enjoyed by film critics all over the world, as film critic Richard Brody would lend to the film’s ongoing popularity due to the film’s “overt neo-classicism” but Brody writes in his book “Everything is Cinema”, that the failed experiment was trying to separate “instinctive” and “reflective” elements.  The result was failure and so he would come back to combine the elements once again.

As for this Blu-ray release, “Band of Outsiders” looks so much better in HD after the restoration.  No longer soft or even blurry, the film shows much more detail, much better contrast and a cleaner picture.  Also, you get an uncompressed monaural soundtrack and all six special features that were included on the original 2008 DVD release.

Overall, I enjoyed the playfulness, the youthfulness and how entertaining the film came to be, as well as it began to transition to include more darker undertones. But the film is quite entertaining and I had a fun time watching it. Although there are other films I Godard/Anna Karina films I recommend watching before “Band of Outsiders”, the film is still worth having on your checklist of must-see Godard films.

Definitely recommended!

Weekend – The Criterion Collection #635 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

November 14, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Audacious, polemic and unique…”Weekend” is a film that represents the end of Jean-Luc Godard’s involvement with the French New Wave, especially with “bourgeois” narrative filmmaking.  A film that is unlike any other nor is it an easy film that can be easily explained, “Weekend” must be watched and experienced!  A film that I highly recommend for the cineaste who enjoy complexity and cerebral films, not for the casual viewer expecting simplicity.  Recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1967 Gaumont -Ascot Cineraid. The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Weekend – The Criterion Collection #635 (a.k.a. Le Weekend)

YEAR OF FILM: 1967

DURATION: 104 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 Aspect Ratio), Monaural in French with English Subtitles

COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: November 13, 2012

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Written by Jean-Luc Godard

Music by Antoine Duhamel

Cinematography by Raoul Coutard

Edited by Agens Guillemot

Starring:

Mireille Darc as Corinne Durand

Jean Yanne as Roland Durand

Jean-Pierre Kalfon as Le Chef du Front de Liberation de la Seine et Pise

This scathing late-sixties satire from Jean-Luc Godard is one of cinema’s great anarchic works. Determined to collect an inheritance from a dying relative, a bourgeois couple travel across the French countryside while civilization crashes and burns around them. Featuring a justly famous sequence in which the camera tracks along a seemingly endless traffic jam, and rich with historical and literary references, Weekend is a surreally funny and disturbing call for revolution, a depiction of society reverting to savagery, and— according to the credits—the end of cinema itself.

Jean-Luc Godard, one of the primary faces of starting “La Nouvelle Vague” (French New Wave) and one of the outspoken film critics of “Cahiers du Cinema”… it would be an understatement to use the word “complex” to describe Godard.

From his collaboration with Francois Truffaut for “A bout de souffle” (Breathless) in 1960, his disenchantment of his work becoming so popular would lead to him creating “Le Petit Soldat” (The Little Soldier) which would be about France’s involvement during the Algerian War, a film with a political message of the denunciation torture used by France and the Algerians and eventually earning Godard criticism from the government and the film being banned for three years.

And while Godard would continue to create films that were smart, witty, intelligent and captivating, you can see how much more critical Godard would be towards society, government and his ideology would begin to creep into his films towards the mid-’60s.

With “Made in U.S.A.” becoming his most political film yet, the film was the final swan song between both Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina, who created films that many loved.  Despite being divorced at this time, she would no longer be his muse and the director would no longer be the director that many people have respected him and loved him for.

His next films “La Chinoise” and “Week End” would truly mark the end of Godard’s narrative and cinematic period of his filmmaking career and from then on, Godard would be a different director focusing on revolutions and his interest in Maoist ideology and would only return to mainstream films in 1980.

While “Made in U.S.A.” was the swan song between he and Karina and featuring the actress killing a man which is said to be a symbolization of Godard and his approach to cinema, in 1967, “La Chinoise” would no longer want to create films for the sake of entertaining the masses, he wanted to focus on films that related to his Maoist ideology and his film about five Parisian revolutionaries who tried to conspire to overthrow the Russian imperial regime through sustained violence, was regarded not negatively but earned the respect and approval of major critics worldwide.  But the film would also be a signal that he was growing tired of “bourgeois” narrative filmmaking.

And later that year, Jean-Luc Godard would go on to create the film “Weekend”.  A film which would feature another collaboration between the filmmaker and cinematographer Raoul Coutard and a film which Godard has called the film “Closer to a cry” than to a movie.  It’s because his feelings of France was at his lowest point.  Known for being one of the primary faces of French New Wave, the filmmaker wanted to disassociate anything that he had to do with France and through “Weekend”, it was his way to destroy France.  To destroy his world as he knew it through cinema (and suffice to say, destroying his relationships with his fellow filmmakers in France as well).

And so, after “Weekend”, he would then join Dziga Vertov and create political films from 1968 through 1972.

But when it comes to Godard films and everyone wanting to know when was the end of his French New Wave films, one would have to watch “Weekend”.  For many years, cinema fans have wondered if there would be a DVD release in North America for Godard’s film and fortunately,The Criterion Collection would be releasing the film on Blu-ray and DVD in November 2012.

As for “Weekend”, the film itself, I don’t know if anyone can truly summarize Godard’s film with efficacy.  In fact, you can read a variety of reviews from film critics at the time and many will give the film some type of explanation or stray away from even trying to explain what the movie is all about.

But in my attempt to summarize the film, I call it a film of fragments.  Each fragment with a political message.

“Weekend” focuses on a bourgeois French couple, Roland (portrayed by Jean Yanne, “Le boucher”, “Indochine”) and Corinne (portrayed by Mireille Darc, “Galia”, “Le Grand Blond”).  Both love each other, both are having affairs and both are planning each other’s murder.  The two discuss visiting Corinne’s parents home out in the country in order to get an inheritance, and even kill him if they have to.

But the drive to the countryside is filled with chaos, traffic jams, car accidents galore and as the two lose their car in an accident, as they wander through France, they encounter people discussing issues of different classes and figures from France’s history.  What will these two discover in this frightening and chaotic world?

VIDEO:

“Weekend” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio).  Despite having a large collection of Godard films, I’ve never owned the VHS or DVD release of “Weekend” but according to friends who do, they told me that this Blu-ray release is way better than its DVD counterpart.  With that being said, during my viewing, the outdoor scenes look very good, especially during Coutard’s long tracking shots.  It looks as if the Criterion Collection did an outstanding job with the overall cleaning up of the film because not one white speckle/dust can be seen.  Nor did I see any artifacts or any problems when it comes to video.  Colors are consistent and skin tones look natural.  Considering the film’s age, I can easily say that “Weekend” looks fantastic on Blu-ray!

According to the Criterion Collection, the new digital transfer was created on an ARRISCAN film scanner in 2K resolution from the original 35 mm camera negative.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Visions’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Weekend – The Criterion Collection #635″ is presented French monaural.  I haven’t owned previous releases of “Weekend” to do any comparisons but I can say that the monaural LPCM 1.0 soundtrack is clear and I detected no hissing during the actual film.  Evn Mozart’s Piano Sonata, K. 576 by Paul Gegauff sounds crisp and crystal clear.

According to the Criterion Collection, the soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm print.  Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.  Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Weekend – The Criterion Collection #635” comes with the following special features:

  • Revolutions Per Second – (24:32) A fantastic video essay by writer/filmmaker Kent Jones.  For those confused by the film, definitely watch this video essay!
  • Interviews – Featuring three archival interviews with cinematographer Raoul Coutard (18:48), classic interview with actor Mireillle Darc and Jean Yanne (3:21) and with assistant director Claude Miller (24:36).  In French, with English subtitles.
  • On Location – (8:15) Featuring an excerpt of “Seize millions de jeunes” from October 1967 with an interview by documentary filmmaker Jean-Michel Barjol.
  • Trailers – Featuring the 1967 original French theatrical trailer of “Weekend” (2:53) and the U.S. 1968 theatrical trailer (2:51).

EXTRAS:

“Weekend – The Criterion Collection #635” comes with a 42-page booklet with the following essays: “The Last Weekend” by Gary Indiana, “Notes on Weekend” by Alain Bergala, “Theoretical Guns: An Interview with Godard, 1969″ by Jonathan Cott.

In 1967, Jean-Luc Godard officially ended “bourgeois” narrative filmmaking.

A man that was now dedicated in being the voice of the students, the workers, the voice of to rebel against the government, the world and even his fellow filmmakers.

While Godard had hints of rebelliousness through his previous films, the tension felt in France in 1967 and Godard’s work would be the predecessor of the May 1968 protests in France.  The largest strike which literally brought the economy of any advanced industrial country to a standstill.  For two weeks, 22% of the working force of France went on strike for two weeks, students were involved in violent clashes with the police and university administrators.

Suffice to say that French communists and socialists wanted President Charles de Gaulle to be replaced, anarchy reigned and for Jean-Luc Godard, he is a man who believed in Marxism and was sick of the bourgeoisie’s consumerism.

While it is known that a year later, Godard would embody Maoist ideology, in 1967, with his two films “La Cinoise” and “Weekend”, his feelings towards France and the bourgeoisie became apparent.

So, for one to watch “Weekend” and you are a Godard fan who loved “Breathless”, “Band of outsiders”, “Vivre sa vie”, “Pierrot le fou” to name a few of his films from 1960-1965, it’s best to not think of “Weekend” in the same context.

In fact, while watching this film, watch it as a film of rebellion, a film of revolution, a film that is cerebral and a film that must be appreciated at a different level.

Legendary film critic Andrew Sarris once wrote in his 1968 “Village Voice” review of “Weekend” and about Godard, “As much as Godard indulges in the rhetoric of rebellion, his deepest feelings seem to be situated before the revolution.  He was born, he implies, too soon and too late, too soon to forget the sweetness of the past and too late to perpetuate that same sweetness, particularly in the remembered realm of movies with subjects not yet swallowed up by the subjective.  Godard seems to want it both ways as the prime prophet of the first-person film and the lead mourner of the third-person movie”.

Another legendary film critic Pauline Kael wrote in 1967 in her review of “Weekend”, “Though deeply flawed, this film has more depth than any of Godard’s earlier work.  It’s his vision of Hell and it ranks with the greatest.  As a mystical movie, ‘Weekend’ is comparable to Berman’s ‘Seventh Seal’ and ‘Shame’ and Ichikawa’s ‘Fires on the Plain’ and the passages of Kurosawa, yet hardly aware of the magnitude of the writer-director’s conception until after we are caught up in the comedy of horror, which keeps going further and further and becoming more nearly inescapable, like ‘Journey to the End of the Night”.

Even in the visual essay by Kent Jones (included with The Criterion Collection release of “Weekend”), he also had his own interpretations of “Weekend”.

Watching “Weekend”, I can see why.  The film is complex, it is cerebral, it is visual but it is a film which audacious yet beguiling.

The film begins with a noir-ish tale of two people making a play towards each other.  Embodiment of greed and bourgeois society that cares about money and luxury, the characters of Corinne and Roland Durand are immoral and amoral.  They care about nothing but themselves.  The film would showcase society as too consumed by their consumerism and also showcasing Godard’s Marxist ideology but then it becomes nearly a titillating film with Corinne talking about her three-way sex experience with detail.

They are dangerous individuals who will get what they want and their next goal is to get and possibly kill Mireille’s father in order to obtain the inheritance.  So, the two must travel on the weekend but nothing goes quite as they seem.

The traffic jam is unbearable as people are playing or doing something in their car, waiting impatiently with horns ablazing, while we see Roland and Corinne trying to drive past these stalled vehicles and leave.  With one of the longest tracking shots you’ll see in cinema (long tracking shots are used a few times throughout the film), you see cars flipped over, dead people lying around, yet no one seems to care.

The vehicles are a symbol of the materialistic nature of the bourgeois and what is hilarious is watching how these people react and behave around their vehicles and possessions.

But then there are moments which probably may fly over the head of many Western audiences.

You have an uncredited cameo by actor Jean-Pierre Leaud as a surreal caricature of Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, as he reads to the audience.  Saint-Just was a military and political leader of the French Revolution and also known as the face of the “Reign of Terror” and dubbed as the “Angel of Death” because he led the mass executions of the “enemies of the revolution” via guillotine (nearly 17,000 people were executed).  But Saint-Just was known for spearheading the movement to execute King Louis XVI.

You will see another scene in which a woman is screaming at a farmer who ran into her rich boyfriend and killing him and ruining her chances of happiness and being rich.

And while there are various scenes throughout  the film based on various figures giving out a message (with one of Godard’s dark humor as both are in their burning car, Corinne screams for help because her Hermes bag is burning The two protagonists end up getting into an accident themselves and while trying to go to Oinville, end up being held by gunpoint, captured by the Seine and Oise Liberation Front who kidnap people, paint them and eat them.

And along with the political message, a little sexual imagery, you also get to see scenes which some may view as cruelty to animals as pig is hit in the head and has its throat slit, while a geese/duck gets its neck twisted and broken and while its body is flapping, we see it eventually die.

Suffice to say, “Weekend” is not a film that can easily be explained.  It has to be watched and possibly be appreciated for Godard’s ability as a filmmaker to be given so much freedom and create a film of this nature.  You’re not going to see anything like it and not everyone is going to love it, I’m pretty sure that a lot of people who said they loved Godard because of his 1960-1965 films will probably be perplexed by this film (and even today, as I have watched many of his films, I am perplexed by his last film “Film Socialisme” from 2011.  But I don’t see it as a bad thing, if anything, I found watching Godard’s most challenging or cerebral films as a task for me to research and try to understand the film even more.

I knew nothing about the May 1968 strikes in France, nor was I familiar with Louis Antoine Leon de Sainte-Just.

But while you watching Sainte-Just talking about how one should fight in desperation against slavery, and even goes to a storyline of a Caucasian man talking about Africans and a Black man talking about the Caucasian, we sense that too much freedom is not a good thing for Godard as it has made people critical of society.  For its anarchists and rebellious groups, they are hippies armed with machine guns, who play drums in the middle of nowhere, but yet are bohemians who travel from one area to another and engage in warfare.

And to probably ignite the flame of the debates of Godard being anti-Semitic, one scene in which a girl screams at Roland Corinne saying “Jews! Filthy rotten stinking Jews!“.  Is this Godard’s mindset or is it his way of creating provocation and being the polemic filmmaker that he is. His films include messages of Marxism, but yet Godard tells Sarris in an interview that he has never read Marx.  Suffice to say, Godard is an ever-changing man with perspectives that are complex and suffice to say, he is a man that no one will figure out.  Even the women and the friends that once was in his life can testify to this changing filmmaker and individual, not always for the better but then again, Godard never gave a damn about the criticism.

But that is what makes “Weekend” a film that is so special in his oeuvre.  A film like no other, a film that not everyone can understand but yet everyone is in a consensus that it’s a film that showcases the dark side of humanity.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Weekend” has been given a wonderful treatment by The Criterion Collection.  Picture quality is wonderful and no dust or scratches can be seen, the booklet included is wonderful reading and the visual essay by Kent Jones was definitely needed, as I can suspect many people scratching their heads after watching this film.  You also get lengthy interviews and overall, this is a very solid release from The Criterion Collection!

Overall, “Weekend” is an important film for those who follow Godard’s career, especially as it is the exclamation point (or question mark) to end his involvement with the French New Wave.  As “La Chinoise” was significant in story and Godard’s mindset, “Weekend” was more of the middle finger to Bourgeois society with a capital F, in “Fuck You” to the government and the people that he could no longer stand and eventually would lead him to create political films for the next few years.

Audacious, polemic and unique…”Weekend” is a film that represents the end of Jean-Luc Godard and his involvement with the French New Wave, especially with “bourgeois” narrative filmmaking.  A film that is unlike any other nor is it an easy film that can be easily explained, “Weekend” must be watched and experienced!  A film that I highly recommend for the cineaste who enjoy complexity and cerebral films, not for the casual viewer expecting simplicity.  Recommended!

Academy Celebrates French New Wave with Photo Exhibition and Screening of Godard’s “Breathless”

March 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Beverly Hills, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a recently restored 35mm print of “Breathless” (“À bout de souffle”) on Friday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.  The screening is presented in conjunction with the opening of the Academy’s new exhibition “Photos de Cinéma: Images of the French New Wave by Raymond Cauchetier.” Cauchetier was the set photographer for this and many other key titles of the French New Wave movement.  There will be special evening gallery hours from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and immediately following the screening.

“Breathless” (1960) launched a global passion for “La Nouvelle Vague” (“The New Wave”) and made actors Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo international stars.  The film also became an inspiration for a generation of legendary French filmmaking talent.

Writer-director Jean-Luc Godard made his feature film debut with this now classic work.   François Truffaut conceived the story, Claude Chabrol served as the artistic supervisor, and Jean-Pierre Melville appears in the role of the writer, Parvulesco.

The film’s cinematographer, Raoul Coutard, supervised the creation of this new print in 2010, for the 50th anniversary of the original French release date.

Since “Breathless” impressed audiences and filmmakers alike with its jazzy take on the American crime film, Godard has continued to write and direct challenging and sometimes controversial films, cementing his reputation as one of the seminal modernists in the history of cinema.  He is credited with having influenced numerous contemporary directors, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino.  Godard received an Honorary Award from the Academy in 2010, inscribed “For passion. For confrontation. For a new kind of cinema.”

“Photos de Cinéma: Images of the French New Wave by Raymond Cauchetier,” which includes production photographs from “Breathless,” is the first exhibition outside of Europe to showcase Cauchetier’s motion picture work.  On view will be 125 newly made, black-and-white prints from Cauchetier’s own 35mm negatives.  The printing was personally overseen by Cauchetier, now in his 90s, at his preferred lab in Paris.  Other films represented in the exhibition include “Adieu Philippine,” “Baisers volés” (“Stolen Kisses”), “Jules et Jim,” “Lola” and “La peau douce” (“The Soft Skin”).  “Photos de Cinéma” is open to the public through June 24 in the Academy’s Grand Lobby Gallery in Beverly Hills.  Regular viewing hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m.  Admission to the gallery is free.

Tickets for “Breathless” on March 23 are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID, and may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, in person at the Academy box office or by mail.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m.  The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.  All seating is unreserved.  For more information, call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.

# # #

ABOUT THE ACADEMY
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the world’s preeminent movie-related organization, with a membership of more than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema. In addition to the annual Academy Awards—in which the members vote to select the nominees and winners­—the Academy presents a diverse year-round slate of public programs, exhibitions and events; provides financial support to a wide range of other movie-related organizations and endeavors; acts as a neutral advocate in the advancement of motion picture technology; and, through its Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive, collects, preserves, restores and provides access to movies and items related to their history. Through these and other activities the Academy serves students, historians, the entertainment industry and people everywhere who love movies.

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Film Socialisme (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Fascinating, intriguing, visually beautiful…but I admit, this is possibly the most challenging Godard film that I have watched by far.  After four viewings and research done on the film, I found myself enjoying “Film Socialisme” a lot more, because of its overall presentation.  It may not be the most accessible Godard film but for those who are familiar with Godard films, may find “Film Socialisme” to be entertaining and clever or frustrating and incoherent.  Definitely a film worth watching!

Images courtesy of © 2011 Kino Lorber, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Film Socialisme

FILM RELEASE: 2010

DURATION: 101 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Color, 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1, DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: Godard’s “Navajo” English and a full English translation

COMPANY: Kino Lorber

RATED: Not Rated

Release Date: January 10, 2012

Written and Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Produced by Alain Sarde

Executive Producer: Ruth Waldburger

Cinematography by Fabrice Aragno, Paul Grivas

Starring:

Jean-Marc Stehle as Otto Goldberg

Agatha Couture as Alissa

Mathias Domahidy as Mathias

Quentin Grosset as Ludovic

Olga Riazanova as Olga – Russian Secret Agent

Maurice Sarfati

Patti Smith as herself, Singer

Lenny Kaye as himself, Guitarist

Bernard Maris as himself, Economist

Marie-Christine Bergier as Frieda von Salomon

Nadege Beausson-Diagne as Constance

Bob Maloubier as Himself, French secret agent

Dominique Devals

Alain Badiou as Himself, Lecturer

Elias Sanbar as Himself, Haifan Historian

Catherine Tanvier as Catherine, Mother

Christian Sinniger as Jean-Jacques Martin

Marine Battaggia as Florine “Flo” Martin

Gulliver Hecq as Lucien “Lulu” Martin

E. Anzoni as Catherine’s Friend

Elisabeth Vitali as France 3 Journalist

Eye Haidara as France 3 Camerawoman

 Legendary director Jean-Luc Godard returns to the screen with Film Socialisme, a magisterial essay on the decline of European Civilization. As a garish cruise ship travels the Mediterranean (with Patti Smith among its guests), Godard embarks on a state of the EU address in a vibrant collage of philosophical quotes, historical revelations and pure cinematographic beauty.

As a cinema fan, it’s common to come across forums in regards to filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, the pioneer of the French New Wave, met with comments from cineaste’s that the filmmaker has went astray since 1969.

I admit that when it comes to Godard, the majority of the films that I love are primarily his ’60s films.  From “Breathless”, “Vivre Sa View”, “Pierrot le fou”, “Alphaville”, “Made in U.S.A.”, “Week End” to name a few films from Godard’s long oeuvre, there is no doubt that Godard became more politically vocal with his films.

Some may feel that he strayed too far from what viewers loved of his films, but to Jean-Luc Godard, he probably could have cared less.  The man walks on the beat of his own drum, creating the films that he wants to make and whether or not they are popular or not, it doesn’t matter.  As long as he is alive and is able to create cinema, it’s enough for him.

While viewers can always see Godard through his characters speaking about society and politics, from his 1966 film “Made in U.S.A.” and on, he has always had something to say about the state of a country or the world.

Has he really strayed that far from creating cinema that people love about his work?  It’s always subjective but for me, I have always enjoyed his approach to being provocative in his films, “stirring the pot” as many would say.  Granted, his films has literally challenged viewers within the last 45-years to the point that reviews have labeled his films “incomprehensible”, in fact, Godard has even alienated his own filmmaker friends because like his films, Godard changes and is able to transform himself to something that people don’t always agree with.

The legendary filmmaker is indeed complex and fortunately, unlike films of the past where people had to write about his films with what they viewed at a theater, we are fortunate in the fact that we can rewatch films and try to understand them more thanks to DVD and Blu-ray.

Specifically his 2010 film “Film Socialisme”, a film created by a then 79-year-old Jean-Luc Godard presented at the Cannes International Film Festival via Godard’s “Navajo” English and to give you an idea of how the film came across to various film critics. Here are a few quotes.

From Roger Ebert, “This film is an affront. It is incoherent, maddening, deliberately opaque and heedless of the ways in which people watch movies. All of that is part of the Godardian method, I am aware, but I feel a bargain of some sort must be struck.  We enter the cinema with open minds and goodwill, expecting Godard to engage us in at least a vaguely penetrable way. But in “Film Socialisme,” he expects us to do all the heavy lifting.”

J. Hoberman wrote, “Film Socialisme is both timeless and timely. Nor is that its only paradox. This is at once the most essayistic of 21st-century Godards and the least interested in conventional communication, cinematic as well as linguistic.”

“Film Socialisme” is presented in three movements:

  • Des choses comme ca (Such Things)  – This is set on a cruise ship and we are presented with various people of different cultures.  But among them is an aging Nazi criminal, a UN official, a Russian detective and more.
  • Notre Europe (Our Europe) – This features a sister and her younger brother who have summoned their parents to appear before the “tribunal of their childhood” and want them to answer themes of liberty, equality and fraternity.
  • Nos humanites (Our Humanities) – The third movement visits six sites: Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona

VIDEO:

“Film Socialisme” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1) and the film is Jean-Luc Godard’s debut entry to HD video (shot entirely via digital) and also a Godard film shot in widescreen.  The film looks absolutely beautiful in HD but also intriguing of how Godard incorporates various shots into the film.  Some are crisp and clear, some are jarring and oversaturated and disjointed pacing at times but it’s all part of what we are used to Godard films.  Experimentation, artistic and bold.

So, there are plenty of scenes that have different style of shots.  Some that are clearer than others and some that were part of the digital experiment.  But for the most part, colors are vibrant, black levels are deep at times and aside from certain scenes which were intentionally made to use various light filters, may they be hard or linear, the film looks great on Blu-ray!

But when you get to the final movement, “Nos humanities”, this is where the film tends to use a lot of older footage from films, news sources, etc.  Including stock footage, so these footage tend to not look so great in HD and where you will see artifacts and so forth.  But in the context of why this older footage was used, it’s understandable.

Overall, when focusing on the modern footage, colors are vibrant (especially reds), great detail on exteriors and for the most part, the majority of the film when not using older film sources, looks great on Blu-ray.  But personally, it’s great to see Godard experimenting with digital filmmaking, especially what he tends to bring out when experimenting with color! The film is visually beautiful!

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Film Socialisme” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The dialogue is clear and at times there are some moments of experimentation but I heard no hissing, crackles, pops or any audio problems.

As for subtitles, it’s important to note that there are two.  The film automatically plays with the Godard “Navajo” English which was used for the theatrical edition.  This version does not translate the full dialogue, but fortunately on Blu-ray, Kino Lorber does feature a full English translation which viewers may want to switch on first before watching the film.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Film Socialisme” comes with the original trailer plus Kino Lorber trailers and also a stills gallery.

EXTRAS:

“Film Socialisme” comes with a slipcase cover and included is an essay titled “E Pluribus Unum” by Richard Brody.

When it comes to Jean-Luc Godard films, I have spent quite a bit of time researching of what inspired him to create his film, what turmoil was going on behind-the-scenes in the making of a film because what people have to realize is that when you are watching a Godard film, you are watching a part of him.  What he is experiencing in that moment.  What goes through his mind socially and politically.

And while the majority of the films that we watch, we try not to let the outside influence of what happens behind-the-scenes influence one’s judgment towards that film, for Jean-Luc Godard, in some way, shape or form, I have looked at his movies beyond cinema, almost like trying to piece together a complex puzzle.  Where “Breathless” was a film that made him internationally known, it was a film that he was not too thrilled of the attention he had gotten and in response, Godard created “Le Petit Soldat” which was controversial and was banned in France for several years.

You look at his film “Made in U.S.A.” and the words that are coming out of the character Paula Nelson (played by his former wife Anna Karina) is literally speaking the words from Godard and Godard symbolically kills himself in the film twice.  That same year he creates “Two or Three Things I Know About Her” and although Godard is known for not having a script or script is manipulated real-time by Godard, the film which was considered socially and stylistically radical and we saw Godard challenge advertisers, show his dislike towards politics, the Vietnam war and also various industries.

This has continued throughout Godard’s career since the ’60s and throughout his oeuvre, he has remained controversial among film critics, among viewers and he more or less has changed from being radical to less radical and more of a humanist than his earlier Marxist philosophy.

He is a complex man of change,  a man that is learning as he lives but at the same time, still keeping to himself, doing things the way he wants and still entertaining audiences.  No matter if people who are still driven to see his earlier films, whether you love or hate his films from the ’70s to the present, he still has been consistent of creating films that people either love or hate.

With his 2010 film “Film Socialisme”, we finally get to see Godard enter the digital age by shooting a film in all digital (his next feature “Adieu au Language” will feature Godard’s entry to 3-D filmmaking).  And judging by the various critic reviews since it’s premiere in France, there are those who found the film to be too obscure and some who got it.

My first viewing of “Film Socialisme” was via Godard’s “Navajo” English that was from the theatrical edition.  And through that version, not all is translated and unless you know French, a lot of dialogue goes over your head.  And I can understand why some critics who watched this version, have found this film to be too obscure for their taste because it’s not a simple film that people will pick up and understand.

For my second viewing, I watched it with the full English translation and things started to make sense a bit more.  But still, I felt a bit lost than any other Godard film because I felt I was missing something important.

So, I took to the Internet and one person I know who has done so much research on Godard that can best explain the situation of the film is the New Yorker’s Richard Brody.  Brody goes into detail about an interview from “Godard on Godard” (which has yet to be translated) and Godard’s conversation with filmmaker Jacques Tati.

The discussion goes into gold that Stalin stole from the Bank of Spain and the Spanish Republicans, and with the film being separated into three parts, what is straightforward in the film is that a cruise ship is traveling various ports in Barcelona and Odessa.  But we also are shown a variety of people.  One is a former Nazi spy, another is a Russian officer, another is a young woman wearing a gold necklace (which I am assuming is related to the Nazi), we see an Israeli asking about the gold of the Bank of Palestine and a variety of other people who appear to have their own personal issues.

But the following is possibly the best explanation that Brody goes into about the featuring of these various people of different cultures and how it relates to a socialist society.  It’s important to also note that if you are unable to access the link, the good news is that Kino Lorber does include a four-page printed essay titled “E Pluribus Unum” by Richard Brody which goes into more detail about the film.

Brody wrote, “The notion of the ship’s journey as a link between these ports of call—including Barcelona, Naples, Greece, Odessa, Palestine (Godard can’t bring himself to say “Israel”), Egypt, Algiers, and Casablanca—suggests the key idea of Godard’s film: internationalism and multiculturalism as the essence of socialism.”

Brody continued, “The immediate result of the post-1989 end of Communist regimes was the breakups: the U.S.S.R. (which of course was multicultural by force but intolerant of minority cultures) dispersed into small countries, and Yugoslavia also broke into its constituent republics, with the resulting wars and further breakups into ethnic enclaves. It’s a story that runs through Godard’s 1993 film “Oh, Woe Is Me” (“Hélas pour moi”); for Godard, a multi-ethnic society of the Mediterranean—Europe and Russia, the Middle East and North Africa—would be the crucial realization of the socialist vision.”

And possibly the most intriguing observation by Brody was the following that he had written in his article, “he cites the liberation of Italy by the United States during the Second World War (as described by Curzio Malaparte in “The Skin”)—with the suggestion that the U.S. Army symbolically brought the plague to Italy when it arrived at Naples in 1943—and offers, as a contrast, contemporary Barcelona, which comes off as a serene yet politically aware and socialist-mobilized town that owes its humane and political warmth and aesthetic grace to the fact that, despite having been under a right-wing dictatorship for four decades, Spain liberated itself without American invasion or interference.”

So, was the concept of “Film Socialisme” similar to a film like his past film such as “Two or Three Things I Know About Her”?  An anti-American explanation of how Spain was able to liberate itself without American invasion or interference and how the America may have hurt the Middle East ala Iraq through its intervention?   There is always a meaning behind Godard’s words and perhaps my personal feeling was a film that stirs the pot without being blatantly polemic.

I have no doubt that others willl pick apart this film and find something intriguing or insensitive.  Some may find the film to be anti-Semitic and its a title that some have looked at Godard most negatively (Godard has used certain racial remarks about Jews towards filmmakers and friends who tried to get paid the money owed to them, which is actually focused on by Richard Brody in his book, “Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard”.  To be fair, because this is quite hotly debated, the counter-point to topics of anti-semitism in Brody’s book is challenged by Cinema Scope’s Bill Krohn).

There are Jewish references in the film that made me raise an eyebrow and wondered what was Godard’s intention, but in an interview with Jean-Marc Lalanne of “Les Inrockuptibles” was that the film was inspired by “Le Voyage de Shakespeare” by Leon Daudet.  Also, mentioned in an another “Film Socialisme” article by Richard Brody.

Thus this led me to looking up Leon Daudet and to learn that he is a French journalist which the Encyclopedia Britannica has called him “the most virulent and bitterly satirical polemicist of his generation in France, whose literary reputation rests largely upon his journalist work and his vivid memoirs”.  But you read on to learn that Daudet was also a member of France’s National Anti-Jewish Federation and a member of the anti-Semetic journal “Action Francaise”.

I am not an erudite when it comes to European culture especially in the socio-political sense but one thing that I’m grateful for Godard’s films is that it had led me to do my own research and learn more of what was on his mind, to understand what he was communicating.   So, I found Brody’s quote to be the most deepest and well-written explanation of the film yet by a film critic.

I watched it for a third time and once again for a fourth time but it was more of observance of dialogue between individuals and to understand the third segment “Nos humanites”.  For me, it was a rather intriguing film of multiculturalism gone awry in some way or form.  A modernization of culture but also I see a nod to Jacques Tati (if the story is true between the discussion of Godard and Tati), as we see animals at the gas station.  As Tati would show the changes of society through his films, perhaps this is what Godard has seen in his long life… a society that has integrated but yet has problems understanding each other.

If Godard was inspired by Daudet and his goal was satirizing society, perhaps the polimicizing is a bit more restrained than what we have seen of Godard in film such as “Tout va bien” and “Made in U.S.A.” to name a few.  And I found myself enjoying this film because it was so abstract at times, provocative at times but also very surreal.

There is no doubt that Godard adds his visual style, especially how he includes these layers of scenes in a scattered sense.  It’s not a storyline that goes smoothly together.  In fact, I tend to look at this film and make the correlation to an abstract painting.  Enjoy the moment and see what you get out of these certain scenes.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is great, considering this is Godard’s entry to digital filmmaking.  The majority of the film looks great, as the digital filmmaking really brings out the colors and detailed exteriors.  But because there are also stock footage and older sources of film integrated into “Film Socialisme”, those sources tend to be the most problematic in HD but for the most part, those scenes are very short.

Audio is understandable but once again, when it comes to subtitles, I am so grateful that Kino Lorber has included the full English translation with this release, otherwise the default subtitles is Godard’s “Navajo” English subtitles which were used for the theatrical version and doesn’t not translate all discussions during the film.

This is probably the first Godard film in which I felt the storyline was not as straightforward but in a Godard-sense, it worked.  And to see Godard’s use of HD filmmaking was quite intriguing, especially seeing him do something new and different is also intriguing for me because I do love his films, coherent and incoherent.  It’s more of the experience and the journey of researching the film and seeing how every film critic had their own personal take of the film.

I have been asked if “Film Socialism” is a blind buy, an easily accessible film and I don’t think it’s easily accessible for those who are not familiar with Godard films, but if you have watched a Godard film, especially his later work, then one may find the film to be intriguing and enjoyable.  Although, I won’t be surprised if others found this film to be incoherent and difficult.

Overall, it’s exciting to see Godard make a film digitally but also to watch a film that is audacious, intriguing, challenging but yet beautiful.

I recommend this film for those who are familiar with Godard’s work!

Kino Lorber Releases Jean-Luc Godard’s Film Socialisme (2011) on Blu-ray and DVD

December 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

New York, NY – December 9, 2011 – Kino Lorber is proud to announce the Blu-ray and DVD release of Film Socialisme, a cinematic essay on Western civilization, politics and history presented through the lens of master filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.

Film Socialisme comes to Blu-ray and DVD with special features including trailers, a stills gallery, and a special essay about the film by Richard Brody, author of Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, which puts the film in the context of Godard’s career. This edition is presented in its original multi-language soundtrack, with two subtitle options including Godard’s “Navajo” English from the theatrical version, and a full English translation of all of the film’s dialog. The prebook date for the Blu-ray and DVD is December 13, 2011, and the street date for each is January 10, 2012. The SRP for the Blu-ray is $34.95, while the SRP for the DVD is $29.95.

This “remarkable and beautiful and challenging” (Glenn Kenny, MSN) essay from filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard explores contemporary European politics and culture in three distinct parts. The first is set on a luxury cruise liner sailing the Mediterranean (with Patti Smith among its passengers), on which Godard examines the garishness of its wealthy passengers with the rich and troubled history of the ship’s ports of call.

The second part depicts the tension between the owners of a rural French rest stop, running for local office, and their children, who have their own ideas about the future. The third part is part-travelogue, part-history lesson, and part-essay, as Godard explores Western history at six different ports of call: Egypt, Hellas, Palestine, Odessa, Naples, and Barcelona, depicting images of art and conflict in order to examine the past and the future of Western civilization.

Shot in HD (Godard’s first film shot entirely in that format), Film Socialisme is a cinematic essay on the socio-political crises of our times.

2011 / France / 101 min. / Color / Blu-ray: 1920x1080p / DVD: Anamorphic (1:85:1)

Film Socialisme (2011)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Genre: Drama
Blu-ray SRP: $34.95
DVD SRP: $29.95
Prebook date: December 13, 2011
Street date: January 10, 2012

Lorber Films Releases Film Socialisme (2010) on June 3, at New York’s IFC Center

May 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

LORBER FILMS RELEASES JEAN-LUC GODARD’S FILM SOCIALISME (2010) ON JUNE 3 AT IFC CENTER

For Immediate Release New York, NY – May 10, 2011 – Lorber Films is proud to announce the theatrical release of Film Socialisme (2010), the latest film from French master Jean-Luc Godard. Set to open on June 3, 2011, at IFC Center, the film will expand to other national markets during the summer of 2011. After a much acclaimed premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2010, Godard’s latest was shown at the New York, Toronto (Master Program), Rio, São Paulo, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Rotterdam and Jenju Film Festivals – among many others.

Following the tradition of his great essayist works, Film Socialisme is a magisterial statement on the decline of European civilization. Here, Godard embarks on a state of the EU address with a collage of philosophical quotes, historical revelations and pure cinematic beauty, creating a work that “continues to confront English-speaking viewers” (Slant Magazine).

The film is divided into three “movements”. First is a Mediterranean cruise on board a luxury liner, with numerous conversations between the passengers on holiday, including a war criminal, his granddaughter, a famous French philosopher, and an American singer (Patti Smith). The second involves a sister and her younger brother, summoning their parents to appear before the court of their childhood as they demand serious explications on the ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Finally, in the third movement, Godard visits six sites of “true or false” myths: Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona.

Throughout, Godard blends a combination of sounds and images that “take on a rhythmic life of their own” (Peter Brunette, The Hollywood Reporter). The result is “an intriguing late-career work by an artist who hasn’t stopped challenging his audience” (T’cha Dunlevy, The Montreal Gazette).

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