Saturday, December 6, 2014

Jean-Luc Godard’s new film "Goodbye to Language" 3-D at Seattle Cinerama: Jan 12

Almost without exception, the reviews from this year's Cannes premier made Jean-Luc Godard’s "Goodbye to Language" out to be a superlative cinema event. So rejoice then that next month, "Godard's 'Goodbye to Language' Adds Prime Dates in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Washington & Seattle", with a one night, single screening presented by Northwest Film Forum at the Seattle Cinerama. By degrees described as a reinvention of cinema itself, "Ah Dieu, puns Jean-Luc Dogard", a head-scratching provocation, "Baffling, Hilarious 'Goodbye to Language 3D' Will Mess with Your Eyes and Your Head" and a vibrant sensory assault, "Goodbye to Language: Beauty Will Be Convulsive or Not at All”. Almost without exception all of those reported from the festival found themselves struggling with interpretation of it's technique and narrative concerns, yet it was unanimously said "Sunny Cannes Gets Lightning: Godard’s ‘Goodbye to Language’ Enlivens Festival". Suggesting Godard’s Jury Prize winning experiment may not be quite so epoch-making as the Marcel Duchamp work it references, but it situates him firmly, almost 65 years since his first short, within the tradition of artistic provocateur even more than it recalls his beginnings.

The combined effect of bafflement and thrill seem to jostle for position in all of the above assessments, Jonathan Romney making this struggle with it's assaultive everything-at-once barrage of image and text as the focus of his Film of the Week review for Film Comment; "Godard, or his film, may ostensibly be saying goodbye to language, but if so, it’s as if the Word is being thrown a spectacular bender of a going-away party. Propositions, allusions, sounds, images rush on in wave after wave, each building a new layer on top of—or violently erasing—what’s immediately gone before. Trying to make any sense of it all, even in the most rudimentary or provisional way, is an anguish-inducing process. What’s more, as a critic you’re aware of the armies of commentators who appear to take Godardian complexity in their stride, and of the academic specialists among them: you feel gauche even noting that all this stuff is hard to take in, when you know that there’s someone out there just waiting to point out, “And of course, you failed to notice that the two-second burst of Sibelius signals Godard’s volte-face on his previous position vis-à-vis the Lacanian Real.” Put it this way: I love Goodbye to Language and I couldn’t have missed writing about it, but part of me wishes I’d taken an Ouija instead."

Romney writes; "That’s why I was relieved, and filled with admiration, when I read David Bordwell’s enthusiastic analysis on his website, "Say Hello to Goodbye to Language" in which he dares state something that’s often considered inadmissible in discussions of Godard. That is, not only is it hard to tell what’s going on in the film in terms of narrative, but it’s also hard to make sense of the relentless flood of text. Before embarking on a useful analysis of the film’s formal qualities, and exactly why they make the film so hard to read, Bordwell refers to Ted Fendt’s extensive list of texts and films quoted or alluded to, "Goodbye to Language": A Works Cited". Fendt himself admits that knowing Godard’s sources may only be “about as useful to ‘unlocking’ the films and videos as reading a heavily footnoted copy of The Waste Land.” Still, a blockage of understanding is surely essential to an understanding of a Godard work as it is when dealing with any hermetic or gnostic text: bafflement is the first necessary step to eventual (if endlessly deferred) enlightenment."