The noble futility

A woman is a woman 
by Jean Luc Godard

This film is serious.  Despite its intoxicating charm and lightness, despite its erotic infatuation with a wonderful actress, despite its tongue in cheek playfulness with the film tradition it seems to ponder the questions of what’s true, how we choose to act, how we construct our world.  

The way Godard stages and edits most of the scenes is all about exploring possibilities, about hesitation, about the drama and the elation of choosing one of the many opportunities that present themselves in front of each of our “next moves”.  

It’s as if he wanted to break through the annoying vulgarity of the “here and now” and to challenge the pressure of "what's next?".  The vulgarity comes in many shapes: physical and psychological and (probably) spiritual and ontological.  The last two are clearly my own calls.  

In a few telling moments Godard suggests the suspension of the physical laws or their vulgarity.  A girl in a split second of crossing  the door frame changes her cloths or - an egg thrown in the air stays there long enough for the character to come outside the door, exchange a few lines, return inside and only then to catch the egg in the frying pan.  The defiance of psychological vulgarity (or at least an attempt to make the point of its ugly existence) is the subject of Godard's repetitions, versions, contradictions that he uses in directing.  

He plays on the terror of the completed moment, on its fakery and vulgarity of a single action that is just one of the many possible and beautiful until its potential is broken by the unavoidable "next move ".  Every "next " once, executed, becomes trivial and faulty.   Every single one.  

The noise that many critics make about his “playing with conventions” seems superficial.  The musical convention for Godard is just a tool to explore what is, to explore the way a story can be told.  He’s way to clever to satisfy himself with just dancing around conventions and cleverly switching them. 

As I wrote the above, I thought that such a read could assume too much into his style, but then I watched his conversation with Dick Cavett. 

In that interview (I highly recommend it) Godard, about 25 years after "A woman is a woman”, makes some points that in my mind chime with the observations from this entry.  He says   (I am paraphrasing) that the speed and the distance are the two most important variables in seeing and taking in the world.  That means in translating our experiences into filmmaking.

Here are some other ideas from that interview: 

The image is always a result of the shock of two images.

Movies are the trains not the stations (responding to why he focuses so much on the space between the actors).  He wants to be a train. 

Space is the time you need to go to someone else. 

Most filmmakers don’t really need a movie.  They want to be in a business, because it’s an easy business to be in, but they don’t need a movie.  Godard on the other hand needs his films very badly.  He needs them to ponder whether a story can be told at all.  

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