(Jean-Luc Godard; Switzerland/ France; 2010)
The legend of Godard seems to be so formidable that it really shouldn't have surprised me that this mid-afternoon screening was sold out. This is Godard's third film since his sprawling masterwork Histoire(s) du Cinema, and each film Godard has made after this magnum opus makes me feel as if this has truly been the true endpoint of his film-making. While In Praise Of Love and Notre Musique managed to adequately harness a tendency towards the elliptic, Film Socialisme seemed to meander within willful obtuseness. Like the cruise ship that was the locus of the first of three movements within the film, the film seemed to be large and important, but not going anywhere in particular. The first section was filled with enough metaphors, both visual and otherwise, to keep the film afloat, but the second section, based around a family at a gas station, was over-long and tedious. The Godardian occurrence of the recitation of text as treatise or political tract fell flat, and was not aided by the removal of all verbs from sub-titles. As verbs imply existence and action, I couldn't help feel that their removal from the sub-titles indicated the death or stasis of language or expression. As a concept this is fine, but in terms of cinematic presentation this felt as if the film itself was in a state of paralysis, a kind of rigor mortis.
ADDENDUM; It is now two weeks after seeing this film, and I feel I need to temper my original views a little. Perhaps the expectation of seeing something truly magnificent blighted my experience of the film, and in the mad-dash hurry to get my thoughts out of my system, I've performed a slight disservice to the film. Furthermore, I was hungry, and I believe one's full undivided attention needs to be given to this kind of film - if my belly was full, perhaps it wouldn't have left me feeling kind of grumpy. In hindsight, Godard has achieved something with the first section and the last section that many film-makers choose to ignore - to overtly dissect, examine, critique, and proffer outright opinions on the state of the world we inhabit, the culture that shapes us, the past we are trying to forget and the future we are trying to destroy. Histoire(s) du Cinema was truly monumental, and it's as if I am struggling to imagine Godard after this event. But of course there are films post-Histoire, and these films are still unusually lucid beacons that survey the current landscape. Godard's choice of digital for Film Socialisme creates some extremely cinematic moments, with the overloaded sounds and bleeding dark hues of a nightclub creating one the most resonating nightmarish shots of the whole festival. The mid section still leaves me cold - it felt laboured and wearying, but then again, this was when I started to drift into reveries about dinner. I scrap my original score and amend to 3 stars - I feel that a return viewing at a later date (with a happier stomach) may result in a more settled experience.