Devil may guerre
Inspired by Dante, French intellectualism and brain-teasing wordplay, 74-year-old icon Jean-Luc Godard makes a topical statement on war in "Notre Musique."
By LESLIE (HOBAN) BLAKE
On the eve of his 75th birthday, let us praise Jean-Luc Godard for remaining true to his visions. This time it's the concept of war and he's definitely against it. As for his once fiercely Pro-Palestinian sentiments, they seem to have muted to a sense of regret for loss on all sides.
At one point in the film, Godard says that in 1948, when the Jews "walked out of the water to the Holy Land, the Palestinians walked into the water. The Jews became the stuff of fiction, the Palestinians became a documentary."
|Written and directed by: Jean-Luc Godard.|
Cast: Sarah Adler, Nade Dieu, Rony Kramer, Jean-Christophe Bouvet, George Aguilar, Leticia GutiŽrrez, Ferlyn Brass, Simon Eine, Elma Dzanic, Juan Goytisolo, Mahmoud Darwich, Jean-Paul Curnier, Pierre Bergounioux, Gilles Pecqueux.
Cinematography: Julien Hirsch.
Edited by: Jean-Luc Godard.
In French with English subtitles.
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Yes, like his compere Claude Lelouch in the current "Les Parisiens," Godard appears as himself in "Notre Musique," his new three-part allegorical anti-war tone poem / docudrama. He is a formidable screen presence on either side of the camera.
The opening of the triptych of "Notre Musique" is a first "movement" titled "Kingdom I: Hell," wherein Godard presents a masterful montage of historic warfare, mixing fact and fantasy. It's a visual worthy of the creator of that cinematic format Eisenstein himself.
Images from warring cavemen to the Nazis cavort with movie cowboys and Indians, and scenes from "Ran" and "Apocaplyse Now" play side by side with newsreel WW I and II soldiers. A v/o intones that death is "the impossible of the possible and the possible of the impossible." The effect is as devastating as it is exhilarating.|
That marriage of text and image is also the subject of the lecture that Godard himself is to give in Sarajevo in the film's second movement, "Purgatory." So, we are securely in Danteland and the "Inferno" references are clear.
"Purgatory" for Godard is a philosophical place where people constantly make portentous statements by reversing the order of a sentence. A Spanish novelist says, "Killing a man to defend an idea isn't defending an idea. It's killing a man." These word games also embody the linguistic equivalent of the "shot/reverse shot" theories in Godard's film lecture.
When Judith Lerner (Sarah Adler), an Israeli journalist, finds the Frenchman who saved her parents in Vichy, France, in 1943, he is now the French ambassador. But she says she wants to talk with him person to person. "Not a just conversation, just a conversation." Admittedly, a little of this linguistic persiflage can go a long way to anyone who isn't French.
Lerner, who has come to Sarajevo to be in a place "where reconciliation is possible," is one of two female Israeli characters in "Notre Musique." The other is Olga Brodsky (Nade Dieu), a young filmmaker riddled with the guilt of her Jewish identity in the never-ending war in the Middle East.|
She becomes in effect the living example of the film's description of a survivor of war. "A survivor is not only changed, he becomes someone else." Olga is later killed in an ironic and botched (or was it?) suicide attempt in Jerusalem.
Part Three is set in the "Kingdom of Heaven" after Olga's death. Godard's heaven is a lush forest guarded by American marines. At the film's end, Olga and a soldier share an apple in this heavenly Eden hardly a Godard-like sentiment given the rashly anti-American attitudes of his last film, "ƒloge de l'amour" ("In Praise of Love").
The anti-war "Notre Musique" is filled with melancholic irony, underscored by its very presence in the New York Film Fest's roster along with the reconstruction of Sam Fuller's "The Big Red One" (which also gave some imagery to the opening montage) and a series of five programs of propaganda films made between 1948 and 1953 to promote the Marshall Plan.
|OCTOBER 10, 2004|
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