Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Woman is a Woman

Dir: Jean-Luc Godard

In honor of Godard's 75th birthday, I found it fitting to yet again journey through the complex celluloid forest known as the French New Wave. Most every erudite film scholar identifies Godard as one of the greatest living film directors, and perhaps one of the best ever. Certainly, his influence is quite extensive; Godard is an overwhelming influence on Soderbergh, Tarentino, Scorsese, Allen and countless other great directors. With all that said, I find his films hard to grasp. Yes, they are intentionally inscrutable, for cohension is a luxury Godard can do with out. But there are those films that I know are much smarter than me, and then there are those films that let me know that they are smarter than me. In other words, the entire Godard opus. Likewise, Godard is one of those untouchable figures in film studies. Any disparaging words about the master are often rebuffed by condescending remarks that isolate the viewer's failure to appreciate his genius. With that said, I am mightly attempting to rectify my cinematic shortcomings.

A Woman is a Women is Godard's third film and his first one shot on colored widescreen stock. It follows the "story" of a Cabaret dancer (played by Godard's soon-to-be wife, Anna Karina) who wants to have a child, preferably with the man she loves. But, if he is unwilling or unable to fulfill her desires, she will seek other viable candidates. The film is somewhat of a playful take on the American musical (I say "somewhat" rather than "about," lest I display my ignorance by attempting to capture the essence of the film made by the master of contradiction and complexity). It is funny at times, and even heart wrenching. The film is more a series of ruminations on love and relationships than a narrative. Godard is known for having very loose "scripts," so his film unfold organically, as if they are records of his thought process.

Despite mild hints of irony, I do find Godard's films interesting and intellectually compelling, but not necessarily entertaining (although I loved Alphaville). Admittedly, I have seen a limited number of his films, and have yet to see some of his seminal films like Weekend, Masculine/Feminine, Breathless. I am in the process of learning more about him, but like so many critical and pretentious artists, Godard attracts many faux-European sycophants that mistake cynicism for intelligent insight. I remember a few years back reading a New York Times film review for "In Praise of Love," a film that is critical of American cinema, in particular Spielberg (and his non-union Mexican counterpart), where the reviewer notes that Godard is beating the horse he killed decades ago. I tend to agree, this incredible genius is starting to sound like a grumpy old socialist who is bitter that his current films are no longer the groudbreaking masterpieces he used to make. So, I'll stick to watching the masterpieces.

Happy Birthday JLG, you make the world a more beautiful place. I hope you are around for years to come. Thank you.