Cold Reality

The Criterion Project, Day 2 : 2 or 3 things I Know About Her (1967, Jean-Luc Godard)

It’s not just me, I feel, who absolutely can’t stand the French New Wave period. A genre dedicated to over-intellectualized, alienating, and unpassionate films, this genre has become synonymous with “Pretentious art”. I’d seen several of Godard’s films before, Breathless and Alphaville, and had aborted on several others. Perhaps it’s the snail’s-pace timing, the meandering hand-held cameras, or the constant literary and filmic quotes that makes me feel more like I’m in a college lecture than a happy place. Am I supposed to take notes?

Yes — I understand why his films are “important”. I get it that at the time, New Wave was so drastically different from the traditional way of making — or even DEFINING — a “movie”, that it truly raised more questions than it answered. By immediately discarding every notion of film-making technique, linear story-telling, narrator’s role, and even the audience’s role, Goddard certainly was one of the most important ushers of the great “world cinema” gold-rush of the 60s & 70s, and forced all subsequent film makers to push themselves into new avenues of expression. But have I ever enjoyed one of his films? Not in the slightest.

However, I forced myself to relax. I did not take his constant literary, philosophical, or political quotations seriously, did not try to read every subtitle of the narrator, whispering throughout, (ugh….) and merely enjoyed a story of a bored 1960s Parisian housewife, who prostitutes herself on the side to make extra money. And, the second I discarded everything that Godard believed in — it’s socio-political statements, it’s commentary on film history, its breaking of the fourth wall, and it’s constant pretentious narrator whispering Godard’s commentary on modern suburban life — only then was I able to enjoy (not LOVE) many parts of the film. There actually was some truly beautiful cinematography, and Marina Vlady was surprisingly charming in the lead role. I was able to enjoy watching the meandering daily activities of her life, as the film followed her over 24 hours.

Godard’s background as a film critic overshadows his films today. As most criticism fades in time, as tastes change and films get reevaluated over time, his films have also faded today, feeling incredibly stoic. His films, after all, are a series of criticisms.

As Godard comments on 1960s French society, so must one comment on Godard.

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