There are movies you can watch with one eye closed, while texting your crush or thinking about your grocery list. There are movies you can watch with a bunch of friends and comment, laugh, talk about something else for a while, get up to get some more popcorn. There are movies who don’t demand your full attention, they are here to present a certain plot and try to entertain you while on the greater scale their sole purpose is to earn as much money as possible and then fall into the oblivion. Everyone who had at least a brief encounter with Jean-Luc Godard‘s movies is aware, of course, that this is not the case.
The average mind raised on the typical American style cinematography will get confused after five minutes, get bored after twenty and is most likely to give up from watching the movie after 45 minutes. But that’s no surprise and doesn’t mean that the average mind is stupid or uneducated. Godard’s work is an acquired taste, the one that when/if the viewer accepts it and gets to know it, falls in love more and more until you start looking at the everyday life scenes through Jean-Luc’s glasses.
That started happening to me after I watched Une femme est Une Femme (A woman is a Woman, 1961), my first Godard experience. I was a bit puzzled at first but it was love at first sight – the story, Anna Karina, Belmondo, the clothes, dialogue, colors, language… Freedom! Freedom is the key, freedom from the overpayed, overplayed, predictable script, nonchalant deconstruction of what is considered ‘normal’ or ‘succesful’. Godard himself says it all in one simple sentence:
“Improvising on the set is different from faithfully following the script.”
The last one I’ve (re) watched is also one of the most important French new wave titles – Pierrot le Fou (Pierrot Goes Wild, 1965). It’s one of those movies that stuck with me and will always be important, also this time I had a chance to watch it in the cinema, on the big screen. What an experience, not even drunk people talking pretty loudly or leaving in the middle of the film couldn’t spoil the good feels and my overall excitement. If an extraterrestrial finally visits our beautiful planet one day, I suggest playing Pierrot for him/her/? to explain what ART means. You can’t define it in one word, it can be completely subjective, but once you come across it, you know it’s here.
What I like the most about this film is the criticism towards Americanization, war and consumerism. We are so obsessed with things and accumulating stuff we don’t really need. We all know that, we’ve seen Fight Club for god’s sake, but still we remain clueless. I’m looking for winter coats online as we speak and I get that adrenaline rush because I’m in a hurry to pick the PERFECT one, the one that DEFINES me and at the same time I hate myself for it, but also can’t help it. Ridiculous, it’s like being stuck in between two worlds. That’s why artist that present sober critics to their public need to be even more appreciated. They are not just artists who create something for themselves and a small circle of people, they represent the state of society in general. Through the words, music, images and beautiful or funny scenes they can comfort us, but also implement a warning sign in our mind that something needs to be changed.
Like all great works of art, Pierrot le Fou is still very much relevant, I always laugh at the statement:
“Now we are entering the age of the ass.”
We are very much in that age and it seems like we will be in it for a while longer, don’t we? It’s hard to come out and look up, I guess.
To conclude, i really think everyone should find some free time and dedicate it to watching good, classic movies, and not just so they can boast about it and act all ‘intellectual’ in front of others, it should be completely opposite, actually. Watching Godard helps me create my own little world, draw inspiration from it and learn. Finding out that improvisation can coexist with author’s control over his work and what he’s trying to achieve is something I didn’t know before Godard, and now I very much appreciate. It is the unique pleasure of letting the viewer feel whatever he wants to, find his own way through the two hour movie watching experience without pulling his hand like he’s a kid about to get lost in the shopping mall. Let him get lost on purpose to find something new and exciting, that is the goal.
There are many little joys we all need to give our life true meaning, the memory of coming out of the cinema, snapping my fingers while singing quietly Ma ligne de chance is and always will be among my favourite instant mood boosters. And the best part is, I have yet to discover the rest of the ‘nouvelle vague’ familly – Truffaut, Chabroul, Rivette….