Guy Braucourt and Guy Hennebelle
Cut, no. 18, August 1978, pp. 8-9
In the two following reviews reprinted from the French film magazine Écran (No. 51) and translated by Tiffany Fliss, debate the merits of the most recent experiments in film and video produced by Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville. So far HERE AND THERE and SIX TIMES TWO have not been released in the United States.
We think it is important to point out that neither critic mentions the role of Miéville in these coproductions, a large part of the content of which deals with sexual politics
We thank Écran for their permission to reprint the reviews and Tiffany Fliss for bringing them to our attention and for translating them. Various hands contributed to the footnotes; they are so indicated by initials.
Young and dynamic
by Guy Braucourt
Although one of these films appeared in movie theaters (HERE AND THERE) and the other on television (SIX TIMES TWO), these two most recent works by Jean-Luc Godard can be considered together. They both express the same preoccupations and reflect the same desire to use audiovisual means—video/film and TV channel/movie theatre—continually to provoke reflection and the analysis of language.
Within these films we find language in all its forms; that of images, of the media for conveying information, of film, TV, and video, and of common people as well as militants or intellectuals. Speaking first of SIX TIMES TWO, Godard says,
"Each program is composed of a relatively elaborate first episode which shows us the angle from which a situation appears, this being a sharper, clearer one than in traditional film or TV. A second complimentary episode unfolds in a different, more simple form, consisting of full length interviews in which all the original silences remain and which illuminate the intentions of the first program."
In this manner certain problems are discussed, depending upon the episode: unemployment and time (Y A PERSONNE), farming (LOUISON), the language of images (LEÇON DE CHOSES), the making of news photos (PHOTO & CIE.), pleasures of the amateur filmmaker (MARCEL), men and women (PAS D'HISTOIRE and NANAS), couples, or relationships between human beings (NOUS TROIS), mathematics and the human (RENÉ), madness and society (JACQUELINE ET LUDOVIC), and finally a section on the actual principles of and course taken by these programs (AVANT ET APRÉS), not to mention JEAN-LUC himself, interviewed by a journalist. But in the end, the important subject is communication. Images collide with sounds, while language shatters under the force of words, words which are themselves in the process of decomposition. Signs invade a TV screen which becomes in turn a blackboard upon which everything is questioned, above all the actual function of TV. The screen becomes—or rather has become only on these six summer Sunday nights—a veritable studio of thought, experimentation and research.
If the themes and motivations of HERE AND THERE, are, to a considerable extent, the same as those of SIX TIMES TWO (language, information, image, and sound), the starting point was very different. Originally, it began as a film made by Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin in 1970, commissioned and financed by the Arab League (1) and entitled UNTIL VICTORY (JUSQU'A LA VICTOIRE). There were many reasons why the film remained unfinished up until now. These included political groups, other projects by the Dziga Vertov group (2), and the eventual dissolution of this group. But above all seemed to loom the powerlessness of the authors to analyze the material they had filmed.
Finally, six years later, Godard (again) took up work on this documentary material in the company of Anne-Marie Miéville, with whom he began the video company called Sonimage in Grenoble. This time Godard did not simply attempt to edit the film. He analyzed himself as well as the footage, and the work he did in 1970, as much as the actual procedure used in filming any documented history for informational purposes. HERE, then, represents a French family who watches TV and sees their own problems—unemployment, the couple, the family. THERE refers to images of the Palestinian revolution as seen from afar.
But between these two realities, one as important as the other (is it politically scandalous to admit this?), between the HERE and the THERE, lies the little word, a sign, a capital link, AND. Godard's whole approach, as well as his thoughts, are contained in this key word. It establishes a union and an opposition, a juxtaposition, a contradiction of terms, which at the same time are objectively and physically different and distinct. Here Godard has filmed correspondences or the relations between realities, rather than a reality. These are social, political, psychological; about civilizations, nations and couples.
The astonishing thing is discovering to what extent this exciting Godardian series can provoke rejection and even hostility, as much in the press as on the word-of-mouth level. From the Right as well as the Left, Communists as well as Rightists, the reactionary press as well as the staff of Écran—alas, the same judgments fall like the guillotine blade. "Its not cinema, "not TV," "confusing," "distressing," "weak"… "Now we're getting down to civilized criticism; we'd better close up shop under these conditions." As far as the more politicized spirits are concerned, they obviously reproach Godard for not having made this a more socially aware film, one more committed to TV. They cannot excuse him for making use of the Palestinian problem only to end up with a questioning and doubting film instead of a militant one.
It seems obvious to me that because of his doubts, the Godard of 1976 is justified in undertaking this film. His questioning, his skepticism and confusion are ours and that of our society and our way of life, as well as his. There is a gap between our way of thinking and our way of being, between theory and practice, the ideal and the real, experience and the language used to express that experience. We are indeed all as far from Palestine as we were from Vietnam before, even if Palestine is present in our daily lives in the form of preconceived images, signs, ideas and passions that are constantly thrust upon us.
Godard dares confess this. He has been there and has no political lesson to learn from those who fight with words and from the safety of Paris. He dares confess that he, too, is merely an intellectual who is subordinate to the manipulation of words and images. He dares—and this annoys everyone, the aesthetes as well as the so-called revolutionaries. Which proves that he alone has remained young, dynamic, invigorating, and that he continues to make progress by endlessly provoking us. In other words, he enriches us (and film) by shaking the sclerosis and laziness from us (and film), in particular, the oh-so-immense and depressing laziness of criticism.
P.S. A bomb was discovered on opening day (September 15, 1976) in one of the Parisian movie theatres where the film was scheduled, and HERE AND THERE was immediately taken off the marquee; the only other showing was at another theatre. This new form of terrorist censorship is becoming (decidedly) fashionable. (This is the third film which has fallen victim to such methods this year.) Yet we must deplore the cowardice of the theatre owner who gives in to this type of blackmail, and thereby does not respect his contract with the distributor and filmmaker. At press time, no group had yet admitted to this attempted crime, or rather, this intimidation.
HERE AND THERE (ICI ET AILLEURS, 1970-1976), 60 min., 16 mm, color, distributed in France by MK2-Diffusion. Produced by Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard, SONIMAGE-INA.
SIX TIMES TWO (SIX FOIS DEUX, 1976), 12 films of about 70 min. each in color video, shown in 6 programs on FRANCE 3, from July 25 to August 29, 1976. Jean-Luc Godard (treasurer, editor, and writer), Anne-Marie Miéville (still photographer, writer, editor). Titles of the 12 episodes: Y A PERSONNE and LOUISON, LEÇON DE CHOSES and JEAN-LUC, PHOTO & CIE., MARCEL, PAS D'HISTOIRES, NANAS, NOUS TROIS, RENÉ, AVANT ET APRÉS, JACQUELINE ET LUDOVIC. (IF)
1. A voluntary organization of 21 Arab states formed in 1947 to promote unity. (eds.)
2. Godard and Gorin, as the Dziga Vertov group, worked together on experiments in making political films politically between 1968 and 1973. (TF)
by Guy Hennebelle
One day a sociological study should be done on the Godard phenomenon. The fascination that this filmmaker holds for a great number of the intelligensia, whatever their point of view, forms, in effect, quite an exceptional case in the history of film. In My Fifteen Years of World Film, I attempted to make a division between the positive contributions of the occasionally inspired incendiary called Godard and the ashes of the works done by a man who is often a laughable clown. The electric shocks to which he has submitted the seventh art for nearly twenty years now have undeniably contributed to his progress while considerably softening his grammar and destroying the comfortable certainties of Hollywood and related ethics. Great. On a thematic level, we must also realize that Godard has more than once in his films shown us his brilliant insights—the fruits of a man who is sensitive, perhaps from having been skinned alive by his critics. This may be what has rendered him particularly receptive to the vibrations of the world in which we live. Great (once again).
Will the powerful F.I.G. (Followers of Godard's Absolutes) permit me, however, to emit a few restrictive remarks with relation to a quite widespread enthusiasm? And will they allow me to demonstrate that this enthusiasm has been established by a famous joker, with the help of certain extracts from the innumerable terrorist critiques surrounding his films with a passionately protective cocoon?
Since his technique is in keeping with a philosophy, to what do the methods which Godard uses and abuses in almost all his latest films refer? The answer is quite simple: to the narcissistic display of existential despair. Let's all cry. I would like to hear Godard's flatterers agree at least that this conception is antagonistic to Dziga Vertov's, with whose experience he claims great kinship and the relationship with whom he has willingly been credited.
In the name of freedom and the necessity of formal research, we often find ourselves clinging to the justification of films which he himself has always called "rough drafts." But why is it necessary for him to use his indispensable experimentation in films in which the content wavers, depending on the case, between total vacuousness and the haziest of prophesies? Isn't it from the will to express new content, according to Brecht, that new forms themselves can be born? (1) But what does Godard generally do if not express the confusion which he feels when faced with reality, without ever hoping to interpret in a way which might permit him to clarify and transform it?
This obstinacy seems particularly alarming to me in the case of HERE AND THERE because it concerns a cause of such gravity and urgency that at the very least it is embarrassing that Godard should surrender himself to a formalist criticism of it. And then, how can Godard pretend that the Palestinian question is incomprehensible to a European? Why is he so sure that "we" cannot correctly interpret what is happening "there" in the third world? Far from Santiago, the filmmakers Mattelart, Mayous and Meppiel seem to have perfectly succeeded in LA SPIRALE in explaining the Chilean drama. And haven't Joris Ivens and Marceline Loridan shown us that China is near in their remarkable film, YUKONG? Think of the anti-Zionist impact that a pro-Palestinian film signed by Godard could have exerted! There is something revolting about his breeziness here.
In any case, the French reality, if we can judge it by the SIX TIMES TWO hours which were put at Godard's disposal by the third TV channel (FRANCE 3), does not seem to inspire in him a vision of more pertinent things. Only one of the six programs was physically tolerable to me, the second part of the first "chapter." This is because Louison the farmer knew how to carry on a conversation which reveals his character much more than the trifling questions asked by Godard. To make up for it, the feeling of superiority which permeated Godard's "taxed conversations" with the unemployed, in particular with the cleaning woman who was invited to sing a ridiculous "International," had something disquieting about it. In most of the other programs, an occasional lucky find, like some remarks and some "tricks" here and there, compensated the worthy TV viewer who had persevered this long; just as the subject matter of HERE AND THERE contains five or six interesting reflections on revolutionary romanticism, a positive hero, and pertinent problems.
But who, under dire penalty of intellectual excommunication, would want us to believe that this is the avant-garde?
I am surprised that no one has wondered why France 3 generously granted such lengthy airtime to Godard. A little bird told me that someone knew that his incoherent gibberish would be perfectly inoffensive. Imagine what would happen if France 3 had given carte rouge to Rene Vautier (2) or Cinélutte?(3)
A completely idiotic question, Hennebelle.
1. It's true that according to Jean-Pierre Gorin (Take One, 5:1) there's nothing left to learn from Brecht. Doubtless another dialectic reversal. (GH)
2. Vautier contributed to the development of Black African film with AFRIQUE 50 made in the Ivory Coast and ALGERIE EN FLAMES (1958), a documentary made with the liberation forces at the height of the war in Algeria. (TF)
3. Cinélutte is a leftist film collective formed in 1970 to link film with the struggles of the people. Each screening of one of their films is a political act, according to the group, as these are non-commercial, distinctly militant films. See an interview with them in Cahiers du cinéma, July-August, 1974. (TF)