Jean-Luc Godard’s “Film Socialisme”
Knowledge of the French language would be beneficial to understanding Jean-Luc Godard’s latest film, Film Socialisme. But French wouldn’t necessarily lead to a correct understanding, just a different understanding.
Film Socialisme comprises three movements: “Things Such As,” “Our Europe” and “Our Humanities.” All three are filled with snippets of action – or lack thereof – and Godard leaves it to the audience to connect the dots.
The “English” subtitles are in what has been called “American Navajo.” That’s intriguing, but the subtitles come across as non-sequiturs. Sometimes, the fragmented words clearly do not quite match up with the dialogue.
That is not to say the subtitles are not powerful. For example, “people ignore other / wars everywhere / ourselves mirror / love yourself silly / no harm other / law or treason / do not love us / ideas divide / dreams bring closer / nightmares / love and pride / fatherblood / then hate,” or the simple “about equality / about shit.”
Film Socialisme represents classic French New Wave cinema – which Godard largely pioneered. It shuns plot and other mainstream film-making conventions and focuses on crafting a narrative based more on a compilation of images and ideas, often socially and politically charged.
The first movement, “Things Such As,” takes place on a Mediterranean luxury cruise. It shows various going-ons of passengers aboard the ship. In certain moments, it feels as if Godard simply put up low-quality security cameras onboard and used said footage. You can hear the wind noise and the the bass of the music in the dance club. You sense the hustle and bustle and hear the commotion of the dining room.
In “Our Europe,” a family is being bombarded by a journalist and her cameraperson. Through their interactions, you can feel the tension between the family and the journalists and between the children and their parents. Words are not needed to understand the intensity and angst of the teenage daughter or the wise-beyond-his-years and slyly rebellious nature of the young son.
Film Socialisme’s disorienting and puzzling nature is appealing, and perhaps only so because this writer does not speak the language. But being forced to craft one’s own idea of what is actually taking place is a welcome challenge. And yet, the film is still slightly disheartening. The political, social and culturally charged messages that Godard attempts to send might be lost in (non?) translation. And that’s a shame.
Film Socialisme is playing at the UWM Union Theatre on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 17 at 5 and 9 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 18 at 3 and 7:15 p.m.