London Film Festival for Verité Film Mag: Jean-Luc Godard's Goodbye to Language 3D

 I reviewed Jean-Luc Godard's incredible Goodbye to Language 3D, which screened at the BFI London Film Festival. The review was over at Verité Film Magazine, but now you can find it right here:


To see late period work from Jean-Luc Godard is to prepare to surrender to impenetrability. And at eighty-two years old, he is as radical and confounding as he’s ever been. The 121st project from the chieftain of the French New Wave is as charmingly incorrigible and intellectually obtuse as Godard himself. Goodbye to Language is a freewheeling 3D exercise in vacillating montage and mutating images, continually defying any application of logic or structure.

In a rare recent interview, Godard stated that the ‘idea’ of Goodbye to Language is, in fact, to "escape from ideas". If it could be said to resemble anything at all, Godard’s film mostly emerges as some kind of exploration of the primordial, pre-linguistic muddle; the Lacanian mirror stage collapsing in on itself. If the premise is that language organises and structures our world by compartmentalising objects, ideas, and individuals in an ultimately limiting way, Godard repeatedly strikes out at the comprehensible features of that edifice.

Generally speaking, the film is split into two sections, titled ‘Nature’ and ‘Metaphor’. Mostly, it concerns two lovers (Héloise Godet and Kamel Abdeli) with a seemingly great distance between them, expounding on death, political engagement, metaphor and nudity in oblique snippets of conversation. As they fall apart through charged but scattershot diatribes, their canine companion Roxy looks on, filmed with a mixture of improbably regal close-ups and lighthearted humour.
“The absurd and the scatological frequently come into play, and the result of all this discord, bar considerable eye-rubbing, is not easily discerned”
The absurd and the scatological frequently come into play, with jokes about forests and pubic hair, and 3D that frequently folds in on itself completely or rends itself in two, leaving the audience struggling to make sense of the image. The camera is flipped upside down, schizophrenically shifting focus and jaggedly cutting between sounds. Images reoccur frequently or appear apropos of nothing, as in a recreation of Mary Shelley’s writing of 'Frankenstein'.

The result of all this discord, bar considerable eye-rubbing, is not easily discerned, but it certainly shifts our perceptions of the commonplace. In a characteristically unclassifiable way, Godard seems to address semiotics. Repeatedly, we see trees, washing machines, beds, hands, cities, rivers. What impressions are left on objects and spaces by history, emotion, or death? What margin is there between the supposed precision of words and the actual existence of a thought or even a physical object?

It seems to Godard that this is the perplexing margin we all live in - the margin between language and thought, or language and existence. As such, we are all incapable of truly communicating with one another, or of truly conveying one’s ideas. When a dog is put onscreen, the audience recognises that the invention of language is the very cornerstone of being human. With that recognition comes malaise and confusion. In that vacuum of understanding, there is Roxy the dog, and there is Jean-Luc Godard. I think they both know something we don’t.


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