THE BLOG
11/06/2014 01:32 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Goodbye to Language: Brecht in 3-D

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There's Godard's much talked about dog Roxy who has more than a cameo in Goodbye to Language and there's the subversive use of 3-D. In a kind of cinematic guerilla warfare, this highest level of perspectival illusion is usurped throughout the film. But Godard either mistitled his movie or is so caught up in the Babel myth that infuses it (at one point it's remarked that everyone will need interpreters) that he misses his own point. From the beginning of the film everyone is reading. They're reading Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago and Dostoevsky's The Possessed. The skewed 3-D is mirrored by the overlays of constant and wonderful aphorism (particularly relating to Hitler): "Everything Hitler said he accomplished," "Machiavelli, Richelieu, Bismarck, Hitler did not invent anything." "society accepts murder to solve unemployment," "inner experience is now forbidden by society in general," "the dog is the only creature who loves you more than itself." Zero and infinity, adieu and dieux. "Kamera," we are informed, is the Russian for prison. Monet is quoted and Shelley and Byron make cameo appearances at the end of the film. Truffaut Fahrenheit 451 was a futuristic tale based on a Ray Bradbury novel about the burning of books. But Goodbye to Language is no Kristallnacht. And while Godard may romanticize the closeness of Roxy's relationship with reality, we cannot be assured that the dog shares his master's continuing and exuberant delight in the female body. Godard has always exuded Courbet's love for wanton displays of femininity (in specific the mons pubis which has become a near extinct species of beaver in our pedophiliac Brazilian wax culture). A better title for Goodbye to Language would be Goodbye to Reality. The film's begins by declaring, "those lacking in imagination take refuge in reality" and it's really Brecht in 3-D with Verfremndungseffekt acting as a didactic tool. If Bergman was the great metaphysician of modern art house cinema than Godard is its epistemologist. Le gai savoir was based on Jean Jacques Rousseau's Emile: Or On Education.. His subject is, in fact, language, consciousness and history on both an ontogenic and phylogenic basis. In Goodbye to Language the arguing couple of Contempt (played here by Heloise Godet and Kamel Abdeli) return for an encore. Microcosm and macrocosm--his couple's utterances and nudity have both theological and semiological significance ("nature" and "metaphor" are recurring titles for sequences). At the end, Godard credits his actors along with a list of great thinkers, who he is wont to quote. His screen does go black and his soundtrack silent, but is his movie a swan song for language? Hardly. Andre Malraux wrote his Anti-Memoirs. He couldn't have made this masterful anti-masterpiece without it.

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}