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Review: Jean-Luc Godard's 'Film Socialisme' Is A Pointless Exercise In...We Don't Even Know What

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist June 2, 2011 at 1:36AM

The following is a reprint of our review from the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.
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The following is a reprint of our review from the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.

God bless Jean-Luc Godard, but say your prayers for anyone who had to sit through the icon and provocateur's latest. We barely made it.

It's difficult to describe "Film Socialisme" as frankly, we didn't understand what the fuck was going on. The film is presented with no subtitles or rather, with extraordinarily condensed subtitles. Featuring a plethora of languages including French, English, Russian and a couple of others, entire sentences are reduced to no more than three word summaries at the bottom of the screen. This writer has a pretty good working understanding of French and can thoroughly attest that the Cliff's notes-style subtitles leave a lot to be desired. This stylistic choice by Godard was...interesting, but to what end we're not certain. Still, we're sure he had a good laugh about it.


Anyway, we can tell you the film is separated into three parts, all centering to some degree on the usual Godard touchstones of history, politics, myth and truth. What he was actually trying to say is beyond us and we're not going to attempt to define it. Instead, we'll just run down some of the things we remember from the film: something about how the Jews invented Hollywood; a pretty girl standing at a gas station reading Balzac and ignoring people; a young kid air-composing the Russian national anthem; lots of stock footage of historical events; still photos of ancient world landmarks; something about Palestine being DENIED ACCESS; and a lot of shots of llamas for some reason. Oh yeah, Patti Smith is in this too to no real discernible effect except that she's modestly famous.

The film's conceptual presentation certainly isn't aided by the director's trademarked editing style, which this time around boasts voice-over on top of dialogue, on-screen text, drowned-out dialogue, blown-out digital video and sound captured on a camera phone as well as other flashy editing tricks (for example, in a sequence in which a girl is taking photographs, the screen blinks as your eyes would after a photo). And while this is all the director's stock in trade, and has all been utilized by pretty much every student filmmaker in the world at some point in their nascent careers, here Godard has transcended himself, making a film that plays out exactly how you would imagine a crappy student film filled with IDEAS and NON-NARRATIVE and MONTAGE would. It would be embarrassing if not for its outright audacity, but that alone doesn't make a good film (or in this case, even a remotely enjoyable or interesting one).

Talking with a colleague before the screening, this writer remarked that when Godard fails, he does so spectacularly. This is one of those times. A completely obfuscating, obstinate, provocative and ultimately pointless exercise in we don't even know what, "Film Socialisme" is only for the most die-hard Godard devotees. Or, you can save yourself the trouble and watch the trailer for the film which is four minutes long and shows the entire thing in reverse. It will make as much sense as watching it forward and it will save you ninety precious minutes of your life.

We can't even grade this so we'll just copy the last two words of the film, which we're sure Godard would approve of as an evaluation. [NO COMMENT]

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