Le Gai Savoir (Jean-Luc Godard / France, 1969):

You don’t top Weekend, you go "back to zero." Eden in a grossly saturated era is a darkened void, an empty TV studio where Adam and Eve -- Emile Rousseau (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Patricia Lumumba (Juliet Berto) -- gather nightly for semiotic seminars. (God is the raspy proselytizer heard on the airwaves, Jean-Luc Godard: "You, comrades. You, who I ignored behind the turbulences. Come. Talk to us.") Language, visual and spoken, is the enemy, the goal is to decompose, reduce, substitute, and recompose it. The weapon is an astoundingly sustained 92-minute fusillade-montage founded on Vertov (sound-stage monkeyshines cut with cartoons, posters, porn magazines, political pamphlets and glimpses of Parisian streets) and Wittgenstein (word-association games with a moppet and a half-deaf geezer, anagrams, demolitions of meaning). Vermeer, the Beatles, "Mao sait tout," Che Guevara, Le Jour se Lève, Mack Sennett and Stalin, Israel’s "reac-Zionists," Ginsberg, Tom and Jerry, Daniel Defoe’s "fascism" and John Ford’s "imperialism." Mozart, the bleeps of censorship, Bach, Grouchoisms, the songs of Cuba Libre, poetic slurring before Marvel Comics’ titans. "Freud" and "Marx" scrawled on a nudie centerfold, Léaud and Berto cooing and squawking at each other in a hilarious Miracle Worker lampoon, a minute of silence for the Black Panthers and a minute of dissonance for the victims of Mitterrand. Revolt against "the blatant truths of bourgeois philosophy," against "absent images, censored images, prostituted images, machinated images, delinquent, buggered images..." Once the book is destroyed ("Turn the pages at random, I say"), what’s left to do but invent your own dialectic? This is cinema in the barricades, Godard ends on a rallying cry for Bertolucci, Skolimowski, Rocha, Straub, et al. "Let’s look. Let’s listen. Let’s criticize." Cinematography by Georges Leclerc.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home