Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception since 1987

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The 12 Steps of Godard

Godard can set you free. Oui, it's true. I've been tripping out on the mazes and head games and poignant transcendental beauty of that Godard set with Detective (with Julie Delpy, pictured at left) and Passion and so forth on it. Anyway, here's the 12 steps.

1. Realize that all the plots and story lines that crop up will never go the way they should, and you need to let go of that.
2. Realize that Godard is better understood by people outside of France. Because Godard needs subtitles. People mumble.
3. Make an unconscious decision to trust Godard's love for you, the viewer, for his actors, and for the cinema. Make an effort to connect with that love. Godard is best taken with a light heart... as are all French films! Lighten up, American capitalist!
4. As you release your common expectations of story and ending, look for the collapse of boundaries between signifiers, genres, etc. Intertextuality is Godard's thing, so people are always reading aloud, and the stuff they read comments on the mise-en-scene and on the film itself, and on filmmaking, but obliquely.
5. If you are still having trouble, try this: Imagine you are making a collage in art class -- cutting out pictures from magazines and placing them in odd ways. You cut out a model from Elle, put her in the middle of a steel mill photo from the 1800s and add a giant tomato from a cooking magazine. Surrealisme!
6. Now, make the connection between the autobiographical and the universal and see how everything connects, fractal-like, down to the smallest atoms and up to the solar system, and onwards in both directions-- always the same actions and interactions. The myths of the ancient Greeks are still being played out, but with couch potatoes and birth control, speed bumps and Ambien.
7. Now you are beginning to grasp the underlying unifying cosmic principle behind coincidence, synchronicity and intuition. So go back to your collage and now pretend you could make the collage paper into a movie screen - with music and sound and images, all to play with as you choose.
8. Instead of getting hung up on using one set of characters all the way through, realize the eternal exists right now in the present moment, so no set of characters is fixed.
9. Seeing cause and effect so clearly now, you merge into the present moment - by viewing Godard's film you become a part of it, the way a flower only comes truly into bloom when gazed at.
10. In the moment, you recognize all signifiers for what they are and are free to see around the edges of Godard's tricks.
11. Understanding then, his genius deadpan comedy, you too keep deadpan and merely nod and look askance.
12. Having been set free by Godard, you move out into the world to love all unconditionally and spread the healing balm of your serenity upon our wounded planet with your every move. Amen.


  1. I think I will always have issue with number 3. I don't trust Godard's love for anything, other than himself, which always makes me reluctant an uneasy. How can I avert this?

  2. first of all, the French base their whole society on brotherly love. The City of Love is Paris! Second, how can you doubt Godard loves cinema even more than Paris? Read Cahiers du Cinema, the 1950s book. Third, you must look at your own self more deeply, what are you bringing to the table as a viewer? Expectations? Reservations? Hmm?

  3. I have no doubt about Godard's love for cinema. The doubting comes from the proposition that he loves me, the audience. That's where I'm not so convinced.

  4. Well no less than James Joyce loves his audience, or Ezra or T.S. or any of them poetus difficillus style dudeses.

    He's a deadpan comic, is the thing. He's so deadpan that he makes Beck look like Ween, and he takes that deadpan all the way over the edge, where deadpan becomes day-to-day reality, a way to live life.

  5. Hilarious. But I'm not sure I want to work this hard at watching a movie.

  6. Interesting. I watched "In Praise of Love" last night. The project falls apart because of the futility of locating an adult. Deadpan indeed.

  7. Hey, SW, thanks for your comment. I'm impressed you even made it through IN PRAISE OF LOVE. I can't even get through the FBI warning on that one yet. Maybe one day...

  8. I claim no heroics. I have sat on it for about a year now. I put it on Sunday night as wallpaper while I was working on a guitar tune. Reading your post on Monday morning was good for giggles.