A Sea Of Change In Godard’s Film Socialisme

A Sea Of Change In Godard’s Film Socialisme

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
New Wave Films

Release date: November 7th 2011
Certificate (UK): PG
Running time: 101 minutes

Country of origin: France
Original language: French with English subtitles

Writer and director: Jean Luc Godard
Producer: Ruth Waldburger

Cast: Patti Smith, Catherine Tanvier and Jean-Marc Stehlé

To think about great moments in cinema history, is to recall movements like the Weimar Republic, Neo-Realism and the French New Wave.

To think about great directors from these eras is to naturally think of Fritz Lang, Vittorio De Sica and Jean Luc Godard whose works have not only defined these eras but still influence filmmakers today.

Film Socialisme

Film Socialisme is startlingly different from other works by Godard. It’s shot in HD with a 16:9 aspect ratio making it a first for the director who’s been making films since his debut in 1960 with Breathless.

Its story is split into three parts as he focuses on history, culture, philosophy and economics of modern Europe which he describes as ‘a symphony in three movements’.

Set on the SS Concordia, a cruise ship touring the Mediterranean, the first movement, Des choses comme ça (“Such things”) is a series of conversations between passengers. With an assortment of languages, they feature a war criminal, a former United Nations official and a Russian detective.

Film Socialisme

From there we move on to the second movement, Notre Europe (“Our Europe”) where two children demand answers from their parents who face a barrage of questions on liberty, equality, and fraternity.

After that, it’s on to the third and final movement, Nos humanités (“Our humanities”) which takes us to Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples, and Barcelona where Godard tries to retrace the footsteps of history using a montage of film clips, images and music.

It’s difficult to find the flow at first as the stories are so fragmented. They’re more like glimpses we get when peering through people’s living room windows as we pass by. We get a sense that there’s a bigger picture but we’re just not privy to it. It’s withheld and this is as much as of it we’ll ever see. We’re also constantly moving, pushing forward as the sea carries the passengers.

Film Socialisme

There’s some work involved in piecing it together and you take from it what you put into it. What you get out of the scene where French philosopher Alain Badiou gives a talk to an empty depends on how and what you feel about philosophy and the mindset of the average person who decides not to attend. What is philosophy, who is it for and what can you use it with?

While Godard’s work has been heavily criticised over the years for becoming too political, often rejecting the storytelling techniques he was so fond of during his Cahiers du cinema days with Éric Rohmer and Jacques Rivette, he’s a director who’s work has remained consistently challenging and important.

At the age of 80 whom of today’s directors can we say the same of 50 years from now?

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