After leaving his filmmaking base and home in France in 1978 for Switzerland, Jean-Luc Godard's films became more overtly introspective but less revolutionary in his middle age. The 1983 First Name: Carmen is a perfect exa... more »mple of the director's reconnection with his roots in the French New Wave while musing about his own role, life, and legacy in the movement. Essentially three films bundled into one (or, more accurately, three levels of the film's self-awareness), Carmen stars Godard himself as a languishing filmmaker hired by his niece to make a movie; what he doesn't know is that she wants the project to be a front for terrorism. That submerged sense of betrayal and final futility permeates Carmen as we see a string quartet struggle through a Beethoven soundtrack (rather than Bizet), a love story of Carmen and Don José that crumbles, and Godard himself as the creator tempted to end up the sum of all that has undone his greatest efforts. An amazing, confessional film, First Name: Carmen finds Godard, as he did in the early days, making an endless loop of his life in cinema and the cinema in his life. --Tom Keogh« less
"This is a very good Goddard movie that Fox Lorber treats badly. On both video and DVD it is advertised as letterbox but it is actually full frame on both. If that doesn't bother you then movie is worth seeing just to enjoy Goddard presenting himself as an institutionalized washed-up filmmaker determined to stay institutionalized.."
Regarding the aspect ratio
Peter Henne | San Pedro, California United States | 04/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In response to one of the amazon reviewers, the correct aspect ratio for "First Name: Carmen" is 1.33:1. As proof, you can see the reel markers while watching the DVD. Thus, while the film might have been "window boxed" to absolutely contain all the edges, a full frame format is adequate and "normal" for films in this ratio. Almost all of Godard's feature films from "Passion" onward can be formatted correctly in the same ratio. "King Lear" and "For Ever Mozart" were soft-matted, meaning they could be projected at 1.85:1 and 1.66:1, respectively, in theatre screenings while matting part of the image in the projector gate. For example, the out-of-print, Cinematheque Collection VHS tape of "King Lear," which is full frame, contains more of the image at the top than a theatrical presentation does."
An extraordinary film...Godard returns to his roots.
Scott D. Cudmore | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 04/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's certainly true what the other reviewers of this DVD have been saying: it -isn't- widescreen like it says it is. This is dissapointing, but it still looks and sounds somewhat better than the previous video release of the film. And it is a very good movie anyhow. His 1979 picture, "Slow Motion" is generally considered Godard's return to his New Wave roots, but I don't really agree. I think that it's found in this film, in which Godard once again plays with the construction of narrative form like he did in the 60's. The style of this film and those films is similar, whereas much of his later work is extremely dense and cerebral. I'm not disparaging those pictures; I love many of them. But I find that most people tend to love his older stuff and avoid his later stuff...so I'm saying that this film would probably make fans of the older films quite happy. It makes remarkable use of Beethoven's music as performed by a string quartet that we see rehearsing on camera (see, this is the kind of stuff you expect from Godard, right?) as well as a great Tom Waits song, "Ruby's Arms"."
yann schinazi | colorado | 03/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
One of J-L Godard's most poignant films and the saddest of his continuing interrogations on the meaning of love, `Prenom: Carmen' is an apocalyptic, autobiographical noir. Godard uses the language of noir to make a reflexive, personal essay on the nature of images and his own isolation. He loves the symbols of genre movies and doesn't deconstruct them so much as keep them as primal as possible, `Prenom: Carmen' is a film told in those symbols: a girl, a boy, a gun, a car, a terrorist front, a television screen flickering. In all of Godard's noirs about isolation and alienation (A Bout De Souffle, Vivre Sa Vie Band Of Outsiders, Pierrot Le Fou) there are only objects, people and colors, and everyone is a victim. It's a film about abandon, Godard himself has been abandoned, he's a director gone crazy, finding refuge only among the sick, staying in hospitals, the girl, the one who shouldn't have been named Carmen, has abandoned Joseph, who has been abandoned by the saint of the same name. This is cinema, in its purest form, just as Godard wrote `Nicholas Ray is cinema' in the Cahiers of his past, I write `Godard is cinema' because he's taken Ray, he's taken Hitchcock, he's made images that transcend us to another level, the flickering television that Joseph caresses, feeling his solitude in the almost-musical crashes of imagery that reflect off the screen, the blue light that awakens him tells him that it is the end. Quoting `that American film' (`Carmen Jones') Carmen tells Joseph `If you love me that's the end of you' and that is a metaphor for the entire film, it's about the destruction of love, it's about the impossibility of love, it's about solitude. `I'll tell you about it tomorrow' Carmen says at one point, `it is tomorrow' he answers, and for a moment Godard creates an incendiary, much too emotionally powerful scene and we want to turn away from it, he shows us the distance between these two lovers that could have never really love each other, and we feel their desperation, their madness even, they exist, the screen opens up to us and we are with them, it is more than film, it is art at it's most powerful, because Godard has broken the barriers, the ones another director would have put up to separate us from them, suddenly emotions exist, and cinema isn't about itself but about us, and the images continue to come and the film ends, but something has happened. "
One of Godards Watchable Films
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 12/14/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Godard has high ideas about cinema but the fact is that ideas alone are not that entertaining. Some of his films are a lot more entertaining than others though. In the entertaining and watchable category I would name Breathless, Alphaville, Pierrot Le Fou, and First Name:Carmen. I have not seen all of his films but these I find to be not only brainy films but entertaining ones as well. I think my favorites are Breathless and Pierrot Le Fou because Belmondo provides the perfect earthen foil for Godardian discourse. I think Breathless and Pierrot le Fou work best of all of his films because of these two distinct but complimentary sensibilities. We watch movies to be entertained after all and in these two films you are entertained; your brain is entertained thanks to Godard and the rest of you is entertained by Belmondo. First Name:Carmen is very much like Pierrot Le Fou in that it seems to be in constant rebellion against itself-- it is all a chaos as Godard likes it and yet there is also within the chaos a discernible and satisfying Godardian discourse which develops magically as well. Godard like all the other New Wavers loves genre films and no matter how much he may make fun of the cinematic devices used by old Hollywood he also loves them and so his parodies of old Hollywood noirs and thrillers are also homages. They are fun to watch because we as filmgoers know all the Hollywood cliches but we enjoy them nonetheless even as we make fun of them. Godard wants to constantly remind us that we are watching a film not reality but he is best when he does this in an entertaining way. We are all familiar with Godards techniques -- we have assimilated his style and his brand of discourse -- however his irreverence and his searching among the detritus of modernism for a genuine contact with life (if not his politics) remain as relevant as ever. The failure of the political aspect of his career is perhaps what Godard is lamenting in Carmen. He wanted to be a revolutionary but in the end he has to accept that he is just a film maker. Godard is best when he is inspired by a muse and Marushka Detmers looks like she just walked off a 1940's film noir set. I suspect Detmers smoldering good looks as much as anything else got Godard excited about film again. All revolutionaries mellow with time and here Godard is touchingly leaving the political behind and returning to his original love, film. I enjoy Godard when he seems to be enjoying himself and he seems to be enjoying himself in this film as he did in Pierrot Le Fou. Of course it is Godard so you will be thinking rigorously throughout about "reality" and how adept film is at avoiding it and how good Godard is at manipulating the cinematic language for his own ends. Lurking within the chaotic plot are those deep Godardian discoveries you expect when watching one of his films and that make them(the best ones) more than worth your while."