Part poetry, part journalism, part philosophy, master filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique is a witty and lyrical reflection on war through the ages. The film is structured into three Dantean Kingdoms: Hell, Purgatory... more » and Heaven. The journey begins in Hell, represented by modern war and then moves to Purgatory, set in Sarajevo. Finally, Paradise is conceived as a small beach guarded by Marines from the United States. At the same time, the film also follows the parallel stories of two Israeli Jewish women, one drawn to the light and one drawn towards darkness.« less
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 06/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you loved the 1960's Godard for his ultra-hip irreverence, you might find Godard's current work a bit dull. The 1960's Godard used cinema to show how we moderns use culture (novels, films, pop music) to define ourselves--in Godard's world you might say we are what cultural objects we identify with, or, more aptly, "we are what we consume". The 1960's Godard used the idioms of the Italian realist cinema (as well as American noir)in an ironic way to explore the nature of the modern. Godard's narratives tended to mimic (albeit in an ironic, detached way: the essence of hip and cool) those narrative forms that have become so ingrained in our culture as to become cliches (the gangster picture, the heist picture). Godard's characters, however, consume this stuff without the ironic detachment that wpould allow them some kind of self-awareness, and as uncritical consumers they often begin to resemble the B-literatures and B-movies that they spend so much time consuming. The result is that their lives became reproductions of the very B-literature and B-movies that they spend so much time amusing themselves with. If there is a sense of tragedy in the 1960's Godard films (Breathless, Band of Outsiders, My Life to Live...to name a few) it is due to the fact that characters in Godard films are unable to see that even the form their rebellion takes is borrowed from B-movie heroes... Though there are moments of beautiful spontaneity in some of Godard's 1960's films, these moments stand out precisely because they are so rare. Nonetheless these are the moments that make these films memorable.
There are no moments of spontaneity in the late phase of Godard's career. Films like In Praise of Love and Notre Musique are less films than essays on topics that obsess a Godard who no longer believes in irreverence as a form of rebellion. The early Godard had his characters rush through the Louvre in a moment of liberatory irreverence ; the late Godard has his characters meditate on world culture as though their lives depended on it (and perhaps they do). The obsession of Godard's late phase is how humanity has failed to liberate itself from its chronic failings. This new obsession is perhaps just the continuation nof an old one. In one of his most interesting 1960's films, Pierrot Le Fou, Godard showed how obsessively man tries to liberate himself from himself by reading everything. But only in death does man achieve the ability to stand outside of himself. In Notre Musique, however, not even death offers any sort of liberation for even Heaven is a kind of a militarized zone. What Godard seems to be saying is that we cannot imagine an outside (like Heaven) from which to examine our cultural formations(those things that form us), and that even our imagination has been thoroughly colonized by culture. What the young Godard offered was a glimpse of the trap we are in and he directed us toward the few options we have left--spontaneous disruption, the beautiful gesture toward, if not the ultimate realization of, liberation. Godard's aesthetic (like the Italian neo-realists and American noirs he so loved) was always bleak but in the 1960's films there was an integer, an occasional flash, of hope. The older Godard simply shows us the trap."
yann schinazi | colorado | 12/03/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jean-Luc Godard's `Notre Musique' is a somber act of eventual forgiveness, a cry for a world divided by its wars, our own Godard says. If Godard's previous film, `Eloge De L'Amour' was about things forgotten: memory, cinema, history, than `Notre Musique' is about division, a last cry for a world destroyed, Godard has made the film of our time, one scene in particular, is one of the most unsettling, tragic and symbolic scenes Godard has ever shot: An Indian of a forgotten tribe makes a moving speech in which he offers reconciliation to the white man in front of him, standing in a destroyed library in Sarajevo, the man pays no attention to him at first, and then when Godard turns the camera over to where the white man initially was, there is no one there. There is one undeniable connection between Godard's earliest work and his last films: the ghosts that haunt them. `Le Mepris', `Pierrot Le Fou', `Bande A Part', were films that were haunted by the ghosts of a certain kind of cinema that was ending: a poetic American cinema that included auteurs like Sam Fuller and Nicholas Ray and foreigners welcomed by the American cinema like Hitchcock or Fritz Lang. Then in 1966 Godard had Jean-Pierre Leaud talk about, in `Masculin-Feminin', the alienation he felt when he went to the cinema: `The screen flickered, but more often than not we were disappointed, Marilyn Monroe had aged terribly', an incredibly confessional scene in a film that spoke of a newer generation, no longer captivated by Bogart and Dean, the `children of Marx and coca-cola' as Godard called them. `Notre Musique' is set in Sarajevo and all of the characters are wounded, caught between different countries, destroyed by nationalism, notably a young Israeli journalist who serves as a (literal) bridge from purgatory to heaven (Godard divides his film into three separate parts: hell, purgatory and heaven). In what is certainly the most tragic scene in the film, she explains why for her suicide is the only answer to purity, she is later killed in a cinema when she threatens to have explosives in her bag (which actually contains books), an extremely symbolic statement on sacrifice and why it is impossible. There is a scene in the film that describes the entire message of the film and, perhaps better than any other single scene he has ever shot, the balance (that is so faint in his films) between stylization and complete, utter moments of beauty that can only be captured, not staged: Godard himself is seen giving a conference, and when, for the millionth time, someone asks him if video will save the cinema, the camera lingers hauntingly as a tear runs down his face: his answer is silence."
Meditative and often beautiful
Mr. Steiner | New York | 12/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Jean-Luc Godard's quasi-update of Dante's Divine Comedy set to the modern world. The first segment of the film is hell and it only runs at about 10 minutes. In it, Godard has cobbled together a devastating montage of scenes of human destruction from the holocaust, Vietnam, the American Civil War, and other scenes of warfare and destruction, all compiled from documentary and movie footage. It's an impressive sequence as he overlaps the scenes of horror over the sounds of a melodic piano score. Then the film moves into limbo, the section usually regarded as the least interesting of Dante's cantos. Godard spends the bulk of his time on this section. In it, a French Jewish journalist attends a literary conference and meets Godard as himself and meets the Palestinian poet Mohmoud Darwish and discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She travels to Sarejevo and witnesses the aftermath of Serbian destruction (a topic which Godard is clearly haunted with), and includes some direct views on cinema from Godard himself. The final section is in paradise. It features perplexing images with the protagonist in a beautiful forest guarded by American soldiers. Notre Musique is about the state of the world at the beginning of the 21st century. It is a powerful and esoteric rumination of the art and history of the past, and a foreboding insight into what the future may look like. The film includes a wonderful piano score from Sibelius and Tchaikovsky and beautiful color photography from Julien Hirsh. The film was shot in 1:33 aspect ratio so don't expect the DVD to appear in scope."
How to Read a Film
P. Costello | 12/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am and was impressed by this film. The emphasis on the filmic image itself, the film of film, is particularly cogent and asks the viewer to come to terms with not just this or that war or this or that character but in fact the entire business of film-making and film-watching. In the first part, the splicing together of both documentary and movie images of war, combined with the minimalist music that appears arbitrarily to end before the image allows for the end--these events produce the possibility for complex reflection and dissonance in the reader (perhaps in that order). By the time the second part comes, the viewer has been educated not only about violence but about how learning to view a film is like learning to read a hard text in philosophy--each new author, each new film, each new part of the current film, demands to be read anew, in its own way, according to its own terms. What this film asks is for the viewer to become equal to the film, to the overlay of sound and sight that is never quite coincidence. It demands a lot of us. Hence, I suppose, all the negative views. This film says a lot, too much perhaps, and we don't tend to like that very much. We want film to be easy, we want an anti-war film, an avant garde film. We want easy to categorize Disneyland plots, even when we want to be 'progressive.' This is not a progressive film; it is not easy. Those who belittle it seem to forget that they need to do some real work sometimes to see the forest for the trees. Overall, though, I like it. I really like it. It changed me. Not one Disney film ever did that--except perhaps for Snow White and only because Bill Evans made 'Someday My Prince Will Come' like one of the loveliest songs in the world."
A visual poem of hope beyond horror
M. Jay Sullivan | Cambridge, Ma | 05/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Godard has offered us perhaps his best work since "Le-Week-End" (not cialis folks)in 1967. The arche post-modernist film-maker has given has a subjective charcter, Olga, the French-Jewish journalist/martyr is his first totally compelling female character since his ex-wife Anna Karina, who lit up his work from 1961-65.
JLG, himself, seems to have mellowed a bit, and like many septaganarians, his musings may be turning to the "invisible world" beyond the veil.
Loosely based on Dante's "Divine Comedy," "Notre Musique" gives us visions of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. This redemptive movement gives us hope in the face of the wars that have virtually detroyed 20th century Europre, and of the tremendous horror modern man has inflicted on minorities he considers a nuisance (American Indians, victims of war, Palestinians, Women, Muslims,Jews, Bosnians, Blacks...). This isn't new for Godard, but the outrage is replaced by sorrow in the face of the eternal repetition of atrocities. inequalities. and injustice.
Godard mourns the "masculinization" of women with his film bit about film shot/reverse shot. And Sarjevo has become the new Auchiwitz- or Hiroshima. We see how much war, masculine child-like war, has traumatized our civilization, and how we still are helpless in the face of this primal instinct.
Some may see "French anti-semitism" in his his treatment of the fascinating interview with the very western looking Palestinian, who says, in effect, the only reason the plight of his people are known is because of their relationship with "The Jews", both victims of European Nationalism.
In Olga's ascension, in the short final section, to Paradise after her martyrdom in Israel (perhaps indicative of Godard seeing signs of impending fascism in the "Neo-Con" contrived "roadmap" of today's Israel- not original but dramitcally poignant.) we see a retun to nature, as in "The-Week-End." and our return to our origin in "the garden" A hopeful sign that we all may begin, not necessarily be born, again.
Welcome back JLG, perhaps, like Luis Bunuel in his 70's, your bestwork may be yet to come. Sadly, this isn't for everyone, but wouldn't it be wondeful if it could be.