Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Beauty of Fraudulent Cinema

Over the weekend, I saw a lot of movies, in hopes of generating new ideas for future projects (and the current ones as well).

In the section "All About Eve," from Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil (1968), a pseudo-documentary on the making of the famous Rolling Stones hit of the same name (and starring the Stones), the actress Anne Wiazemsky, who plays Eve Democracy, is being followed by a camera crew as she walks through the woods and is asked a series of seemingly unrelated questions by a reporter, to which she answers either yes or no. It is from this exchange that one of Godard's most notorious lines comes to life, specifically:
Is it true there is only one way to be an intellectual revolutionary and that is to give up being an intellectual?
To which Eve Democracy answers "yes."

I did a random Google search on the film and was pleasantly surprised to find an article on the movie published just this past Sunday in the London Observer. Good timing, I guess.

As the article says:
The film was critically panned on its release. Most damagingly for Godard, it was mocked in France where rock music had yet to be taken seriously. 'This is the work of cretins, and Godard is the most cretinous of them all,' said the Situationist philosopher Guy Debord. The film has been derided ever since as a classic example of mid-Sixties radical chic - meaning that it was pretentious, incomprehensible and, worst of all, boring.
Imagine that, the famous Situationist Guy Debord, known for being jealous, zealous, and feisty, had issues with this interventionist cinematic style that cleverly blurs the lines of distinction between fiction, fact, propaganda, and what we now call truthiness. As Godard himself once said:
Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.
If ever there was a filmmaker who could take the ideas of Situationism and convert them into a diacritical cinematic style, it is Godard, and though I imagine it would be difficult for most people to sit through this film, of course I loved it, especially eavesdropping on the Stones' recording session and seeing how the hit song went through radical alterations over the course of the improvisational developments inside the studio. It reminded me of the "make it up as you go along" jam sessions I engaged in with my old band Hum back in the 90s. You can see this improvisational "make it up as you go along" vibe in Godard's making of the film itself - something that resonates with the emerging digital cinema (HD and HDV) of today.

For those lucky enough to be passing through Paris this summer, be sure to check out "Voyages en utopie", Jean-Luc Godard 1946-2006, the first-ever large scale exhibition of Godard's work featuring "films, essays, videos, television appearances and a range of notes and documents."

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