Combustible Celluloid
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With: Héloise Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier, Zoé Bruneau, Christian Gregori, Jessica Erickson, Marie Ruchat, Jeremy Zampatti
Written by: Jean-Luc Godard
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 70
Date: 11/14/2014

Goodbye to Language 3D (2014)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Dog Gone

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Now eighty-three years old, Jean-Luc Godard has decided to make his first 3D feature; I read somewhere that he went to see Piranha 3D and it inspired him to make this. It's a delicious image, the crusty old genius sitting in a multiplex, wearing funny glasses and perhaps even eating popcorn. Regardless of whether or not it's true, the old master seems in a more playful mood this time out. Goodbye to Language 3D is only 70 minutes long, as baffling as anything he has ever made, but those moments and thoughts that jut out from the screen seem so feisty now, as if his movie were a batch of piranha devouring whatever ideas we might have had about what cinema is, should be, or can be.

Most of the movie centers on a couple who appear naked for large chunks of time. The man likes to use the toilet in the woman's presence. They seem to be in love, but then they fight. They say things about how someday people will need translators to understand what comes out of their own mouths. Also that the Apache word for the world is "forest." A dog is seen romping through a colorful field in the autumn. Bored young people browse a table of highbrow books, clicking their cell phones. A man appears to be chasing the young woman, but she shouts at him and he goes away. I think Mary Shelley turns up at some point, but I may have been dreaming.

Godard uses his familiar numbered "chapters," except that the numbers never seem to go up. The soundtrack cuts in and out abruptly. Sometimes the volume goes up, like a gunshot. We hear classical music, and see snippets of old movies. The 3D is gorgeous, examining things like a car windshield in the rain, or hands submerged in a pond covered with dry leaves. In certain moments, though, the image suddenly splits apart. I figured out that if you close one eye, and then the other, you can follow whichever image you choose.

But the question, as it has always been in a career going back to 1960, is "what is Godard trying to say?" Is he really saying "goodbye to language"? What does that even mean? There's no answer, or at least no total, unifying answer. Really, he's saying whatever he appears to be saying in any given moment. If you watch the film and one particular image or line sticks with you, then that's it. It's a journal of things thought and jotted down. Is it possible to "understand" the entire film? Some critics like to pretend that they do, but others are honest. I will be too. I'm pretty sure I missed loads of it, but some of it stuck, and I am enjoying thinking about it, and maybe even laughing about it.

I wasn't sure how Kino Lorber would release this on home video, but they have done a remarkable job. For those equipped with 3D Blu-ray players and 3D TVs, there is a separate disc, making the film available as it was originally shown. But the movie has also been prepared for 2D, which meant subtly manipulating some of the split images, and making sure they were all properly represented. (The DVD edition is only available in 2D.) As far as I can tell, the work is commendable. There are only a couple of extras, but they are essential. There's a trailer, an amazing 46-minute interview with Godard himself, and a liner notes essay by noted critic and scholar David Bordwell. Just as Goodbye to Language was one of the best films of 2014, it's sure to be one of the best Blu-rays of 2015.

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