Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sandrine Battistella, Jean-Luc Godard, Pierre Oudrey, Alexandre Rignault, Rachel Stefanopoli
Written by: Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie Miéville
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 88
Date: 03/19/2013

Numéro deux (1975)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Two of Everything

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Just when you think you're never going to see certain movies, little miracles happen. Olive Films has resurrected this obscure but acclaimed Jean-Luc Godard feature -- along with a second one, Ici et ailleurs -- for a new DVD release. I'd heard about Numéro deux because two of the great American film critics, Jonathan Rosenbaum and J. Hoberman, slathered it in acclaim when it played in New York and Chicago back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now I've had a chance to see it, and like many of Godard's later films, it's intelligent, often brilliant, and sometimes technically groundbreaking, but also infuriating, baffling, and even repellent.

At most times in the movie, two video monitors are shown. For example, one monitor will show a depressing newscast while another shows clips from movies, casting weird perspectives from one to the other. Godard appears in another scene, alongside the two monitors, with a long sociopolitical rant.

But most of the movie takes place in a house, with a husband and wife, two kids, and an older couple (the grandparents). Sometimes the family watches TV, and we watch them in one monitor as they watch what's on the other monitor. But much of the time, the subject matter has to do with sex.

The husband and wife argue over sex, the mother walks around with a robe barely covering her naked body, and in one disturbing scene, the naked parents call the children into their bedroom for a quick lesson on sex (they describe it as two "sex mouths" kissing).

Godard often recalls the title, and how often the number "two" comes into play in regards to sex, and watching (two people, two eyes, two monitors, etc.). He wonders about phrases like "once," as in "once there was a man who..." Why did it only happen once?

I'm not sure this is very profound, and introducing children to frank sex sequences like that left me feeling a bit queasy. Yet, as with all Godard, just the fact that he asks questions about cinema -- and everything else -- is essential.

The new DVD contains no extras, but it includes a bit of trivia: Godard secured the money to make the movie by claiming that he was shooting a remake of Breathless.
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