Film Socialisme

The Reject Report

And I hope they’re teaching math. But this class is probably more about learning skills like flinging energy beams from your eyes or learning how to hone you telekinetic abilities. I kind of wish I had some of those right now. That way I’d know exactly how many audience members will be attending X-Men: First Class this weekend, and my numbers will be a bit more accurate than they were this time last week. Thanks a lot, Kung Fu Panda 2. Regardless, it seems pretty evident First Class will come in #1 this weekend, as it opens unopposed. That is, if you consider the gargantuan second weekend Hangover Part II is likely to have. Still, I’m sticking with my guns. First Class all the way, but its debut might not be as astonishing as some would hope. Let’s look into that more right now.

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afilm a symphonie threemovements deathof language The above “sentence” would probably be the most appropriate way to describe French filmmaking legend Jean-Luc Godard’s latest (and possibly his last) film, Film Socialisme. The fragmentary and strangely juxtaposed words above are not only an (unsuccessful) attempt to describe an incredibly abstruse film, but it is also an attempt to do so in the film’s selected stylistic “language”: rather than traditional full-sentence subtitles, these are the type of words we see at the bottom of the screen whenever a character or narrator speaks. I can barely recognize only a few select words in French myself, but from what I can tell the characters, while often speaking esoterically in conversations motivated without typical movie-logic contextualization, rarely actually speak in fragments, but in full sentences. So the subtitles for non-French-speaking audiences are a deliberately obscuring selection of the words actually spoken, and they often arrive late in their juxtaposition of words spoken and occasionally seem to have no direct correspondence whatsoever. This is not to suggest that the unique subtitling in the international release of Film Socialisme somehow “obscures” non-French speakers from understanding the film’s meaning. In one sense, the film is incredibly difficult to follow no matter what language(s) one knows, but in another, the film’s meaning is plainly available in this multilingual wordplay.

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Criterion Files

Much of Jean-Luc Godard’s cinematic output is inaccessible to American audiences. His most prolific period, the 1960s (in which he made 18 feature films) is almost entirely available, due in no small part to the Criterion Collection’s well-justified infatuation with the cineaste’s important and influential work. The output of much of his later career, however, isn’t commercially accessible in the US including much-lauded work like Nouvelle Vague (1990) and the Histoire(s) du Cinema entries (1988-98). In fact, Tout va Bien (1972 – his most recent title included in the Collection) is to my knowledge the only film he made in the 1970s that’s available on Region 1 DVD. This is all to say that here in the US, what we know of Godard we know mostly the first decade of his career. While it’s unfortunate that cinephiles have minimal access to his later work, this complaint is not meant to undervalue the importance of the work he did in the 1960s. Godard made an unbelievable amount of brilliant and challenging work in an astoundingly short amount of time, and by 1970 he had emerged as a different kind of filmmaker altogether. Godard’s 1960s work is, in a sense, the only logical starting point in order to approach an understanding of this later work. Godard’s films are an ongoing exercise in personal growth, aesthetic experimentation, and political criticism. Each work builds off of what came before. With this weekend’s US release of Godard’s most recent work, Film Socialisme, the gaps in […]

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I can’t be sure, but they may have condensed at least half of Jean-Luc Godard‘s latest film into this minute-long trailer. The images flash by in typically enigmatic form, but at least we know what he was up to while he was snubbing Honorary Oscars. Since the trailer itself does little to explain what the movie’s about (and that lovely young woman staring at cats online isn’t helping either), let’s turn with pleading eyes to the official synopsis: “Legendary director Jean-Luc Godard returns to the screen with Film Socialisme, a magisterial essay on the decline of European Civilization. As a garish cruise ship travels the Mediterranean (with Patti Smith among its guests), Godard embarks on a state of the EU address in a vibrant collage of philosophical quotes, historical revelations and pure cinematographic beauty.” Oh, now it all makes sense:

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It’s that time of the year again: that brief span of time in between Christmas and New Year’s when journalists, critics, and cultural commentators scramble to define an arbitrary block of time even before that block is over with. To speculate on what 2010 will be remembered for is purely that: speculation. But the lists, summaries, and editorials reflecting on the events, accomplishments, failures, and occurrences of 2010 no doubt shape future debate over what January 1-December 31, 2010 will be remembered for personally, nostalgically, and historically. How we refer to the present frames how it is represented in the future, even when contradictions arise over what events should be valued from a given year. In an effort to begin that framing process, what I offer here is not a critical list of great films, but one that points out dominant cultural conversations, shared trends, and intersecting topics (both implicit and explicit) that have occurred either between the films themselves or between films and other notable aspects of American social life in 2010. As this column attempts to establish week in and week out, movies never exist in a vacuum, but instead operate in active conversation with one another. Thus, a movie’s cultural context should never be ignored. So, without further adieu, here is my overview of the Top 10 topics, trends, and events of the year that have nothing to do with the 3D debate.

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Culture Warrior

Last week, the recipients of the Honorary Oscars were announced, the awards ceremony taking place at the Academy Governor’s Awards Dinner on November 13 (an evident pushback from the typical televised reception of the Honorary Oscar at the actual ceremony in the first quarter of the following calendar year). Honorary awards are being given to Veteran actor and senior-senior-citizen Eli Wallach, film historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow, legendary French New Wave auteur Jean-Luc Godard, and the Irving G. Thalberg memorial award for excellent producing has been bestowed (to the surprise of no one) to the occasionally brilliant cinematic patriarch and wine magnate Francis Ford Coppola. According to the Academy’s executive director on August 25, attempts were made to contact Godard directly (by phone, fax, and through associates), but to no avail. Unbeknownst to the fact there does indeed exist television and the Internet in Paris, members of the Academy interpreted Godard’s behavior as elusive rather than evasive. Godard has a history of rejecting awards of the honorary or lifetime achievement variety, so until he makes a statement that provides an official stance, it remains likely that Godard will simply and inevitably turn this one down as well. And as well he should.

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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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