Wednesday, September 07, 2011

'Film Socialisme':
One Thumb Up, the Other Down

Let's heap praise upon the San Francisco Film Society for choosing Jean-Luc Godard's latest cinematic work "Film Socialisme", as their opening week presentation at the New People Cinema. This is one flick that will never play at an AMC multiplex and should enjoy a short-run, if only to please Bay Area cineastes who grew up on Godard movies and want to stay abreast of his final films.

I caught it the other night, and was prepared for all the idiosyncratic elements from the perennial bad boy, even at 80-years-old, of French movies and have a review of sorts to share.

It's about some of the following things: a luxurious ocean liner, assorted activities of the passengers, Roberto Rossellini's neo-realist "Paisan", human communication and (mis)understanding, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, oil tankers, the sounds of different languages, Sergei Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin", brightly processed or over-exposed HD video footage, the suffering of Jesus Christ, a lama tied to a gasoline pump stand where the female attendant refuses to fill up customers' tanks, Patti Smith mumbling a song for barely a minute, dissonant sound effects and warp-speed editing, subtitles in what Godard has labeled "Navajo English" and vague thoughts about personal enlightenment.

Or maybe it is about none of that, and is just an elaborate joke on the audience, one that is understood only by the director. If the film has generated any positive reviews, I couldn't locate them on the web.

At times, I was mesmerized by the images, scraps of translated dialogue made sense or I was entertained. I also dozed off twice, because it was often beautiful but boring, incomprehensible and infuriatingly hard to detect Godard's point. That is if, he had one he was trying to make.

And it all ends with a white NO COMMENT on a black background, before turning completely white. There were no end credits.

Even though it piqued some curiosity and put me to sleep, I both hated and adored chunks of it, and it added up to not much, it was worth my time to watch (most) of "Film Socialisme", just because it may be Godard's final film.

It plays today and tomorrow at the San Francisco Film Society/New People Cinema, 1746 Post Street near Webster. Click here for more info.

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