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A place in history

Jean-Luc Godard deconstructs and reconstructs in Adieu Au Langage

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When people ask why Cannes Film Festival is important, one way to answer that is to look at a film such as Adieu Au Langage (Goodbye To Language). Jean-Luc Godard, 84, is the oldest filmmaker in this year’s competition, and with this latest movie he turns out to be the most exciting. Fifty years ago Godard and friends, under the watch of theorist Andre Bazin, waged a ferocious war to prove that cinema is art and filmmakers are artists, that they worked and thought like Picasso or Balzac or Rodin did. Godard and Co won that battle, but he’s still far from finished — simply because cinema is far from finished. In other words, film is part of art history, and history is being written all the time, sometimes, prominently, at places like Cannes. 

Adieu Au Langage , by Jean-Luc Godard.

Adieu Au Langage is in 3D — sharp, saturated, dripping, with some astonishing optical tricks that we’ve never seen before — and altogether it’s the most beautiful film showing at the festival this year. Like other Godard films, especially his late opuses, this one defeats any easy attempt to summarise, describe, sketch, or review. It’s a deconstruction and reconstruction of visual and narrative — something he’s always done — and it’s a free-associative essay, philosophical banter, critique of world history (of course), a deft manipulation of image and montage and sound and text, and also a touching contemplation of nature. It’s a tease, a provocation, and an act of avuncular mischief. At the centre, there’s a story: a man and a woman, an affair, a contest of ideas and will, and a cute 3D dog. “I’m looking for the poverty of language,” the man says. Then, “What’s the difference between an idea and a metaphor?” Many questions are asked and not necessarily answered, but the film (its image and sound) will be ringing in your head for days.

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