(Jean-Luc Godard, France, 2014)
Not as valedictory as its title may suggest, but then, that's Godard for you. An artist who courts contrariness and paradox in a manner that can be described as relentless, fetishistic, or simply French, he is, at 83, spritely, playful, stern, and still inventive. Adieu au Langage 3D is, first and foremost, a feast for the senses. If, like much of Godard's work, the menu is disconcertingly long, the fare itself is refreshing and the experience compact. What's most thrilling is the caught-on-the-fly nature of the movie. Godard has refashioned the bloat and spectacle of 3D cinema and created something lightweight and intimate, like a diary or a sketchbook. Always adept at playing with scale, both physically and metaphysically, he has found a literal and a figurative new dimension to his work. An ode to the senses that encompasses history, philosophy, the arts, love, et al, Goodbye is also an exploration of the apparatus of cinema, conducted with the giddiness of a child who has just discovered a new toy.
As ever, the divining of Godard's perspective on the multitude of subjects is no easy feat, particularly on a first viewing. Here's what stuck, for me: Godard doesn't exactly set up language in opposition to other faculties, or other modes of representation or expression. Instead, he posits the conflict as a kind of tragic inevitability, with the possibility that by acknowledging the limitations of language, we have some chance, however small, of transcending them. There is a good deal of politics in the mix, as well, but Godard has become more philosophical with age. His anger is well-placed, but, like his frustration with the limits of perception and expression, he views politics, rightly or wrongly, as a younger person's game. And the emphasis is on game; although the stakes are high, his final criterion, morally and aesthetically, is poetic. This makes the human scale of the production - often, the crew consisted only of Godard, his DP, and the cast - especially touching. Godard the firebrand has found that he can be just as radical - if not more so - with his dog, an iphone, and a walk in the woods as with Cinemascope and movie stars. There's much more to say, but it will have to wait for another viewing.