Jean-Luc Godard takes up the challenge of self-examination in JLG BY JLG. This highly stylized and meditative self-portrait addresses issues ranging from the director's career and life to the nature of cinema and culture.
The film opens in the dark interior of Godard's home in Switzerland. A video camera sits on a tripod, gazing out to the brightness beyond the window. The camera moves in on a portrait of Godard as a boy while the man rasps into a microphone, "I was already in mourning for myself." Godard describes
himself as suffering from loss of self, and he represents this state through images of frozen, snow-covered, barren landscapes. The film is subtitled "A Self-portrait in Winter."
Godard is quick to declare that the film is neither a documentary nor an autobiography, but a self-portrait, thus aligning this cinematic gesture with painting and the visual arts instead of literature or commentary (despite frequent references to the written text, e.g., open books and blank
pages). Questions about self-examination, identity, and the reflexive nature of cinema arise after Godard asks rhetorically what the words of the title mean. He employs the metaphor of a mirror to describe filmic representation and observes that the title of his film is itself a mirror image.
Godard introduces what he calls his stereo theory of reception, drawing a point of reference--the individual--on a piece of paper, then extending two lines out in opposing directions joined by a common line to form a triangle. At the receiving end he draws another point and another triangle
intersecting with the first, creating a figure like the Star of David. Viewer and object, he suggests, are bound by a mutual field of reception and understanding. The object can be a film, an other, or an historical moment or epoch.
Godard conceives of culture as a static, oppressive body. Early in the film he warns that culture is the rule and art the exception, and that the rule desires the death of the exception. On the other hand, Godard proposes that language brings all human beings into a universal community and
declares his sole purpose to be the realization of this universality.
As ever, Godard's reflections on the art of cinema are intriguing (where they are not confounding), but what stays with the viewer is the uncompromising frankness of the film's autobiographical elements. The director does not hesitate to reveal hostility, self-absorption, and cynicism about his
own endeavors. It is an unforgettable portrait of an aging, lonely, seemingly misanthropic artist who isn't nearly ready to give up the ghost. (Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Jean-Luc Godard takes up the challenge of self-examination in JLG BY JLG. This highly stylized and meditative self-portrait addresses issues ranging from the director's career and life to the nature of cinema and culture. The film opens in the dark interi… (more)