Often obtuse but always beautiful, this heady meditation on time, memory and of course filmmaking is the first Jean-Luc Godard film to receive a proper U.S. release since 1987's KING LEAR, but it's hardly a commercial breakthrough. Brimming with ideas, aphorisms, diatribes, film clips and even bits of a story, the film's a gorgeous muddle that...read more
Often obtuse but always beautiful, this heady meditation on time, memory and of course filmmaking is the first Jean-Luc Godard film to receive a proper U.S. release since 1987's KING LEAR, but it's hardly a commercial breakthrough. Brimming with ideas, aphorisms, diatribes, film clips and even bits of a story, the film's a gorgeous muddle that somehow manages to leave one both baffled and deeply satisfied. Having finally abandoned his idea for a cantata inspired by Simone Weil, Edgar (Bruno Putzulu) is developing a project that will explore the four moments of love the first meeting, the physical passion, the separation, the reconciliation as they're experienced by three couples at different stages of their lives: youth, adulthood and old age. Edgar hasn't quite decided whether "Ode to Love" will be an opera or a film; what worries him more is how he will depict adulthood. The young and the old are easily known by their age and have a more definite relation to time, but adulthood, if it exists at all, requires a story. Edgar thinks he knows just the person to play the adult female role: Berthe (Cecile Camp), a mysterious beauty whom he met two years earlier while visiting Brittany. When Edgar tracks her down, he finds her disillusioned, depressed, seriously ill and reluctant to get involved with his project. She agrees to meet him the following week, then suddenly she's gone forever. The second half of the film is a lengthy flashback to Edgar and Berthe's first meeting. Edgar, who's in Brittany to research Catholicism and the Resistance, pays a visit to two married Resistance fighters (Jean Davy, Francoise Verny) who are in the process of selling their memories to Steven Spielberg and Associates for an upcoming film. (Americans, we're told, have no memories of their own.) On hand to help with the negotiations, which are being conducted by a representative from the U.S. State Department, is their granddaughter, Berthe. Godard's film is a complex, multilayered mixture of fiction, philosophy, social commentary, literary theory, art criticism and the usual embittered, anti-U.S. rant. The film demands a great deal, but it's generous in its returns; it's an extraordinarily beautiful piece of work. The first half, filmed in sparkling black and white, strongly resembles Godard's early work with cinematographer Raoul Coutard; the second, shot on digital video with supersaturated colors, recalls Gaugin at his most expressive.
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