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Divided into three parts and structured much like Dante's Divine Comedy, this intellectually scintillating think-piece from the eternally relevant Jean-Luc Godard finds Hell and Purgatory right here on our sorry, scorched earth. Paradise, unfortunately, appears to be elsewhere. In "Kingdom 1: Hell," which essentially serves as a prelude to the much longer...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Divided into three parts and structured much like Dante's Divine Comedy, this intellectually scintillating think-piece from the eternally relevant Jean-Luc Godard finds Hell and Purgatory right here on our sorry, scorched earth. Paradise, unfortunately, appears to be elsewhere. In "Kingdom 1: Hell," which essentially serves as a prelude to the much longer second section, Godard pits documentary footage of 20th century war and atrocity against film clips from such Hollywood fictions as APOCALYPSE NOW and ZULU. Sandwiched between fabrications of victorious knights crusading through the Holy Land and the U.S. Cavalry crushing the American Indian are real-life images of Jewish victimization during the Holocaust, Palestinian suffering in Middle Eastern refugee camps, the destruction of North Vietnamese villages by U.S. forces and anonymous slaughter in third world countries. In the fictional drama of "Kingdom 2: Purgatory," Godard joins such other real-life figures as the Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo, the exiled Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwich and the novelist and literary critic Pierre Bergounioux in Sarajevo for the annual "European Literary Encounters" conference. Godard is prepared to lecture on text and the image, but as the cars carrying these lights of western culture move through war-scarred Sarajevo — a city still caught in a sort of Limbo between its hellish past and an uncertain future — talk turns to the inevitable subject of violence and its after-effects. Fictional characters, such as Judith Lerner (Sarah Adler), a Jewish journalist who lives in Palestine, and Olga Brodsky (Nade Dieu), a depressed Israeli Jew who's traveling with her uncle (Rony Kramer), have also arrived in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Judith hopes to interview the French ambassador (Simon Eine), who saved her grandfather's life during the Nazi occupation of France, about what can be done in the face of the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, while Olga is simply gripped by the hopelessness of it all. The third and final segment, "Kingdom 3: Heaven," is more a less a coda to all that's gone before, but with an ironic twist that finds American marines stationed at the checkpoint into Paradise. Godard pulls much of it together with breathtaking acuity during his lecture when, using two of the most fundamental opposing terms in film grammar — the shot/counter-shot — to deconstruct the basic oppositions that maintain the division between victors and the vanquished, documentary and fiction, certainty and uncertainty to demonstrate how the truth indeed has two faces, even if we are only ever shown one. Alternately accessible and obscure, the film is almost too rich to digest at one sitting, but even if experiencing this remarkable films means latching onto just a few of its myriad ideas, it's still a richly rewarding encounter.

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Divided into three parts and structured much like Dante's Divine Comedy, this intellectually scintillating think-piece from the eternally relevant Jean-Luc Godard finds Hell and Purgatory right here on our sorry, scorched earth. Paradise, unfortunately, ap… (more)

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