Foaming surf as a cruise ship glides through gray seas – a lithe bikini-clad young woman swimming underwater in the ship’s pool – a white-dressed woman slamming repeatedly into a window, ignored by the patrons chatting in the warm interior, inexplicably collapses face-down into the ship’s pool.
There are images of exotic Mediterranean ports-of-call while tourists stay on board the cruiser, distracted by cell phones, gambling and listening at the private doors of other passengers – hardly aware of the world to be explored a walk away.
“Film Socialisme” is a series of snapshots requiring either intense focus or inspiring frustrated confusion. The subtitles parallel the sparse information and disconnected clips like an example of a speed-reading exercise. The words are the essence of what was said and sometimes connected:
I know everything
Spatial form egotism
Anyone maydo nogod
Thinking Ludo told
Old man young girl
The perfect venue for this film would be as part of a museum retrospective on New Wave French Art. But if we didn’t know that Jean Luc Goodard directed and had a hand in writing it, would it be shown anywhere at all?
The official website for “Socialisme” explains that the film is presented as three “Symphonies.” This appears to be true. The three sections are titled in the film. The first, “Such Things,” is the cruise ship chapter. The second, “Our Europe,” involves two siblings asking their parents questions about liberty, equality and fraternity. The third, “Our Humanities,” shows briefs of Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona, taking us again back to the first section with a Mediterranean theme. Only this time there are references to these cities’ associations with myths and politics.
How can the viewer put all of this together to make sense? That we are all on a journey and may have choices of responses, that we are at essence both a collective and an isolate and that myths may reflect a certain predestination or explanation are some possible interpretations.
But Goodard does not give answers – he bombards us with questions, with juxtapositions that are at essence not satisfying.
While it may be difficult to sit through in a theatre, contemplating snippets on different walls in an art exhibit might be a powerful experience.
So it is an appropriate compromise that the Northwest Film Center, housed in the Portland Art Museum, is showcasing this film. It’s definitely not for everyone, but it is a thought-provoking piece by Jean Luc Goodard, who at 80 years of age, is still gripped with an expressive passion.
NWFilm Center, Portland, Oregon
Oct. 30, 2011
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Writers: Jean-Luc Godard, Roland Dubillard and others
Stars: Jean-Marc Stehlé, Agatha Couture and Mathias Domahidy
Language: French with modified English subtitles
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