SLOGANS AHOY. “AIDS tool for killing blacks.” “strange thing Hollywood Jews invented it.” “nocrime, noblood.” Hitler’s conquest of France is saluted as “a great day for Indochina”. With subtitles this mangled and obscure, it can only be a post-millennium Godard joint.
Any attempts to decipher Film Socialismeare doomed to failure and accusations of treacherous counter-revolutionary thinking. Presented as a symphony in three movements, the veteran director’s latest essay offers a discordant, defiantly post-Maoist view of history.
An extended opening sequence set on a cruise ship – standing in for Europe, get it? – features Patti Smith, garbled observations on US imperialism and an itinerary that takes in Egypt, Odessa, Hellas, Naples, Barcelona and Palestine; Godard was never going to favour the word ‘Israel’.
There’s more. Philosopher Alain Badiou delivers a lecture on geometry to an empty ballroom. Children question parents on the meanings of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. LOL cats sing. Copyright is attacked as “Not Fair”. A girl with a llama reads Balzac at a petrol station. Clocks appear and reappear. So does a parrot.
If the imagery wasn’t quite discombobulating enough, a car crash of styles that runs from the sublimely cinematic to scratchy, subnormal mobile phone footage ought to do the trick. Godard’s own “Navajo English” subtitles (“fatherblood!”) add to the sensation that we’re trapped in brainwashing sequences of A Clockwork Orangeand The Parallax View.
At 80, Godard is apparently still capable of lobbing a Molotov our way. A clanging situationist sideshow, Film Socialismewants to get past cinema and history and language and image and even Godard. Freed from the relative modernist constraints that govern Finnegan’s Wakeor, for that matter, the director’s own milieu, there’s nothing here for the suspiciously bourgeois ordered mind to hang on to.
There are vague and disquieting leanings toward One World government thinking and a misjudged fascination with Judaism – “Goldberg” means “gold mountain”, we’re told. But it just wouldn’t be Godard if it didn’t angry up the blood.
Relevant and outmoded, reactionary and revolutionary, Film Socialismeis all that the case may be. And it still makes more sense than the last one.