Sunday, November 02, 2014

“Goodbye To Language”– Movie Review



This weekend, I saw the new 3-D movie by Jean-Luc Godard, “Goodbye To Language” starring Roxy, the director’s dog (yes, you read that right).


The legendary director’s experiment with 3-D filmmaking, implementing some rather unorthodox techniques.


The film is told in two parts:  “Nature” and “Metaphor”.  In each part, the director ventures into various uses of visual and audible trickery to fool both the eye and ear of the viewer.  The visual images include the use of 3-D, but also use brilliant colors that almost seem to explode on the screen in each shot; scenes vary from feelings of hallucination to dreams – and sometimes even nightmares.  The audio is used to vary in volume during different points in the movie and at times, even varying within a single scene; the use of distortion is also occasionally applied to alarming effect.

The story – to the extent that there is one – appears to be about the struggling relationship of an incessantly bickering couple who are prone to inscrutable dialog ranging from philosophical, to political to religious in nature.  In addition to the new footage shot for the film are stock footage and scenes from documentaries as well as scenes from old movies interspersed all throughout.  While there is occasional full-frontal nudity, it seems to mostly concentrate on the female, who proudly sports full bush; the male, on the other hand, is often seen (and, to be sure, heard) on the toilet – even his evacuations have political overtones, or so Godard would have us believe.  

Roxy the dog plays a part in the couple’s life as not only their pet, but their surrogate offspring.  Ambivalent about bringing a new life into the world, they instead decide to adopt a dog, which they bring on their outings and vacations.  The ever-obedient pet is playful, loyal and loving but is never actually seen with its owners; instead, we only ever see Roxy joyously running about the countryside, rolling around in the snow and in a rare moment of repose, gazing pier-side upon a lake.  In a movie of many unsettling moments, this is one of the more tranquil scenes. 


Normally, I don’t write movie reviews about films after they’ve already opened, but I decided to make an exception with “Goodbye To Language” for reasons I’ll get into later.  In fact, there’s a good chance that by the time you read this, it may no longer be available (it ends its run at New York City’s Lincoln Center on Thursday, November 6th). However, despite the fact that it’s by the frequently divisive Jean-Luc Godard, it’s interesting to see how new technology can be used in an old medium by a veteran filmmaker. 

For people far more knowledgeable about art than I am, they may detect a sense of Impressionism in Godard’s “Goodbye To Language”.  Whether you see Godard as a genius or a buffoon, he has made it clear that storytelling is subordinate to the creativity of filmmaking.  Rather than lay out a clear-cut narrative, the director instead chooses to toy with the audience via both sights and sounds that may disturb, amuse or confuse – sometimes, a combination of all three.  Should you choose to see “Goodbye To Language”, don’t bother trying to figure it out or find a story; instead, treat it as though you are viewing a type of performance art or are at a museum of surrealist paintings. 

So why did I bother writing a review of this movie?  The press that covers motion pictures have created a considerable amount of buzz around “Goodbye To Language” and it got me curious, which is why I decided to see it in the first place.  For another thing, since I’m fortunate enough to live in New York City, one of the few places showing the film, I felt as though I owed it to myself to see the picture.  But therein lies another reason:  “Goodbye To Language” may be the most fascinating movie you’ll never see simply because it’s so unusual.  For a more detailed explanation of why this is so, you might want to read the Indiewire article, “Why Theaters Are Refusing to Book Godard's Moneymaking 3D 'Goodbye to Language'”.

Goodbye to Language 3D (2014) on IMDb

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