It’s been 54 years since veteran Franco-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard wowed audiences with Breathless
simultaneously introducing international cinemagoers to the French New Wave and launching the career of leading man Jean-Paul Belmondo. And it’s a glowing testament to his huge creative talent that aged 83, he is still one of cinema’s most innovative directors. Adieu Au Language (Goodbye to Language),
in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, is a party bag of archive images, philosophical texts, screeching music, overlapping dialogue brought together in one fantastic, sensorial package. To top it all off, Godard shot the film in 3D, appropriating a technique more commonly used in popular children’s animated films and multimillion dollar blockbuster action movies. .
Godard says the story “is simple/a married woman and a single man meet/they love, they argue, fists fly/a dog strays between town and country/the seasons pass. But anyone looking for signs of a traditional narrative will go home empty-handed. True there is a linear story of sorts between a man and a woman, but this is overshadowed by the sheer volume of images and ideas Godard throws into the mix. There’s a ferry repeatedly coming in to dock on Lake Geneva, a man and a woman wandering naked around a apartment, a murder, wartime archive footage and scenes from classic movies.
Heloise Godet and Kamel Abdelli play the lead human roles, but a lot of screen time is dedicated to Roxy the dog. We follow Roxy (Godard’s own dog Mieville) as he scampers in the woods, takes a nap on the couch, swims in the river, etc. Perhaps after decades spent musing over the Human Condition, Godard has decided that after all a dog really is Man’s Best Friend.
What is the film really about? Who knows, but a lot of ink will be spilled trying to figure it out. Ultimately, Adieu Au Language is unlikely to win over new converts to Godard’s anarchic filmmaking, but die-hard fans will not be disappointed.
DVD subtitled in English