Jean-Luc Godard, like a hot plate of steaming excrement or
novocain-free dentistry, is an acquired taste to be sure, although I
continue to doubt that I will ever embrace his twisted, arrogant
vision. I am one of the few who has the courage to admit that I found Breathless overrated and glib, and I had little patience with his other experimental works, from Weekend to My Life to Live.
I did have some interest in Contempt, but I’d hardly be prepared to
defend such things in a serious conversation. Let me just say that it
is the film of his I hated the least. Now comes 2001’s In Praise of Love, a film that proves the old Frenchman is still working, although for what purpose I cannot tell.

for Godard, this film is so esoteric as to be irrelevant, and so thick
and bloated with its own importance that even the average film school
professor might have to admit that it doesn’t make any sense. It will
have its defenders in various college cafeterias, but don’t let them
fool you–this film is about nothing at all that can be expressed in
words and not only that, it is emotionally dead as well. Words fly by
without context or meaning, and random thoughts are thrown about
without even the slightest attempt to connect them with ideas. It’s
almost as if Godard turned on his camera for a few weeks, threw the
footage at an inexperienced editor, and made no effort to communicate
what it is he desired.

If I appear to be stalling in terms of describing a story or characters, I will repeat–there is literally nothing
I can tell you. The DVD sleeve told me that the film involved a
filmmaker and his belief that an actress is a woman he once knew, but
I’ll be damned if any of that shit occurred. Then I read an Ebert
review about how this film was an indictment of Schindler’s List
and how Spielberg was exploiting tragedy. I didn’t see that either, and
I wouldn’t agree with such a premise even if it could be extracted from
Godard’s mess. From all accounts, Godard is a man who must make films
because he knows little else, except his time has passed him by and
non-narrative rambling is simply no longer in vogue. Let me alter that
statement slightly — non-narrative, meandering, pretentious,
god-awful, acid-soaked bullshit is no longer in vogue, if it ever was.
Even Andy Warhol’s basement parties would have turned away this crap,
seeing it for the humorless drivel that it is.

And for no reason whatsoever except to get people talking, the
film begins in black and white and ends in color. The B&W scenes
are lovely, as Paris is a city that is very difficult to render
unattractive. I would have been content to look at the city for 90
minutes, muting the sound and taking in the stunning imagery. But no,
Godard had to take us inside with the insufferably dull; people who are
talking to themselves only, as anyone with something better to do had
long ago left the room. I can imagine Godard and his wide-eyes devotees
(of which there are probably only a half-dozen remaining) watching this
film in J.L.’s country estate, laughing and nodding with recognition,
then sitting back for a bit of coffee while blasting the philistines
and capitalist pigs who will no doubt trash his latest masterpiece.
Then they will remember the good old days, when Godard was the toast of
Paris as well as film festivals around the world, and he knew what it
was to be appreciated as a genius who helped to alter cinema forever.
Then he’ll play the film back one more time, burning with the anger of
the misunderstood artist who cannot find a place for his unique,
all-important vision.

Only no one seems to care about Godard anymore, which should not be the case if we are talking about film history. Indeed, he was
a voice of experimentation when it was most needed, and one would have
to be crazy to dismiss his impact on a world not quite ready to accept
his bold new direction. But now, at this late date, Godard no longer
matters to current cinema as his films do not speak to anyone outside
of his own mind. Godard seems to have retreated so far into his own
world that he is no longer capable of communicating with even a minimal
degree of clarity. I’m not sure he ever did such things, but when he
was spitting in the face of convention in decades past, much of the
young and idealistic were in his corner. If the films didn’t make
sense, it didn’t seem to matter, as the politics and culture of the
time didn’t either. Madness was the order of the day and film often
reflected that.

These days, of course, it is more than a case
of Godard falling out of fashion because the world is less patient with
true daring. Godard is trying to force his beliefs on a world
that is easily distracted, less intellectual, and infinitely more
conventional (in its politics above all), but this is one of the few
times I will defend the world’s apathy towards the lone voice in the
wilderness. Godard is a sad little man with nothing more to offer the
world of cinema, but his stance is made even more tiresome by his
insistence on being as self-righteous as ever. I imagine his films
receive funding solely because Godard is a national treasure, but it is
time for France to cut off the supply. The true artist, like the true
athlete, knows when to quit. I would argue that Godard should have quit
in 1965, but that’s just me. I hope this time he’s listening.