The darling of the arthouse crowd, graduate of the Cahier du Cinema Film Journal and the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard provides cachet for whatever film he produces simply by signing his name to it. However, cachet aside, his latest baffling outing confused and annoyed the critical fraternity at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Devotees and the curious may find it mildly diverting, otherwise this effort is not for the faint-headed. The film was made available for Video-on-Demand immediately after the festival, which may cut down on its theatrical audience.
Some brave publicist came up with the tagline "Ideas separate us, dreams bring us together" to sum up the spirit of Jean-Luc Godard's new film, his first in six years. Twelve months on and I'm still trying to figure out what it all might mean.
He remains by reputation one of the biggest names in French cinema (though he also holds Swiss citizenship). He's famed for repeatedly turning cinema on its head and in that respect at least he does not disappoint.
Here, even the subtitles for the dialogue in assorted languages (French, English, German, Russian, Arabic dialogue) do not perform their usual service of simply translating what is being said: they comment on or truncate what is being said.
Godard combines both archive and live-action footage. He shot most of Film Socialisme on a Mediterranean cruise ship during a voyage to Egypt, Hellas, Odessa, Naples and Barcelona. En route, Godard and his motley crew of passengers, among them rocker Patti Smith and philosopher Alain Badiou, pontificate about the state of the planet and our troubled past.
The preoccupations include the Second World War and the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Holocaust and the Inquisition, all of which are woven in through a patchwork of social and political themes.
Shot in digital, Godard also uses cell phone footage to capture on-board conversations and commentaries. By the end of it all your head will be spinning with images, sound and mixed messages, with only a few moments of slapstick to lighten the load.
Godard didn't bother to turn up for the film's Cannes premiere, which infuriated the media even further. They had no one on whom to vent their spleen while Godard probably stayed home—chuckling quietly to himself.
When you're a revered auteur you can get away with behaving badly.
Cast: Catherine Tanvier, Christian Sinniger, Jean Marc Stehle, Agatha Couture, Marie-Christine Bergier, Eye Haidera, Patti Smith.
Director/Screenwriter: Jean-Luc Godard
Producers: Ruth Goldberg, Alain Sarde
Genre: Drama; German-, Russian-, Arabic- and French-languages, subtitled
Running time: 101 min.
Release date: June 3 NY