Warning: if you are not a Godard fan this post might bore you. The Warning Returns: I will probably ramble more than usual on this one. The Revenge of the Warning: links at the end to recently reviewed films.
Not much background info here. Godard is commonly cited as one of the most famous and influential directors. His run of 60s films – Breathless, Band of Outsiders, Contempt (my personal favorite), A Woman is a Woman, Weekend, etc etc – is as aesthetically impressive as it is prolific.
So…2 or 3 Things has Godard again with a female subject, again with prostitution somewhere in the forefront, and with somewhat of a narrative protruding from a hodge-podge of literary, cinematic, and otherwise erudite references.
The film follows Juliette Jeansen (Marina Vlady) through a day in the life. She runs errands, drops kids off, buys clothes…and sleeps with a random man. Throughout Godard continuously cuts to shots of construction – a technique that perhaps is echoed in Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry some years later – and whispers in the form of voiceover about everything from Vietnam (hugely important in this film) to thoughts on socialism.
Late 60s Godard = more radical Godard = Godard tending towards Maoism and a structure more fragmented than the jump cut. 2 or 3 Things is littered with Warhol-like ruminations on advertisement (is the frame inherently an ad for…something? Godard seems to think so, equating his own allusive references to something as flip as a box of detergent).
Godard the narrator asks if we can see things in more than one way. If he can show us things in a different way. He’s asking both about his shot/edited image that we are currently watching, and also about different interpretations of the same event when given context or seen from a different angle (simple read: Vietnam…depending on who you talk to). He’s also saying that there are always alternative viewpoints. Meaning that his film, 2 or 3 Things, may in fact have an alternative, and even better viewpoint. It’s funny. He’s saying that someone else, or maybe even he himself, might make this film differently (or better).
There are a lot of women, often side characters, directly addressing the camera. This fourth-wall break is nothing new for Godard. But it’s exclusively women. Is the eye of the film misogynist (something Godard is frequently criticized for)? The camera seems to ogle, and when the women speak to camera it’s as though they are responding to Godard himself –> meaning ogling camera = ogling eye = Godard’s ogling eye. Though the film seems to echo their despondence it does little to empower them. It agrees that they are stuck in a situation, and though the purchasers of sex are often portrayed as ludicrous (an awesomely French-accented American journalist who asks Juliette and a friend to wear bags for different mega-airlines on their heads…economic and personal commentary) Godard does little to find a way out of the circumstances for the women. This may be all well and good, but when we watch these women pass back and forth in front of the camera in a flatly composed medium shot in a similar position as the American journalist we’re watching them as objects as well.
Is Godard a film essayist ala Chris Marker? I’m not sure, but his films act like puzzles. These aren’t necessarily narrative puzzles (whodunit) but more image-puzzles. Why do we (I) want to solve a Godard film? Why don’t they just appear incomprehensible? For one, it’s his reputation. We trust him. But it’s also the absolute control he commands over the rhythm of the cuts. When an image is repeated, as it is a few times in 2 or 3 Things, it’s accompanied by a slightly different view (Godard: does this look any better?) and often by a voiceover. Look again, the film says. Watch, the film says. Don’t take my word for it, the film says.
I’m going to write on more Godard films – Masculin Feminin I think is upcoming. I’d love to really break this down, but as a blog post I guess this is enough. One last note: it’s worth thinking about Godard’s image of the director. Later director figures will again include himself, but also Fritz Lang and Sam Fuller. These latter two are men Godard idolizes, and in their respective films they are often much-maligned, but still maintaining a quality of godliness. Godard’s voice and offscreen presence seem to indicate the same thing here.