Jean-Luc Godard has been making a certain type of highly personal, fragmented and doggedly philosophical film for almost 40 years now and, on the evidence of his latest feature to be released here, 1996's For Ever Mozart, he shows no signs of changing his recondite ways. While DFT-goers had an opportunity last season, with the showing of Contempt (1963), to view the director at his most accessible, Mozart offers undiluted Godard &emdash; thorny, querulous, funny and confused.
To suggest there's a plot would be misleading, but there are concerns. A misguided group, including a young philosopher and her filmmaker father, travel to the battleground of Sarajevo to put on a production of Musset's One Mustn't Play at Love (a good joke, perhaps inspired by Susan Sontag's somewhat less quixotic Sarajevo venture with Beckett's Waiting for Godot). Meanwhile (a loose term time and place are often problematic in a Godard film), the father is also busy with the making of a film called Fatal Bolero, the "fatal" representing the commercial aspirations of the film's producer. "Why 'fatal?' " one character keeps asking, apparently unfamiliar with the concept of pretested titles. It quickly becomes clear that the director couldn't make a commercial film at gunpoint and the parallels to the production hassles of Contempt are obvious. But little else is.
As is customary in a Godard film, the aphorisms fly like bullets, hard-packed groups of words whizzing past the hapless characters. "It's what I like in cinema," says Bolero's director, "a fsaturation of glorious signs, bathing in the light of their absent explanation." The trip to Sarajevo comes to a bad end and a Brechtian bout of torture. Fatal Bolero opens to a tepid box office; customers are lured to a nearby showing of Terminator IV.
Godard fans will find much here to relish. His love-hate affair with the medium is as vital as ever. Or, as his fictional filmmaker says, "This must be why I've always felt a profound sadness in cinema (there's) both a possibility of expression and the trace of something essential, renounced."
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for the Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.