Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Goodbye to Language 3D

The emperor has no clothes. Hasn't for a long time.

Jean-Luc Godard, perhaps the most overrated director in film history, shoots his latest misfire, "Goodbye to Language," in 3D that looks like a burned-out screensaver from a computer left unattended for about a week. Godard's trailers - such as this gem for "Contempt": or this one for "Masculin, FĂ©minin": - have invariably surpassed the films they hawk in artistry and enjoyment. But now he's become a bilious misanthrope and a sad self-parody, excreting pseudo-intellectual references and dialogue so intentionally incomprehensible it makes Scientology seem transparent. "Pardon me, Sir," a woman's voice asks, apropos of nothing. "Is it possible to produce a concept about Africa?"

What's impossible is to describe what comprises the 70-minute runtime of "Goodbye to Language 3D." There are endless end-of-the-world arguments between a man and a woman that come off like late-night bull sessions between philosophy grad students. During most of these, the man is taking a dump, and Godard litters the soundtrack with the noises of bowel movements and flatulence. There are also countless scenes of the filmmaker's dog wandering around aimlessly and at one point wallowing in its own feces. His nauseating and headache-inducing compost heap of scatology and eschatology, in a film pockmarked with visual and aural discontinuities, can only be taken as an expression of hatred and scorn for his drain-circling audience. 

Godard uses titles such as "Ah Dieux" instead of "Adieu," and never has it been truer that a pun is the lowest form of wit. For all the pretension on parade here, the actual level of discourse is mostly unimpressive. The two highlights - when my audience, who looked like they were on a field trip from film school, deigned to chuckle - involve the onscreen image seemingly coming apart and circling back on itself, like a cinematic double exposure. What an attenuated and technique-y pleasure that is, wholly disconnected from the power of film to engage the viewer intellectually and emotionally. With Godard, it's all about "look at me."

I waffled dozens of times between one star and half a star, ultimately settling on the latter. Lou Lumenick, in the New York Post, went further, awarding "Goodbye to Language" zero stars and calling it "twice as effective and three times as fast-acting as Ambien." I will say that it is much, much worse than the worst film of last year, "A Million Ways to Die in the West." If you brought 100 friends to see it, at least 99 would hate it, and many would have nothing more to do with you. For me, it's not goodbye to language but goodbye to Godard - forever.

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