Goodbye to Language 3D (2014)

Written & Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Some may argue that with the recent advent of social networking and the massive leap forward in technology in the last decade human interaction and basic communication skills have taken a massive leap backward. At the very least they have changed and while I don’t fully subscribe to the theory of communication breakdown, I must say it makes for some interesting philosophical conversations. One such conversation is moderated by the French New Wave famed director Jean-Luc Godard, who at the ripe age of 83 has now released his long awaited debut in 3D filmmaking, the aptly named Goodbye to Language 3D.

Godard’s intentions are his own, and not having seen many of his films, I cannot readily say that I was able to glean all that he intended with this unique film. While brief at only 70 minutes, it is chock full of ideas coded in such a manner that it takes a particular concentration and attention span to stay with the very loose narrative of the film. It is more of an idea than it is a story and for that reason, the abstractness will have its fans and its detractors. I believe I fell somewhere in the middle. We somewhat follow the relationship of a couple, with the woman coming and going, along with the wanderings of a dog about the countryside. But again, the plot is not the intention of the film, the ideas shown in images and heard in sounds is what this film is going for.

It becomes an exceedingly difficult film to watch as it continues on. Godard seems to be depicting the breakdown of communication by literally breaking down what cinema is and how it works. Rule breakers are pioneers in all art forms. By breaking the rules you create something completely new and potentially exciting. But Godard skirts the line of creative genius and mad genius with his choices in Goodbye to Language.

The sound comes in and out, as though there was something wrong with the theatre speakers. Perhaps we are supposed to be hearing what people too involved in their cellphones are hearing during conversation. The editing is somewhat headache inducing, cutting from one shot to the next, including bizarre file footage that has little tie into the story potentially being told. Perhaps we are supposed to be seeing what people too involved in their cellphones are seeing as they access video and media at will, flipping back and forth, back and forth to satisfy their new appetite for consumption. The visuals of the film are at times beautiful, incorporating striking filters with the use of the handheld, everyday cameras in use. Perhaps we are seeing what people are now capable of with their cellphone cameras and customer filters provided them within apps, etc. Anybody with a cellphone is an artist and a genius, for better or for worse.

Starting with little to nothing in the way of plot or narrative, I managed to glean at least this much from the film, whether intended or not. However, Godard flexes his creative muscles by inducing this reaction, even if it was not his intent with the film. This makes my film experience an extremely frustrating one. I left my seat and the theater thinking to myself “what the hell was that!?” Inside I kind of hated the film and struggled to make my way through it. But at the same time, after reflection I found a way to see value. It doesn’t make the experience of physically watching it any more satisfying, and for that reason it is not likely a film I would revisit any time soon. But doggone it, Godard got me thinking. Am I mad and he’s a genius, or the other way around? I don’t know, maybe I’m being too generous and the film’s philosophy is never more sophisticated than “we are most equal when we are pooping.”

*** – Very Good


Written by

Adam Kuhn is a film critic and blogger at Corndog Chats. He started Corndog Chats in 2009 at the behest of his friends, and is very glad he did. Since then, he has been a contributor to The News Record and Bearcast Media, the student newspaper and radio station of the University of Cincinnati respectively, and most recently a member of the Columbus Film Critics Association.

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