'Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin: Five Films'
(6-Disc Special Edition Blu ray+DVD / NR / 2018 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: After finishing his film Weekend in 1967, Jean-Luc Godard shifted gears to embark on engaging more directly with the radical political movements of the era, and thus create a new kind of film, or, as he eventually put it: new ideas distributed in a new way.
This new method in part involved collaborating with the precocious young critic and journalist, Jean-Pierre Gorin. Both as a two-person unit, and as part of the loose collective known as the Groupe Dziga Vertov (named after the early 20th-century Russian filmmaker and theoretician), Godard and Gorin would realize some political possibilities for the practice of cinema and craft new frameworks for investigating the relationships between image and sound, spectator and subject, cinema and society.
Blu ray Verdict: To bring you a little more into this directorial mix, Jean-Luc Godard is a French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critic. He rose to prominence as a pioneer of the 1960s French New Wave film movement.
Like his New Wave contemporaries, Godard criticized mainstream French cinema's "Tradition of Quality", which "emphasized craft over innovation, privileged established directors over new directors, and preferred the great works of the past to experimentation."
As a result of such argument, he and like-minded critics started to make their own films. Many of Godard's films challenge the conventions of traditional Hollywood in addition to French cinema.
Jean-Pierre Gorin is a French filmmaker and professor, best known for his work with Nouvelle Vague luminary Jean-Luc Godard, during what is often referred to as Godard's "radical" period.
Jean-Pierre Gorin was a student of Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan. He was a radical leftist well before meeting Godard in 1966. Godard relied on some of his discussions with Gorin while writing the script of 1967's La Chinoise.
Included here on 'Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin: Five Films, 1968-1971' are, as can be guessed, five films, all originally shot in 16mm celluloid, that serve as examples of Godard and Gorin s revolutionary project.
First up is 'Un film comme les autres' [A Film Like Any Other] which is an analysis of the social upheaval of May 1968 made in the immediate wake of the workers and students protests. The picture consists of two parts, each with with identical image tracks, and differing narration.
Interestingly, and as history now informs us, when the film was sent to New York City's Lincoln Center for its premiere, Jean-Luc Godard included a note in the film canisters instructing the projectionist to "flip a coin" to determine in which order the film's two reels would be shown!
Then comes 'British Sounds', aka: 'See You at Mao', an examination of the daily routine at a British auto factory assembly line, set against class-conflict and The Communist Manifesto. An hour-long film shot in February 1969 for television, written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Henri Roger, and produced by Irving Teitelbaum and Kenith Trodd, funnily enough LWT (London Weekend Television) refused to screen it owing to its controversial content; but it was subsequently shown with success in cinemas. Godard credited the film as being made by 'Comrades of the Dziga-Vertov group'.
Then comes 'Vent d'est' [Wind from the East]. A loosely conceived leftist-western that moves through a series of practical and analytical passages ( an organization of shots, Godard called it) into a finale based around the process of manufacturing homemade weapons.
Filmed in 1970, 'Vent d'est' is a radical filmmaking cooperative that, at its core, and like most films from this period in Godard's career, directing credit was given to the collective and not himself or other individual filmmakers.
Of the Dziga Vertov Group films, Wind from the East became particularly notable due to Peter Wollen's influential essay about it: "Godard and Counter Cinema: Vent d'est." Indeed, Wollen contends that Wind from the East exemplifies how Brechtian principles of "epic theatre" can be applied to film as "counter cinema."
Then comes 'Lotte in Italia / Luttes en Italie' [Struggles in Italy]. Not necessarily a film about the struggles in Italy largely shot, in fact, in Godard and Anne Wiazemsky s home at the time this is a discursive reflection on a young Italian woman s shift from political theory to political practice and, at the same time, a self-questioning of its own practice and theories.
In 'Lotte in Italia', it's not the conceit of being revolutionary from a safe distance that is analyzed but the problem of it, the conundrum of how the two can be combined in one social position.
In the first part of the film we see the girl trying to formulate or conform to the political rhetoric expected from a communist as capitalist society around her provides for her.
In the second part the problem is outlined, then Godard offers solutions, thinking for example not in terms of food or clothes but the production of them, not in terms of money but labour.
Lastly we get to experience 'Vladimir et Rosa' [Vladimir and Rosa], a searing and satirical comic-reportage on the trial of the Chicago Eight, featuring Juliet Berto and Godard and Gorin themselves.
The film could be thought of as both a political satire and a court-room thriller; with the Godard and Gorin using the background of the Chicago Eight trial and the sidelines into the plight of Bobby Seale and his connection to the Black Panther Party (eventually leading to the Chicago Seven) to create a work of highly provocative agitprop.
The film dramatises certain elements leading up the arrest, including the background of the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the implication of police violence and intimidation leading to riots and angry protests.
From here, the trial is documented in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of the visual approach of Le Gai Savoir, right down to the use of minimal production design with the barren black background of theatrical artificiality and the way that the characters speak directly to the camera in a completely deconstructive approach.
These films, long out-of-circulation except in film dupes and bootleg video, here make their Blu-ray debut, providing a crucial glimpse of Godard s radicalization, and of the aesthetic dialogue between him and Gorin that, in essence, served to invent a modern militant cinema. As Godard told an English journalist of the era, film is not a gun but a light which helps you check your gun. These are all High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
High-definition digital transfer
High-definition Blu-ray (1080p) and standard-definition DVD presentations
Original uncompressed monaural audio
Optional English subtitles
A conversation with JLG - Interview with Jean-Luc Godard from 2010 by Dominique Maillet and Pierre-Henri Gibert
100-page full-colour book containing English translations for the first time of writing by, and interviews with, Godard and Gorin, and more