Je vous salue, Godard



Commentary on “Film Socialisme”

“Even condemned to death, a simple rectangle of thirty-five millimeters saves the honor of all reality…” (Jean Luc Godard)

The question would be who Jean-Luc Godard is, what cinema is, what it means to live in a world of “images”, to skid, before the end of the first period, in the most vulgar commonplace, image of an image, who he knows. It's that cliche, as you should already understand (so that the photography of our time gives the air of its lack of grace), is the watchword of our poor “nowadays”. And despite the excess of adjectives, an obvious character flaw, I try to pass unscathed by the goodwill of those who happen to read these poorly naughty ones and I return to the question and ask myself, who is JLG. The question (also and above all of the biography made by Antoine de Baecque) also helps us to ask the films: who imagines them?

Better, let's take a break. Let's understand the slip of the weekend guesser: it's not really that “the” question. So obvious. What does a certain JLG see, vieil homme, meteur en scene à la retraite (or presque)? The question, as it usually happens, returns to the addressee (much to his discomfort): what, after all, do we see (and imagine) when we imagine and see? We are already at our almost starting point. Because this is “the” question that a certain Jean-Luc has been asking for more or less fifty years: and since the opening of pierrot le fou [The eleven o'clock demon] in which the “images” of things reveal themselves so flagrantly – “I smoke Hollywood for my success” – there is no need to be “deluded” by cinema. What we see and imagine seeing is what we are, seeing and imagining. Entonces, film what, film how?

“This poor Europe, not purified but corrupted by suffering, not exalted but humiliated by regained freedom – says a black woman, while the names of the countries and cities where the film was shot are inscribed in colored Godardian letters. 'Egito', 'Palestina', 'Smyrna', 'Hellas' [Greece], 'Odessa', 'Naples', 'Barcelona' and which appear in composition with 'From gold', 'The scoundrels', 'Stories', 'Words', 'The animals', 'The children', 'The legends'. That trailer closes with a title: Socialism and with an author: J.-L. Godard, whose history this book has attempted to retrace. At the 2010 Cannes Film Festival we will be able to see what the filmmaker presents as his 'last film'”.[I]

Thus Antoine de Baecque ends the biography of Godard, a biography sui generis, which we use to better calibrate the words. Remarkable in its discretion and precision, its greatest quality is that of accompanying, along with its character, a certain gaze, so that we can return to our starting point (after just over 800 pages, it is also Antoine de Baecque's point of arrival). , a certain look that runs through a good part of the XNUMXth century, but, more than that, a certain look that goes around the history of cinema to return to cinema itself. All this? Maybe, and then some. And it ends where we also started: Film Socialism it is what announces the end of the biography. Now with the full title: not only Socialismbut Film Socialism. And Jean-Luc allows us to take this film as the look that de Baecque tries to trace: from the return to cinema through the history of cinema.

Of course, our pretensions (and our talent (and lack thereof), and our breath, and our disposition among so many other things) are smaller and infinitely more modest than those of Jean-Luc. But there is no lack of clues to understand how this socialism can be filming. Anyway, there's no way to talk about this socialism of the movie not to mention Film Socialism, which Godard himself reveals in an interview, other genres that Godard practices to exhaustion and excellence, and that comes as a bonus for those who bought the DVD of the film due to the poorly traced lines of legality.

Returning, then, to the circle of our (dark) room: What Godard films is not “the” socialism – the most cursed heritage that Europe has left us –, place, thing, object, program and doctrine. It is rather the origin of a place imagined, the genesis of an… image, the origin of… a horizon. An image that outlines itself and gives us a horizon. Of what anyway? “From a smile that dismisses the universe” – motto of the film based on the caption that Godard gives to a well-known photo taken in May 1968.

In 1961 André Labarthe said about A woman is a woman [A woman is a woman]: “A woman is a woman is an important step in modern cinema. It is pure cinema. It is the spectacle and the charm of the spectacle. And the cinema that returns to the cinema. It is Lumière in 1961”.[ii] Returning to Film Socialism we would say more or less the same: it is Lumière in 2011. But let's define the meaning: this more or less successful essay, with moments very close to the sublime, which seeks the genesis of an image (or of the image itself), of the socialism demands the counterpart of a look: and how the “Arrival of a train in La Ciotat station" or simply "The arrival of the train at the station”, archetypal “film” from 1895 by the Lumière brothers (cinema before “film”, as there was literature before the book), this nascent image (wouldn’t they all be?) threatens and terrifies, and there are plenty of people who run from the exhibition halls.

So let's move on to the first scan of the film.

The film is divided into three more or less distinct sequences, although thematically very coherent and cohesive. Our subject is: what we see and what we can imagine from what we see. Or would it be the opposite: what can we see from what we imagine? In the first case, love, which he imagines thanks to what he sees, in the second, politics, which he only sees because he imagines what he sees. And since Raoul Coutard, the inventor of photography A bout de souffle [harassed], a cameraman for the French army in the Indochina war, and who accompanied Godard throughout most of his “first phase” – from A bout de souffle to Chinese – Godard got used to filming love stories as war documentaries. After the 1980s, this part prison it modifies, expands, becomes more classic: that's more or less where we are.

In the first sequence [des choses/ comme çaa], a typical European retirement cruise is both origin and destination: from the Odyssey, maritime epic, to the Costa Brava (with five meals a day, shopping, swimming pool, casino and various activities), the domestication of life is above all a downgrading of life, an experience of life that is no more. While today's pensioners, children of the last sigh of the welfare state, the penultimate great European invention (could it be?), travel without leaving the place – the cruise is the invention of a displacement in the same landscape, the journey as negation of the trip – there is the sea, still so unresolved, monumental, cinematographic. (Reminds the sea of ​​a Bergmann (the seventh seal), the monumental sea of ​​cinema, also the sea that opens up from the beach in the final sequence of four cents coupons [the misunderstood] and, of course, the epic sea of ​​an Ulysses).

Between the ship, its ultra-kitsch interior, the effect of the reproduction and reiteration and “fetishization” of an illusory familiar landscape (the fraudulent familiar on television, abstract and sterile), and the sea outside, “far” from the ship (as a landscape), the sea inside, beyond the ship, there is a shock. From this juxtaposition we imagine poor Europe. Therefore, one can only see the ship from the outside, from the point of view of the sea and the cinema, that is to say, who, being in Europe, remains “outside” Europe. She is the Black woman – and so are the Palestinians – (image and critical sign that also appears in the second sequence, and seems to us to be a key part of the film). There is no way not to lament the poor fate of the passengers on this end of the line: “ah Europe, humiliated by freedom regained”, which could well mean: Europe has lost its imagination (here, imagination is the most precious conquest of the spirit). And the Husserls (read in an empty classroom of listeners inside the ship, “The origin of geometry”, if our philosophical memory does not fail us) and the Matisses, and the Mozarts are strangely out of place in the correct image of Europe: a cruise through the Mediterranean under the care of Costa Brava.

The difference between inside and outside the ship does not stop there: as opposed to the majestic shots of the Sea, very classic shots from a technical point of view, there is the experimentalism of capturing and composing the image when filming the ship and its interior: video and technology digital vulgarize the image in every sense – the vulgar image is more familiar, more petrified, more fetishistic and easier. Especially easier. Not that this is a past-due critique, something along the lines of “how delicious my French (cinema) was”. It is known that Godard is enthusiastic about new technologies and was one of the pioneers in video production.

His enthusiasm, however, is not “easy”, naturally. Because television, both indulgence of the imagination and coercion of the imagination, is a fraud, almost exactly in the sense that it constructs the opposition between the sea and the interior of the ship. It produces and safeguards the fraud of the “familiar” image (or the “familiar” as an image). And there we are inside the ship, thinking that we are “welcomed”, when there is nothing more anonymous, more anti-personal than the kitsch of a cruise. Television, as Godard sentences (and this modest one who agrees with you) is the imposture of our time. It occupies the territory of the imaginary and does not allow it to be imagined. He will rightly say in a television program: “I am happy to have come to take a walk in this occupied country, television, and see how I can resist to continue to respect myself…”[iii] and completes on another occasion: “In the movie theater, you raise your head. When watching television, bend down. Well, you have to lift your head”. [iv]. All this taking into account that Godard nurtures several television projects, some of which he carries out with notable success.

Returning, therefore, Films Socialisme, within the opposition that we mentioned, there is a myriad of characters, embarked in Europe: the Black woman, the Asians serving the whites, the financier, the Jew, the Palestinians, the children, the philosopher, the popular singer, each one with its dilemmas and cynicism, poorly expressed in more or less truncated sentences and dialogues. However, the image that remains is that of a poor Europe: not being able to imagine meaning traveling without leaving one's place means looking at the sea and not seeing the sea.

In the second sequence [like that] we are in the middle of a family dilemma. The Martins family, under the auspices of their father and mother, decides to sell the family garage and gas station, the family business, because they don't know what else to do, because the business has become unfeasible. It is understood that there is no longer any way to carry on with the workshop and the gas station, that a certain model has sold out. Simultaneously, the children decide to participate in politics, a way of responding to their parents' decision. And here we find again the house that television doesn't capture, the familiar that doesn't fit in television programs: because if television shows what's inside houses, nobody would be able to watch it for very long.

It so happens that there is a television crew that follows the flutterings of the heart of the Martin family, precisely to serve as a counterproof: television is definitely not capable of that. And what she doesn't capture is the same problem and two views, shown by the two generations of the family, something like the image of a difference: the old people accept the rules of the game, the young people want to invent other rules, turning to the policy. Between one and the other there is a real closeness, difficult and punctuated by incompleteness: the father asks his daughter, the eldest of the children, several times: “don't you love us?”. In the family, love must come before politics, is a question/concern of the father, to which the children seem to respond: in life, politics comes before or together with love. In the family, everything that is done involves the affection of the other, but it is also power over the other and subjection. And if politics is an affection, denying the parents' solution to the situation of family stalemate is also doubting love.

Perhaps it is easy to talk about how the scale changes from the first to the second sequence, the false familiarity of the cruise trip, the familiar television kitsch encoded in the casino lights, the bar service, the mirrored walls, and the passage to the interior of the house, with its imperfect, incomplete life, in the second sequence. But it is more than that: there is something like an immersion in the dilemma of time, the dilemma of the future, the dilemma of the imagination: without a “future” we hardly imagine (we definitely cannot imagine). And time, clock, measure and sense is present in both sequences.

This is the matter of the family: old people settle for the time that time gives them (but what time?), young people want to invent a new time. There is a moment, very grandiose in her familiar modesty, when the daughter, next to her father, in the half light, in what we could easily call domestic intimacy (but profoundly intense), says more or less the following: “August 4 1789: end of all private rights, beginning of the modern sense of equality. Saint-Just was 20 years old”. It's deep, it's surprising, it's hard. Politics erupts in the home. Can the image of another time be reinvented as our image? In our time? In our house?

Who accompanies the intermittence of the Martin family is the local Television, in the form of a white reporter and a black camerawoman. We are once again faced with Negra, now as a camerawoman in military clothing (jacket, pants and cap) and the top part of the bikini underneath the jacket. There is a permanent strangeness in seeing the camerawoman in a bikini (she soon abandons her jacket), being Black, as opposed to the others. And there's something of an awareness of that present in the film. Which leads us to believe that Godard wants to show precisely this: the Black is never “properly dressed”. If the Blacks appear fine for Europe, when framed by Gauguin (in a particularly happy moment of this second sequence), when they leave the frame (we could say, the museum “of man”), they lose decorum. This small television crew, at work, is erratic and pathetic: they try to get close to the family, the children, the parents, but they don't achieve much.

In the midst of this discomfort (of affections and looks), we are surprised by two beautiful, poignant sequences. And it is difficult to frame them critically, as Godard has long since set himself apart from any narrative conditioning. Hence they arise superbly and mysteriously – the mystery of the image? I am talking about the sequences in which the father listens to music with his daughter, in the living room, and engages in the political dialogue mentioned above with her, while the mother washes the dishes with her son in the kitchen. In addition to the remarkable music (Bethoveen, if I'm not mistaken), there is I don't know what choreography, contact and breathing from the family to the family, creating the precious protected circle of the home, "that flower of childhood", as someone once called it, and there , with their dissensions, parents and children meet. Note that telling the image says nothing. And that's very Godardian: it's a must see.

We come to the third part: [Humanities]. Now Minerva's owl on the Odessa steps will retell the “story of what we saw”. Really? Godardian Minerva's owl is certainly not Hegelian. It is rather anti-Helegian, we suspect. It doesn't add up, it disperses, in an inventive and thought-provoking collage of images, almost all of which come from the Godard museum of images. And the impasses that the first two movements show reappear in this collage: democracy/tragedy, past/future. Democracy is contemporary with tragedy, said and repeated throughout the third sequence. The history of Europe is the history of its civil wars. And here we have cloth for a lot of sleeves, but let's stop here. And here's the penultimate frame: FBI Warning: the law prohibits piracy – all rights to the author (?). And the text follows: When the law is not fair, justice goes beyond the law. The origin of a horizon – film socialism – socialism: a smile that dismisses the universe.

In time: the warning that usually appears at the beginning of DVDs is here at the end of the film and inserted in the film: the “author's right” reveals more about cinema, critically, (in an art of montage, who is the pirate?) than any vain aesthetic theory.

What is, anyway, Film Socialism? The question is clearly inappropriate (again). And if there was an answer, the answer would be even greater proof of the wrongness of the question. But what remains of Film Socialism? Now, the question seems pretentious (as you know). Indeed, much remains. It is cinema, when there is almost no cinema anymore. It's imagination in occupied territory, it's resistance. As opposed to the old regime, the First (French) Republic imagined itself a Roman Republic: the anachronism of the image comes from the power of imagination. It is socialism that we lack. Imagination remains occupied territory.[v]

I conclude with a dialogue between Godard and Marguerite Duras:

Je défais les films davantage que je le fais. [I undo movies more than I make them]

You are dancing to damnation, Jean-Luc. [You're in damnation Jean-Luc]

Tu ne peux pas écouter, lire, pas écrire, donc le cinéma te sert à oublier çaa. [You can't listen, or read, or even write, so the cinema serves you to forget all that]

La représentation nous console de la sadsse de la vie. Et la vie nous console de ce que la réprésentation n´est rien. [The representation consoles us for the sadness of life. And life consoles us for the fact that representation is nothing.][vi]

One last note, by way of conclusion: slow motion is the silence of speed: je vous salue Sarajevo.

“Since the beginning of 1993, Jean-Luc Godard devoted a two-minute film, brilliant, to show the suffering of the Bosnian city and at the same time to show his displeasure in the face of the “voyeur” and media indignation of “beautiful souls” ( Bernard Henry-Levy, e.g. AOTC). In Je vous salue, Sarajevo, the filmmaker cuts out a war photograph, that of Luc Delahaye, taken on July 20, 1992, in Sarajevo, showing Bosnian civilians lying on the ground, wounded, terrified, under the threat of weapons and the boots of Serbian soldiers. This photo disgusted him, as a soldier can be seen kicking a wounded girl lying on the ground: shame on the soldier, evidently, a sadistic and almost resourceful executioner. But also shame on the photographer, who takes this image without going to the aid of the victim, protected by his professionalism, and who will subsequently benefit, in terms of notoriety and rights, from the wide dissemination of an image that traveled around the world in newspapers and magazines.

Having found the girl in the photo through Francis Bueb, the director of the André Malraux Center in Sarajevo, Bibjana Vrhovac, knocked down by a shell explosion, seriously wounded in the arm, her white dress stained with blood, kicked by the soldier, he, Godard , asks her, and, for her and not for the photographer, the right to reproduce the photo, proposing that there be a voice-over in the film”.[vii]

*Alexandre de Oliveira Torres Carrasco is professor of philosophy at the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp).

Originally published in the magazine February.



  1. Film Socialism

France, Switzerland, 2010, 102 minutes

Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard

Cast: Christian Sinniger, Nadège Beausson-Diagne, Eye Haidara


  1. Antoine de Baecque, Godard biography. Paris, Grasset, 2010.
  2. Je vous salue, Sarajevo

Switzerland, 1993, 2 minutes

Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard




[I]Godard Biography. Antoine de Baecque, Grasset, Paris 2010, p. 864.

[ii]Same, same, P. 177.

[iii]Same, same, P. 648.

[iv]Same, same, P. 652.

[v]The expression “occupied territory” is not fortuitous. It comes almost automatically from Godard's rather crystallized and problematic anti-Zionism. We prefer not to address the subject in this article for the obvious reason that it deserves at least one exclusive article, given its complexity and the care, not always easy, that it requires.

[vi]Godard Biography. Antoine de Baecque, Grasset, Paris 2010, p. 649.

[vii]Same, same, P. 741.




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