Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Groupe Dziga Vertov: Proof that Godard is Insane!

Jean-Luc Godard has something of a long-standing rivalry with me. It is no secret that I can't stand his work. I would be tempted to label him as nothing short of a hack filmmaker who makes lazy poorly-directed films and then tries to pass them off as high art. However, most of what I have criticized is his early work. Breathless is a pointless crime film, and he could not even bother to watch his own movie while editing it, instead just cutting random segments and hoping they didn't disrupt anything. Alphaville has got to be the most pathetic vision of the future that has ever been put on film. However, these movies, both made in the 1960's, barely hold a candle to his truly insane material beginning in the 1970's with movies like Tu Va Bien. It is here that I will expose just how absurd and insane a director Godard truly is.

Somewhere around the turn from the 1960's to the 70's, Godard became an extreme Marxist. He also became obsessed with defying Hollywood to degrees that would even shock a Fellini, Antonioni, or Bergman. This led to the formation of the "Groupe Dziga Vertov," though aside from Godard himself, this group only consisted of one other member, Jean-Pierre Gorin. Together, these two men would attempt to revolutionize filmmaking... in the most absurd and idiotic way imaginable. When one understands just what they felt was the most logical option, it seems insane that anyone would even think this was a good idea.

The two of them concluded that there were seven major problems with Hollywood filmmaking. The labels they gave for these supposed issues were narrative transitivity, identification, transparency, single diegesis, closure, and pleasure. In other words, Godard and Gorin basically objected to the standard classical model of filmmaking that still dominates the medium today. This would not be a huge issue, were it not for their countermethods which consisted of attempting to make the exact opposite. Instead of telling coherent stories, they wanted to make disjointed and nonsensical films. Instead of letting the viewer identify with the film, they wanted to alienate them.

In other words, Godard and Gorin basically created a philosophy that, in its simplest form, literally claims the best way to construct a film is to make it as frustrating to watch as possible. According to them, alienating the viewer and irritating them them with a disjointed and incoherent feature is the most effective way to make an ingenious work of art. As you can see, this line of reasoning is absurd, and it is hard to imagine anyone would think this is even remotely a good idea. Making a movie frustrating to watch is not an effective way to make a good film, all it does is anger those who have to watch it and makes them less inclined to see anything else you might have made.

Still, this has not stopped Godard from trying this tactic, as can be seen with films he made in this period such as Tu Va Bien or even more unsubtly, Le Vent D'est. The latter is barely even a film. It is more accurately a lecture about Marxist philosophies framed around a series of disjointed and mostly pointless vignettes. Even more bizarre, when the movie was dubbed, Godard refused to allow the narration to be removed, forcing an unfortunate viewer of the English version to hear two simultaneous narrators at once. The whole film is structured around bizarre and incoherent imagery that completely loses whatever meaning Godard had tried to convey.

Ironically, there is one scene of Le Vent D'est that actually does lend itself to an interesting reading, though one that works against Godard. There is a scene in the film where a man prances around with a record and says "I'm learning how to play" before doing so very badly. An unseen audience begins booing him but he refuses to accept that his music is terrible. He simply stands around claiming that his music is genius. This is fitting as it provides a perfect allegory for the experience of watching a Godard film. All he does is produce lazy incoherent films and when called out on it, stubbornly tries to pretend he has somehow made something worthy of Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch.

It is this chapter of Godard's career, this one segment where he becomes so wrapped up in an pointless quest to break free of Hollywood that provides the final conclusive proof that Godard is far from a genius. He is an incompetent, lazy, and insane filmmaker who has no idea what he is talking about and has somehow managed to come up with the most ridiculous philosophies of filmmaking imaginable. This is not someone worthy of being ranked alongside Kubrick, Hitchcock, or Lynch. This is a man who should be ranked alongside Irwin Allen, Michael Bay, and Ed Wood as one of the worst.

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