Cannes 2014: Goodbye To Language 3D

Flossie Topping

Jean-Luc Godard, the legendary cigar-chomping director and pioneer of the French New Wave, presents his 58th feature, in which he experiments with 3D, philosophises about love and challenges our conceptions of what film should be.

The 83-year-old filmmaker’s latest is more a selection of images and ideas threaded together than one consistent narrative, posing questions but not providing answers (it's Godard, what would you expect?). It’s an art film in the truest sense: neither committing to being a documentary or a complete fiction. Though often confusing and unabashedly abstract, Goodbye to Language still shows the auteur’s distinctive signature and his uncompromising sensibility.

The 70-minute film is loosely about the relationship between a married woman and a single man. They meet, they make love, they argue, they split, and then they meet again when seasons have passed. We know very little of them other than what we see: their naked bodies. Whether they're showering, eating or on the toilet (with added sound effects – thanks Godard), we judge the couple at their physical level. Throughout their affairs we're shown images of a dog (played by Godard’s own pooch, Miéville) and told through the voiceover: “dogs see the world where humans are blind”.

From the get-go it’s clear that Godard plays by his own set of filmmaking rules, meshing bursts of loud static noise with intense flashing strobe-like images. It’s a combination that assaults the senses, and, coupled with arbitrary images inserted sporadically, such as sliced oranges in a bath being covered in blood, the film is rarely coherent either.

However, despite Godard's experimental style, he adds to his repertoire by showing his response to changing technology in film, and how we might use it to further explore life’s questions. By layering 3D images and titles, he makes jokes with the audience and plays with how much the images can be manipulated. He also asks the fundamental question: “What were thumbs for before the iPhone?” while showing girls flicking between photos one-handed. 

Although slightly overwhelming in its assembly, Godard’s place in competition at Cannes shows he's been given a Carte Blanche for filmmaking, and that he continues to influence the film community. Utterly unique, this is a film for the true Godard acolyte. 

Follow Flossie on Twitter: @flossietopping

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