CANNES, France: Jean-Luc Godard is back, and the 83-year-old showed that he hadn’t lost any of his ability to provoke.
The godfather of the French “new wave” socked Cannes with an opaque, intellectual tirade against the superficialities of modern culture and the impossibility of communication in the 3-D film, “Goodbye to Language.” That, and a dog called Roxy.
Some audience members Wednesday shrugged in confusion, others whooped and cheered as the 70-minute film collage spat out jarring images, disturbing audio, and near-unfathomable references to Hitler, the French Revolution and the Russian dissident intellectual, Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
An often naked couple in the film can’t communicate properly with each other because the man keeps visiting the toilet and loudly defecating.
In the credits, it’s the French deconstructionist Jacques Derrida who figures instead of, say, a regular producer or director of photography.
If this all sounds too much, at times it was.
But this, his 39th feature, pulled it together through humor. Godard had the audience in fits of laughter – playing with 3-D technology by blurring up two different images in the same shot, forcing viewers to take off their glasses in frustration.
Godard also dished out light relief courtesy of the main protagonist: the confused, long-snouted Roxy who rolls around in the snow – played by his real-life dog, Mieville. Roxy doesn’t seem to understand the human world, and neither does the filmmaker.
Has the man who gave the world Brigitte Bardot’s “Contempt” mellowed a little in his old age?
Godard didn’t attend the red carpet premiere of his own film.
This, however, seemed strangely appropriate, like all was right in the universe.
After all, this is the man who’s been shunning consumerist culture for the past seven decades.
Instead, he recorded a video message: “Thank you for inviting me to climb your 24 majestic steps ... But you know I am no longer, and have no longer been for a long time, part of distribution.”
“This is not a film, although it’s my best one ... And I am no longer where you think I am. In fact, I am following other paths,” the message continued.
With Mieville as well as the filmmaker missing from the event, perhaps the path to which he referred was simply one in a park where the world’s most famous auteur was just walking his dog.