Les trois désastres

By Daniel Kasman

(Leer en castellano)

Godard at a film festival: an impossibility. Too many images, too many thoughts, a cavalcade of sparks, of ignitions, most but thankfully not all subsumed by the surrounding films, people, festivities. It does the artist and his work no justice, and in fact the film, Les trois désastres, a short contribution to the omnibus 3x3D, returns to “favor,” the insult, by diminishing all that appeared before and after it in Cannes.

What can I say about this magnificent essay, at once so personal and so technical? 3D is used—a gesture or perhaps experiment or even a draft, a sketch towards Godard's upcoming feature in 3D, Adieu au langage—3D is incited (the title: “The Three Disasters”), and yet Godard shows that he has always been using the planar perspective of the medium, laying flat planes of text on top of or underneath images, images on images. No, these three dimensions are something else: they are Godard's images as public, as work, as personal. They are Godard's films, excerpts of which are seen; they are his process, as his films-being-watched are always a revelation of process, of thought collision, of experiments and risks in combinations and sonar-like soundings; and they are personal, his dog in 3D, Godard's own HD muzzle smashed into the camera, him and Anne-Marie Miéville's words, thoughts and worries.

Again we know as we must that 3D cinema is not a cinema of volume but of planes. Of layers. And Godard has always worked in layers. But as a montage-ist, unlike most of the 3D cited in Les trois désastres (Herzog, Final Destination 5, Paul W.S. Anderson, Fright Night), the real volume Godard is working in is cubist, it is in building volume through cuts, of the mise en scène of planes—of thoughts, of images—assembled in mental space, speculative space. 3D cinema as thought.

Structured in three parts, each beginning with a dice roll of fate and chance, the perspective changes with each roll. I couldn't suss the parts, but the images are of history (many degraded images, nearly sick in their pebbly, charcoal texture), of cinema, of perspective (Bazin: "Perspective was the original sin of Western painting." The second: technique). Of the digital hegemony. Godard's handmade 3D camera, two DSLR's bolted on to one another. A handmade 3D camera turning to face a mirror. A handmade 3D camera tracking to reveal a 3D camera facing a mirror. Home video footage of Godard's dog in autumn, in 3D of course, the animal friendlily jutting out towards us from the plane of golden leaves. (Later, on the soundtrack, a dog listens to puppies talking.)

The words, not speaking French, I've lost in a sea of them, often overlapping, a thicket of murmurs and quotes, provocations and binds. One came through: a building is in three dimensions until it collapses, and then it is two (and in Hiroshima: 3D people flatten to the 2nd plane when their shadows are blasted onto walls). A name: Frege. Dice-stars, the constellations of fate, the collection of images. “Casual mutations”—some of these we who've seen many of Godard's past work have heard before. One-eyed auteurs: Ford, Lang, Ray. Where are De Toth and Walsh, one-eyes who filmed in 3D? “Humans do everything but tell the history of what they do.” (This, then, why Godard always returns in his films to his own films?) That the digital revolution is the installation of a dictatorship; and I note this is my first Cannes in which I've not seen one single frame of film. All films I saw at the festival in 2013 were projected digitally.

The excerpted images no more than ever seem like artifacts rather than quotes; Histoire(s) du cinéma is cited throughout but perhaps one disaster is that now old moving images are not suggestions and allusions only but are archeological documents, spare proofs, rare records. Especially the films and photographs.

As you can infer: I saw little, understood less, desire to understand more. No other work gave so much and left me so panting, overwhelmed by things but unsatiated, desiring—needing—another pass, one more reading, just a bit more time, a conversation after (alas, no Godard in sight), something, anything to both retain and expand the experience. It was a tease, but one I can reflect on. And doing so will give me time to prepare for the next goodbye, the one in 3D.

CINEMAsuisse: Jean-Luc Godard – Quod Erat Demonstrandum (Fabrice Aragno, 2012)

Semaine de la critique 
PORTUGAL. 2013. 70’
Director: Jean-Luc Godard, Peter Greenaway, Edgar Pêra
Guión: Jean-Luc Godard, Peter Greenaway, Edgar Pêra
Fotografía: Reinier Van Bruemen, Luís Branquinho
Montaje: Raphaël Lefèvre
Sonido: Pedro Adamastor, Pedro Marinho
Música: Marco Robino
Intérpretes: Miguel Monteiro, Nuno Melo, Jorge Prendas, Leonor Keil, Ângela Marques, Keith Davis