Monthly Archives: August 2008

et ta delivrance? – la mort!

I came to Godard’s early work pretty late — I only caught up with Le Petit Soldat in 2006, and this film only last week. As an art student actively seeked out the avant-garde, I fell in love with Godard on the basis of his later, more aggressively challenging work — Two Or Three Things I Know About Her, Weekend, Tout Va Bien, Ici Et Ailleurs, Passion, Prenom Carmen, King Lear, and Helas Pour Moi all crossed my path before I had a chance to get to know Godard as a straightforward dramatic storyteller. Even Alphaville and Contempt, probably the most conventional narratives of Godard’s I had seen prior to Le Petit Soldat, were puzzling and frustrating as often as they were pleasurable.

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we’re going to hell for doing this play

Dana’s lack of talent isn’t just a punchline — it actually threatens to impoverish his students and their school. When budget cuts must be made, the theater program is an easy choice because, as the principal enjoys pointing out, it doesn’t produce plays worth seeing. Fully aware that he’s a hack as both an actor and a teacher, Dana nevertheless passionately believes that even his lame program is better than no program. Saddled with a group of apathetic students (because all the other electives have already been cut), he decides to inspire them and save drama from the chopping block by putting on an ambitious original play. And what could be more ambitious than a sequel to English literature’s greatest enigma?

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a tiny little film festival

Breillat carefully dismantles the cliche of “boredom” among the upper classes, suggesting that “boredom” in their lives, as in ours, is usually a mask for frustration and an inability to truly embrace life. Vellini and Ryno, for all their weird sex play with blood, are basically a couple in love who find themselves thwarted by social roles, especially the confining roles acceptable for women in the nineteenth century. There’s some overobvious use of Bible verses to hammer home the sexist conception of marriage during Ryno’s wedding, but maybe a blunt instrument is appropriate to smack us with the wrongness of Ryno’s reasons for marrying Hermangarde instead of the woman who has obviously been his real wife from the beginning. The need to confine, control, or moderate Vellini is really the central conflict of the film, and to the degree that she tries to straitjacket herself, the life drains out of her. But lacking, perhaps, a language to properly express such political conceits, she instead speaks in the vernacular of boredom, “ennui.”

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