Jean-Luc Godard is arguably one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. In recent years, though,
he has moved more toward creating cinematic essays rather than straightforward drama like À Bout
de souffle (BREATHLESS), for which he is best known. Indeed, like Claire Denis, Godard seems
to be pushing the boundaries of what audiences have come to think of as cinema. Denis is moving away
from strict narrative, preferring a more dreamlike rendering of sight and sound. Godard is exploring the
line between fiction and documentary by utilizing the camera as a tool of investigation not merely as one
His latest opus is the lyrical and thought-provoking NOTRE MUSIQUE, which like Dante’s
Divine Comedy is divided into three sections: Enfer (Hell), Purgatoire (Purgatory) and Paradis (Heaven).
"Hell,” which the director assembled last, is a selection of film clips depicting war and its aftermath,
including snippets from such varied motion pictures as APOCALYPSE NOW, FORT APACHE, and
NIGHT AND FOG. It’s certainly a difficult piece to watch as images of death and destruction quickly
pass by, yet it contains a certain power. (The underscoring certainly helps.)
In counterpoint, is the final section, “Heaven,” which is seen as a verdant land where people read
books, eat apples and cross rivers, all under the watchful eye of the US Military. (Some have read this
as more anti-Americanism on Godard's part, but it doesn't feel like a slam, more of a commentary.)
The bulk of the film is the middle section, “Purgatory,” in which the filmmaker recreates his
participation in the 2002 European Literary Encounters, a yearly event held in Sarajevo. That section is
an intriguing blend of the real figures, (Spanish novelist Juan Goytisolo and Palestinian poet Mahmoud
Darwish) and fictional characters (two Israelis, journalist Judith, portrayed by Sarah Adler, and student
Olga played by Nade Dieu). There’s a haunting quality to this part of the film as Godard includes
quotations from Goytisolo, a recreation of an interview with Darwish, a visit to the Mostar bridge, which
was being repaired and rebuilt after its partial demolition, and a version of a lecture on cinema delivered
NOTRE MUSIQUE addresses philosophical questions, particularly about cinema. By utilizing the
image of the Mostar bridge, he gently posits his central theme: the bridge is not the bridge since it is being
restored and rebuilt, just as film is not the real thing but a recreation of an event. It’s an intriguing notion and
the film begs for repeated viewings to discern all its hidden meanings.
MPAA rating: NONE
Running time: 80 mins.
|© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.