2 or 3 Things I know about her – Jean Luc Godard whispers meaningfully. (Film Review)
The above scene is easily one of the greatest in the history of cinema. It is Godard’s beautiful lament as his character stares into the cup of coffee that looks like the active universe that gives this scene its power. Godard whispers:
“But since social relations are always ambiguous, since thought divides as much as it unites, since words unite or isolate by what they express or omit, since an immense gulf separates my subjective awareness from the objective truth I represent for other, since I constantly blame myself, though I feel innocent, since every event transforms my daily life, since I constantly fail to communicate, since each failure makes me aware of solitude, since I cannot escape crushing objectivity or isolating subjectivity, since I cannot rise to the state of being, or fall into nothingness, I must listen, I must look around more than ever, The world, my kin, my twin.”
2 or 3 things i know about her is Godard’s fears for the future or his lament for the rise of capitalism at the expense of the importance of ideas. We see the extreme realization of this today, with celebrities who are famous for being famous, Music Videos where the product and the advertisement have become the same thing, and social media which domesticates everyone into being “friends” and “liking” each others “status”. For Godard, this change in lifestyle is the end of all things meaningful. People discuss coca-cola and television programs rather than ideas, thoughts and radical political positions. Politics itself has been co-opted into the advertising “branding” world. For Godard this is akin to prostitution.
This (wonderful wonderful wonderful) film refuses the classic structure of a film, as if (and we know this to be true) Godard is refuting the very notion of film construct himself. The days of Breathless are long behind him (only seven years in reality, but many films away), the days of a “girl and a gun” are over and Godard’s passion for cinema has become reverent. Godard believes in the power of the image – a power he feels words cannot translate. However he is aware that advertising tries to co-opt the image for the purposes of manipulation, joining words against the power of the image. Isn’t this the very definition of advertising? 2 or 3 things I know about her is in many ways an “anti-advertisement”. Godard will interrupt the films flow, and leave us stranded in a sea of montage. He is determined to have us find our own way out, rather than reply on these pathetic social maps we have allowed for ourselves. His interruptions occur as breaks in the sound, and his patented jump cuts, wordy sign posts and non narrative flow.
This is a political film, made in 1967 at a time when we all nervously watched the bloodshed in the Vietnam war and the “Vietnamization” policies of Richard Nixon. Hippy Power (if there ever was any hippy power outside of clothes and music) was over, and The Catholic Worker Movement and the socialists were starting to ask serious questions about the viability of remaining in Vietnam. Godard, a potent socialist, whispers these very questions as if they are a narrative against the various shots of women shopping for dresses, dropping their screaming children off at day care and selling their bodies in prostitution in order to cover the expenses of modern-day living. When Godard titles the film “2 or 3 things I know about her” the “her” he is referring to is “Paris”. This film is Godard’s lament that the French Governments new industrialization projects have removed the “brain” from everything.
2 or 3 things I know about her is alienating to be sure. Eisenstein knew the montage was to bring us close and Godard uses these very theories to make us question the power of montage and that tears us away from the image and therefore the film. However, his whispering creates an intimacy the visual dispels. In this way, 2 or 3 things I know about her is a perfect film. Godard succeeds in making us co-conspirator without the audience losing any of its autonomy or separateness. This is something I find shocking in its brilliance. When his point is the abuse of the image, Godard uses sound in a slightly manipulative way, to make up for the spaces that have evolved through our unsettling relationship with the image. There are very few directors who have experimented with sound the way Godard did. I’m not sure if Godard was aware of the works of John Cage (of course he was right?), but the connection with silence in a Godard film and then the subsequent whisper are things of terrible beauty.
The beautiful Marina Vlady, with all her shopping and spending and leaping at us through the fourth wall holds the key to our consumer culture. Eventually, we all prostitute ourselves in some way so we can spend more.