Run time: 97 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 16th May 2001
Box Office USA: $38.8k
Distributed by: Manhattan Pictures International
Production compaines: Avventura Films, Peripheria, Canal+, ARTE France Cinéma, Vega Film, Télévision Suisse-Romande (TSR), ECM Records
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Fresh: 37 Rotten: 35
IMDB: 6.5 / 10
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Producer: Jean-Luc Godard
Screenwriter: Jean-Luc Godard
The abstract concept on which the film is based had merit, to dissect love into the following four categories: meeting, physical passion, quarrels, and reconciliation. These four universal truths would be revealed through three different couples: young, adult, and elderly. It is Edgar's (Bruno Putzulu) self-appointed task to capture these moments after a recent breakup, to define a central idea: "It's only when things are over that they make sense." Whether this project will end up a play, film, or opera remains undecided. The thesis is simple enough that, if played right, it could really hold sympathetic value for anyone.
Instead what ensues is an hour and a half of repetitive vignettes, the next scene no more engaging than the last. Only once does any character utter something worthwhile, but by the time it happens you're so thoroughly bored you can easily miss it. But don't fret, it will surface again. You could easily sleep through whole sections of the film (as some fellow critics did) and wake up in a scene exactly like the one you nodded off in, not having missed anything worthwhile.
But you hold hope for some time. The background music keeps you in a state of urgency, and even suspense, for the first few conversations. It's only after repeated failures to pay any of this off that you lose all hope. And with speeches like, "I am thinking of something, but I can only think of that something when I am thinking of something else," how can you expect to hold anyone's interest?
To Godard's credit, he certainly knows how to frame a scene. The black and white footage used for the first half of the film is starkly beautiful. Watching Edgar read while walking along a train track on a mountain makes you wish you had something to ponder along with him. And if this film had anything poignant to say, you would have, which makes you all the angrier at the numerous missed opportunities. The environments, be it city or country, are impeccably captured in crisp detail, but the script never complements them.
Unfortunately, Godard also manages to pillage his photographic eye by randomly cutting to black numerous times within any given scene. Sometimes these breaks are used for chapter headings, but these are even more cryptic than the spoken words. The second half is composed of nauseating hyper-color that often blurs the image. You suddenly feel like a doomed character straight out of Scanners.
The only scene that makes any sense is one that complains about the United States bastardizing history in the making of movies. Steven Spielberg is picked on in particular. While I'll grant that this does happen, and I tend to shy away from watching such garbage, it's still a pointless focus for a film that purports to articulate the specific qualities of couplehood.
It just goes to show, an intelligent person isn't necessarily an admirable storyteller. The days of Breathless are no more.
Aka Éloge de l'amour.