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September 24, 2010


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I bet Nabokov really hated Godard. Did he ever make a pronouncement, one way or the other? If I'm correct, then that means I have precisely one thing in common with Nabokov. Well, two, if you count that we both think that Vladimir Nabokov is a great writer.

Anyway. I enjoyed reading this review, Glenn -- truly -- but the film I picture in my head, however vaguely, makes me restless and gloomy.

Glenn Kenny

@ bill: I can't find any Nabokov pronouncements on Godard, although he made no public objection to the almost half-dozen citations of Godard affinity in Alfred Appel's very great "Nabokov's Dark Cinema," in which it's revealed that Jean-Pierre Melville's Parvenescu character in "Breathless" was directly inspired by Nabokov, and that the answer to the ambition question ("To become immortal, and then die") was lifted from a Nabokov interview. In "Strong Opinions" Nabokov mentions more than once that he's tickled by the fact that an actress named Anna Karina is playing Margot in the film version of "Laughter in the Dark." That she was Godard's wife goes unremarked by the maestro. I suspect he was just not familiar with the guy's stuff.

As for "Film Socialisme," well, no, I wouldn't call it a puckish satire on contemporary mores or anything like that.

BTW, I'm kind of sleepy at the moment, so I'm gonna wait until tomorrow to put up some "Social Network" thoughts. But I like, I like, very much.


@bill: You are right, I don't think Nabokov would have liked Godard. For one thing, can you imagine him approving of a film with Socialisme in the title?

But Glenn's description of the movie—I saw it today too—is pretty spot on. The movie is filled with lots of funny, silly, beautiful imagery—just Patti Smith, alone, wandering around this cruise ship at all hours with an acoustic guitar... so excellent. But that Jews created Hollywood comment was just weird. It was like, duh, and your point is?

For what it's worth, my wife, bless her heart, doesn't get Godard. She also doesn't like Mark E. Smith. Life is imperfect.

And as much as I was more excited about Film Socialisme than The Social Network at 7:45am, when I got on line, Fincher is the one who knocked my proverbial socks off. It was crazy good.


Very strong review! Worthy of Rosenbaum. (That's intended as a compliment, I hope you take it as such.)

It seems like, more than any director, JLG requires an inventory not only of what's going on in the picture, but of artist intntionality, as well. The latter is much abused and usually inconsequential, but I think he permits it, which is why, I think, he gets in hot water with folks: his work is difficult and HE IS difficult, and so on. But this works in his favor when it comes to crix who have the stones to power through the cramp.


That should be "intentionality," natch.

Matthias Galvin

This isn't going to turn into one of those Finnegans Wake type things where it's so dense that you have to look again, but not SO dense that to descend into minutiae would be more than partially rewarding, is it?

well, at least say how it compares to Histoire(s) du Cinema
(on a stylistic level--not on fundamental content)


The phrase "late capitalism" has never convinced me any more than Fukuyama's similarly overconfident "end of history".

Glenn Kenny

@ Matthias: To break it down, I'd say the film's third part comes closest to approximating the style of "Histoire(s)," and that part is the most sustainedly "essayistic." The second part, mixing, among other things, the great Godard themes of gas stations and attractive young women, is a gentler, more pastoral play on themes from "Numero Deux" and "Weekend." And much of the first part plays like something relatively new under the Godardian sun.

@ Oliver C: Somehow I'm tempted to invoke Steve Martin's "Well excuuuuuuuse me," but instead I'll just say that I didn't write "late capitalism;" I wrote "late late capitalism," by which I was hoping to imply something that I obviously didn't, at least not to you.


Glenn, just a small correction to your balanced piece on this film: the target paintings are Kenneth Noland's work--unless Jasper Johns did some too that I'm not aware of.

By the way, it's disappointing that those subtitles aren't in real Navajo.

Glenn Kenny

@ dm494: No, I know Noland's stuff, but I did mean Johns; see here:



Glenn, thanks for the link; I stand corrected myself. Funny thing is, I must have seen those paintings a million times before and completely forgotten--which is a little embarassing for someone who prides himself on knowing his painters. This is yet another reminder to myself not to operate too much on the basis of hair-trigger associations like Noland=target paintings, Johns=American flags and canvases of gray, etc.

Glenn Kenny

@dm494: Don't sweat it, I actually do pretty much the same thing ALL THE TIME, and am usually corrected—by My Lovely Wife at home, by Griff here, and so on—in good time. But while we're here, people should be able to get a load of Noland's work as well. One way it's different from Johns' is that he's not ever painting the same target, so to speak.



I haven't had a chance to see the film except in sped up trailer form yet, but wonder if these 'compound word' subtitles could be kind of Orwellian, at least as much as social media influenced - the use of broader and broader definitions that end up being stretched so far that they lose all specific meaning. Like the idea of 'Socialism' itself.

A question I have following seeing the trailer and noting the comment about the punning of 'Goldberg' - does "de l'or" get used as a pun on Jacques Delor?


"the use of broader and broader definitions that end up being stretched so far that they lose all specific meaning. Like the idea of 'Socialism' itself."

Or "film."

Glenn Kenny

@ Colin: If he did make a Delors pun, I didn't catch it. The political figures that get the lion's share of allusions are, not entirely surprisingly, Hitler and Stalin.



I concur with a lot of what you say here. An excellent review. For me the film is a magnificent melange of the intellectual and the visceral, the abstract and the tender.

I wasn't able to follow the Navajo subtitles - I thought they distracted from the understanding rather than adding to it. On the DVD you can just remove them which is a blessing.

I think Godard does have his finger on the pulse because he talks about the root of problems that go in cycles - ownership of land, money, war, inheritances. "Ancient to the Future" as you say. I don't mind him being a fly in the ointment - you never really know if he means what he says anyway. Moreover there is a crucial difference between criticising the Jewish people and being anti-semitic which implies prejudice and hatred.

The pretentious musing threatens to grate at times but the beauty of the images, peculiar rhythms of the editing and flickers of inspired thinking are wonderful.

I wrote something myself on it here:


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