Slow Motion (1980)

9 03 2008

Generally regarded as Godard’s last gasp at dramatic filmmaking, I expected this to be a bit more conventional. It’s not, though, but it ended up being one of his best post-Week End experiments. Yes, there’s signs of that self-parody style that Godard perfects in films like Hail Mary but for the most part, this is as close as he would get to matching the spirit of his “glory days” even though aesthetically, it’s pretty much just like his later films.

The film (loosely) tells the story of three people: a city girl fascinated by nature, a country girl trying to make a living as a prostitute, and a director whose trying to sort out his relationship problems. There’s some connections but they are, thankfully, revealed in a fairly reserved manner. The theme of slow-motion and speed-manipulation plays a large part, as a way of highlighting certain moments, such as two people making eye contact, a girl riding a bike, etc.

Describing the plot for a Godard film is useless, especially when we’re talking about the latter half of his career. In any case, this is actually one of my favorites of his. Perhaps a bit too inconsequential to be anything overwhelming, but a really good none the less. I’d say this is, by far, Godard’s most poetic feature but this probably has more to do with the Marguerite Duras references than any type of stylistic choices. In fact, the camera here is fairly static. At times, it does almost feel like a Tsai Ming-Liang film, though of course with a lot of pretentious blabbering thrown in. For the most part I pretty much like all the experimentation going on here. Some of the speed manipulation scenes are silly, but it’s sort of cool how abruptly they end. In retrospect, it fits perfectly with how Godard edits music in (and out) of his films. The abrupt cuts from opera to natural sound have always been a good idea but they work particularly well here. Again, this doesn’t go anywhere in an emotional, character-driven way, but technically, it’s one of the most evolved films I’ve ever seen. Not quite as innovative as Nicolas Roeg’s Bad Timing, which came out the same year, but the approach here is a little different anyway.

The only reason why this feels like one of his earlier films is because in a purely visceral (i.e non-explanatory) sense, it’s a bit more down-to-earth than something like say, Hail Mary. Yes, characters do still talk in monologues and articulate certain ideas far too clearly but for whatever reason, it comes off as poetic. Perhaps this is because most of the time, the dialogue is put up against fantastic images but also Isabelle Huppert and Nathalie Baye handle it in a way that it feels natural. With all this considered, this might be the best argument for Godard’s post-70s style, but I still have a lot more to see.

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2 responses

9 03 2008
wigwam

hells yes, one of his best

10 03 2008
David

definitely one of his best!

Now go for “Nouvelle Vague”, Jake!

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