Wednesday, October 21, 2009

En Attendant Godard, A Review

Last night I had the chance to catch a new film by Dr. William Brown, En Attendant Godard. I was lucky to be there, because as far as I know this is the first time it has been screened, and the screening room was packed! I'd say that there were around 30 people there, and I ended up sitting on a table because all of the seats were taken! That aside, there are some very interesting things to say about En Attendant Godard.

To quickly summarize: the film is about a young man who starts off on a quest to find his father, the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. It becomes clear that this character has actually never met his 'father' - and perhaps isn't really his father at all. Thus, we are left with the meanderings of a bored youth in true Godardian fashion as he travels from the United Kingdom, to France, and finally, when somebody tells the man that Godard isn't in France, to Switzerland. Throughout each step of the way, it is almost as if the characters pass through various films by Godard starting with Breathless. The protagonist steals a car, picks up a young woman giving surveys on the street (about Godard nonetheless), shoots a cop (it is implied), etc. At first, it seems as if Brown is borrowing from Breathless, but soon the characters stumble into a full-fledged rendition of Weekend, a film so distinct, and bizarre, that it becomes clear that this is not a remake of Godard films, but that the characters are literally passing through them experientially. Eventually, the characters do make it to the home of Jean-Luc Godard, but I won't reveal anymore about the story - it is best to see it for yourself.

The style of the film is very interesting - if the writer-director can be called an auteur, then William Brown as the writer-director-producer-editor-actor-etc. needs a new term altogether. What is significant about this, however, is that Brown is unafraid to wield this much power over the medium, and as a result the film becomes something ontologically different. If La Nouvelle Vague treated 'the camera as a pen,' then Brown must have his brain directly wired into the filmmaking apparatus. The film shifts between narrative story, interviews, still images, titles, words imprinted on the images of the film, between monochrome, blue, red, and white filters, different speeds and slownesses, and probably more that I cannot recall. It is as if we see the thoughts of Brown himself. Although, Brown isn't one to naturalize any of these discourses, of course - in several scenes we are quite aware of the presence of the filmmaker and the fact that he is filming. In one scene, we even hear Brown giving our lead character's lines, as the character emotionlessly repeats them. This is perhaps one of the most important points about the film: that what the viewer is experiencing is not reality, but a series of images, and - as one intertitle states - "images lie." The film is about more than a quest to find Jean-Luc Godard, it is about characters from the age of images trying to negotiate 'reality.'

For me, the most interesting thing I experience while watching this film was the pull of some particularly existential refrains. In Chaosmosis, Felix Guattari describes existential refrains, which anchor subjectivity in certain ways. These refrains at their most basic level are things that are experienced by a person repeatedly. Part of the argument Brown makes in his film is that the 'culture of images' disseminates these existential refrains in the form of images to such a degree that they are reality, they are existential. This may not sound like an altogether new argument, but what is new is that Brown is able to operate on the viewer's own 'refrains' through making this argument. For example, certain elements - sounds, images, etc. - in his film pull you towards experiences of other Godard films. The deep voice from the TV is reminiscent of the computer from Alphaville. It may not be the voice from Alphaville, but it nonetheless creates an unrepresentable refrain - an experience, for the lack of a better word - for the viewer familiar with this film. And for fans of Godard, familiar with the entirety of his works, refrains crystallize throughout the viewing of the film. This is a story for the culture it describes.

Perhaps this isn't a 'review,' considering it is not very comprehensive. I really just wanted to get some of my thoughts down on something that I think is a new potential for filmmakers and filmmaking. I'd like to return to this later, and discuss some of the other issues in the film, such as the beginning and its declaration as a low budget, 'minor' work of art. Perhaps, I'll get the chance to view the film again. I've missed a lot of interesting, and amusing things here, such as the part of the film where they travel to Michael Haneke's home to film his door, which - I can't recall whether it was Brown himself, or one of the characters that made this statement - they will 'send to Haneke in the mail.' Well, I hope he likes it!

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