'Goodbye To Language 3D' Is Really Unlike Any Film You've Ever Seen
"Those lacking in imagination take refuge in reality," reads a subtitle at the beginning of Jean-Luc Godard's Goodbye To Language 3D, setting the tone in the first shot like the "NO TRESPASSING" sign at the gates of Xanadu in Citizen Kane. Whether it comes off as hostile seems to depend on how much late-career Godard the viewer can tolerate, but its message is clear: abandon all hope, viewers who enter here (and put on your 3-D glasses).
Goodbye To Language is not the director's first foray into 3-D filmmaking—that would be his segment in the omnibus film he made with Edgar Pêra and Peter Greenaway, 3x3D—but it is his first feature-length using the technology, and what he does with it is spectacular. Much like the way he deconstructed and blew up the rules of filmmaking with his atom bomb of a debut feature, Breathless, what Godard does with the visuals and techniques of Goodbye To Language is so unique and extraordinary that the sheer spectacle and beauty of the images is worth the price of admission and putting up with those bulky glasses on your face. Whereas conventional 3-D filmmaking is meant either as an immersive (Avatar) or fantastical (The Life Of Pi) effect, Godard and his cinematographer Fabrice Aragno strive for the surreal and alienating. Mundane, everyday images such as a passenger ferry docking at a pier, or sunlight through the leaves of a tree seem brand new through the accentuated depth and hyper-realism of crisp digital images rendered through the consumer-grade cameras. Photos from the production of Goodbye To Language show that they essentially used a dual-DSLR rig for many shots.
For the latter half of Language's brisk 70 minutes, Godard and Aragno turn up the saturation of the colors and turn down the resolution of the images and its vision of the world turns vivid and painterly at times. It's no coincidence that at this point Godard's own dog, credited as Roxy Miéville, becomes our nominal protagonist. One favorite subject (of many) of Godard's that has run through his varied 56-year career is language and its constraints. As the title might suggest, is Goodbye To Language the film where Godard breaks free from the boundaries of language and perceives the world with heightened sensations, like Roxy as he wanders the woods?
Maybe. Like almost all post-Weekend work of Godard's, straightforward narrative and technique is abandoned for pure expressionism through form and content. At times it may be a struggle for the uninitiated to keep up with the film and it's multiple references and digressions. I'll admit that any semblance of narrative was lost on me (David Bordwell does a fantastic job of actually teasing out its dual narratives, worth reading after you see the film) but it's simply a joy to sit there and watch the old master continue to break the rules of cinema at the age of 84. Like a brief moment where we see Roxy happily rolling in fresh snow, in Goodbye To Language, it's easy to be enraptured by the beauty of it all.
Goodbye To Language 3D opens at the Aero Theatre on Friday and will run for a week. Actress Heloise Godet will be at post-screening discussions for the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 7:30 screenings. Various screenings will have guest introductions, including filmmaker Thom Andersen at the Sunday, 7:30 screening. Check the Aero Theatre website for details.