This week’s film school movie is Slow Motion (or Sauve qui peut (la vie), to give it its French title. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, it’s about a director (also called Godard) who no longer loves his work; his girlfriend who wants to leave city life to cycle in the countryside; and the prostitute he sleeps with, who’s trying to earn enough money to rent her own place. Although its story is of little importance to the film as I’ll explain.
Godard is a director well known for making ‘difficult’ movies: one’s that tell the audience little and ask for a lot of investment before seeing any return. Slow Motion is certainly representative of this form of film-making. It fluctuates between the bizarre (formula 1 cars appearing in and out of a scene without explanation) and the obscene (the character Godard talking about his daughter in a highly inappropriate way). In between there’s philosophy readings, scenes where characters look out windows, and slow motion hugging.
Trying to accurately describe Godard to someone who’s never seen him is like trying to describe a rainbow to someone who’s only seen black and white. There is no denying the uniqueness and creativity of the director, regardless of my feelings about the result of this endeavour.
For my money, it appears as though Godard is determined to do nothing you would expect in a narrative movie: so story, plot, and character arcs are practically non-existent. However, in loosing what he feels are the chains of classic cinema, I feel like he’s shackled himself up to new restrictions. Only shooting in a way that’s challenging and unique for his own pleasure/challenge, rather than in a manner that gives his audience any insight into the world he’s created. His movies perhaps say more about film-making than they do their subjects.
Perhaps Godard’s movies can only really be appreciated by those who believe a script is not the be and end all of cinema. Given that almost every movie films with a script, or at least a clear outline of characters (cf. Mike Leigh), perhaps this shows you how limited Godard believes film-makers can make themselves. Nevertheless, the reason most people (myself included) watch movies is for characters and stories, take that away and you’re left with something akin to a great piece of art: challenging and insightful but without the emotional attachment to characters/scenes most of us associate with our favourite movies.