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New Release Review - Goodbye to Language 3D

Jean-Luc Godard's adventures in the third dimension.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Héloïse Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier, Zoé Bruneau, Jessica Erickson



Look up 'pretentious' in the dictionary and you'll find the definition of the word. Look up 'pretentious' in the dictionary while wearing 3D glasses and you might be greeted with a summary of Goodbye to Language, the latest punk rock screed from the oldest revolutionary in cinema, Jean-Luc Godard. This time it's a revolution we can live without, employing that millstone of modern Hollywood, the third dimension, using it to hint at cinema's future. As a vision of cinematic things to come, it's as terrifying as any work of dystopian sci-fi.
We've seen plenty of respected auteurs adopt 3D, from Scorsese to Herzog, but none have yet warranted their use of the format. Only Gravity comes remotely close to improving on a 2D equivalent. With Goodbye to Language, Godard becomes the first filmmaker to truly justify his adoption of the extra dimension, delivering a film specifically engineered to be viewable only in 3D. The Swiss director does this through two sequences shot in a manner that makes them appear as a blurred mess when viewed with both eyes. Close one eye however and you'll see a clear image. Swap that eye for the other and the image is exchanged for a new image, allowing the viewer to essentially choose between three images. I could be wrong, but it's a technique this reviewer has never witnessed before, one that hints at Oculus Rift, a terrifying concept that threatens to transfer the future of cinema from the eyes of a filmmaker to that of his audience, letting the viewer literally call the shots.
The padding around these two innovative sequences makes for a highly unpleasant 70 minutes as Godard hits us with a juvenile barrage of ugly images and ear-splitting sound effects, as though he were some angry teenager who hijacked his school's end of year AV Club presentation. Most of the film looks like it was shot by a toddler on a Fisher Price camera, with images randomly presented through various filters in a case of  'What does this button do?' filmmaking at its worst. When viewed in 3D, this visual noise is grating in the extreme.
As if the visuals weren't annoying enough, we also get a soundtrack that veers between insanely loud white noise and hilariously affected dialogue that sounds like it was penned by Jim Morrison on an acid trip. Imagine being trapped in a student union meeting, one at which every attendee is nursing a particularly loud infant and you'll get some idea of this noise pollution. Add a pathetic fascination with filming man and beast in the process of emptying their bowels, complete with comic fart noises, and you have one of the most gruelling cinema-going experiences of the decade.
Once a young revolutionary who gave French cinema a much-needed shot of adrenalin, Godard is maturing with the grace of Keith Richards and Madonna. Bergman famously called him a "desperate bore," an accusation unjustified at the time but not without merit today, while Truffaut labelled him "The Ursula Andress of militancy," mocking his credit card communism. It's the words of Orson Welles that best sum up contemporary Godard though: "His message is what he cares about these days, and, like most movie messages, it could be written on the head of a pin."




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