Goodbye to Language 3D
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
Written by: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Héloise Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier and Zoé Bruneau
Goodbye to Language is an intimidating assault on the senses, a free-form barrage of intense political and philosophical musings combined with the most jaw-dropping and maddening use of 3D imagery I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t feel right writing about Jean-Luc Godard’s 43rd feature after only seeing it once, but one viewing is likely all I will have for the foreseeable future because of the singular way it needs to be seen.
Godard’s use of 3D has been heralded far and wide since the movie’s debut at Cannes earlier this year. In two similarly jaw-dropping sequences, the shot begins normally, then splits two images as a man and a woman separate and then reunites them again. Though those are the two images that immediately illustrate Goodbye to Language’s singularity, much of Godard’s focus in this movie, at least visually, is on a dog. His dog, named Roxy.
In typical dog fashion, Roxy wanders through countryside, sleeps on couches and writhes in the snow. The couple that shares the movie if rarely the screen with him are often just as naked, though Godard chronicles them clinically rather than lovingly. He never holds onto any single shot, song or visual tone for very long; in addition to standard color images, Roxy (and the others) are sporadically black and white, hyper-saturated or grainy.
On almost every level, Goodbye to Language 3D is a collage of miscommunication. As Richard Brody noted in the New Yorker (and as title indicates), the big idea in the movie is Godard’s own use of 3D. The two shots I mentioned earlier are indeed earth-shattering, but the simpler shots, of a woman washing her hands in a leafy tub, or a man’s head being pushed into bloody water by a similar hand, have a depth and clarity that is itself awe-inspiring. Other images, like distorted shots of autumn trees or a speeding car speedometer foregrounded in front of a dark highway, may twist and annihilate your eyes.
Goodbye to Language’s breadth of artistic and historical references would be dense and overwhelming in a movie three times its length, let alone one that is only 71 minutes. There are musings about capitalism, philosophy and sex in the digital age, Mary Shelly (who pops up in a reenactment) and Hitler (who doesn’t); a couple also discusses gender equality while the man grasps his wife’s bare hips and takes a shit. Though many of those discussions become a disorienting blur, especially after only one viewing, the images are burned directly onto my brain, and it took about 20 minutes for my eyes to totally readjust afterward. I’d love to see it again some day.