All You Need Is a Girl and a Gun
There's an attitude in Godard, despite the assertions of wanting to converse, that says, Don't argue or cross me about such things. And this book does not alter the notion of his brilliant immaturity. The most fascinating point of all applies more broadly than to Godard; it reaches out to anyone who believes that film is more important than the world. Maybe film is not the great new language of engagement with the world that Bazin hoped it would be. Perhaps it is, instead, a vehicle more suited to dreaming, sensationalism and not wanting to grow up. Perhaps language--the construct of words--was always subtler, deeper and more humane.
Here's a remarkable passage from Godard the young theorist, writing in 1956, trying to pin down the virtues of and the affinity between cinematography and montage:
If direction is a look, montage is a heartbeat. To foresee is the characteristic of both: but what one seeks to foresee in space, the other seeks in time. Suppose you notice a young girl in the street who attracts you. You hesitate to follow her. A quarter of a second. How to convey this hesitation? Mise-en-scène will answer the question 'How shall I approach her?' But in order to render explicit the other question 'Am I going to love her?' you are forced to bestow importance on the quarter of a second during which the two questions are born. It may be, therefore, that it will be for the montage rather than the mise-en-scène to express both exactly and clearly the life of an idea or its sudden emergence in the course of the story.
How odd that this furious analysis misses the clarity, the exact hesitation, with which words have evoked the moment. It reminds me of a scene in My Life to Live where the philosopher Brice Parain tells a story from Dumas's Twenty Years After: how Porthos puts a bomb in a cellar, and as he walks away with head down, notices the movement of his own legs. How does that happen? he wonders. The mystery transfixes him, and he is killed in his own explosion. "In sum, the first time he thought, it killed him."
There's a lost writer in Godard, to be sure, and it's never clearer than in those lovely and poignant places where he actually writes on film--the hand, the curling of the letters, the line of sense. Could it be the ultimate lesson in Godard's career that plunging into the dark was a misreading of his map?