Sunday, January 08, 2006

British Sounds / See You at Mao

Sound? Awful. Image? It was a Windows Media file (or something close). But I'm still glad I saw a shadow of the film. Godard no longer seems to put much stock in his Dziga Vertov-era work & ideology, and seeing British Sounds one can sort of see why: there's a lot of fascinating work, some good questions being asked, some intriguing formal & imagistic propositions, but a large amount of it seems rote, thoughtless. (Though I love Godard, I don't think he's untouchable, and one of my dirty cinephile secrets is that I don't think Breathless is actually that impressive a film--at least as far as features go, I don't think he hit his stride until either A Woman Is a Woman or Le Petit soldat, whichever you consider "first," since the latter was filmed earlier but released later. And no need to press me on Breathless: I'm more than willing to revisit the film multiple times in my life, and hope to one day love it. I'm just expressing my raw, unsophisticated, untempered personal reaction to the film.) At any rate, British Sounds organizes its anti-capitalist screed through four segments, which, if you haven't seen the film are: the Vertov-era Godardian tracking shot (of an auto factory), a naked woman walking around her apartment, a 'television announcer' spewing reactionary rhetoric intercut with dialoguing working class folks, and some young activists doing hippie things. The segments are generally narrated, sometimes doubly or even triply narrated, so that if you're watching the film in the same non-ideal circumstances I was, you admittedly miss a lot of information. Some of the segments are tough going--the hippies especially, perhaps for no more defensible reason than that it buys into a notion I don't agree with, aligning the force of its sympathies so strongly with rock-and-dope youth counterculture. (I'm no expert but I've always felt like Pasolini probably characterized May '68 correctly, and I don't think the well-educated Marxist children of the bourgeois class--a category of which I'd say I'm part--are exactly the guiding light of revolutionary struggle!) The scene I like the most is probably the first one, where, as in Tout va bien, the distant tracking shot can help parse some serenity and (more) some sense of enlightenment from amidst a complicated political sound-image morass. You see the workers, you see the car parts, the reds and the grays, you hear the Marx & Engels and the cranking machinery, and instead of culminating in overload, one feels (or, anyways, I felt) strongly attached to the wavelength of the film, its hatred for the wage system, its unimpressed tracking-shot perusal of the system in action. I'm looking forward to watching some more from this era, so long a minor grail of mine.

Anyway, those are some very preliminary thoughts on British Sounds.

P.S. One of my dreams is to own a cat--the personality would have to be right, of course--whom I could name Mao. His or her nickname would be "The Chairman."

11 comments:

Zach Campbell said...

But as I read back over my own post, I realize I'm not quite happy with it--perhaps my comments were too preliminary. The "rock-and-dope youth counterculture" is too harsh and, more, probably an inaccurate characterization to make on my part, based on entirely on a (to me negative) connotation of hippies painting banners and strumming guitars, but not actually dealing with what Godard puts up in the frame. OK, let me sleep on this, I'll try to do better and maybe post some revised comments tomorrow.

girish said...

Jeez. The Internets.
Your Wednesday plans sound good, Zach.

Eric Henderson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eric Henderson said...

Or Chairman Meow, even.

girish said...

Felinious Monk.
Inspired.

Matt said...

I have responded, messily and incoherently.

Zach Campbell said...

And Matt, I've responded on your site.

See? Mao is too good a name for a cat to be overlooked.

Matt said...

If you don't name your cat Mao, Zach, I'll buy one and name it Mao.

And then deep fry it.

JG said...

one of my dirty cinephile secrets is that I don't think Breathless is actually that impressive a film

That's all right, one of my dirty cinephile secrets is that I don't think Godard is a great director.

Matt said...

Do tell, JG. Give us some reasons, I'm interested.

Winstrol said...

Shadow of the film - great phrase!