Thanks to Gabe for alerting me to Serge Daney's "The T(h)errorized (Godardian Pedagogy" (available on Steve Erickson's site, in a translation by Bill Krohn and Charles Cameron Ball, here). It's been ages since I've looked at that piece, probably not since a time that I barely knew any of Godard's '69-'76 work.
For me this is a really telling paragraph:
"For the most radical fringe of filmmakers - those farthest to the left - one thing is certain in 1968: one must learn how to leave the movie theater (to leave behind cinephilia and obscurantism) or at least to attach it to something else. And to learn, you have to go to school. Less to the "school of life" than to the cinema as school. This is how Godard and Gorin transformed the scenographic cube into a classroom, the dialogue of the film into a recitation, the voiceover into a required course, the shooting of the film into a tutorial, the subject of the film into course headings from the University of Vincennes ("revisionism," "ideology") and the filmmaker into a schoolmaster, a drill-master or a monitor. School thus becomes the good place which removes us from cinema and reconciles us with "reality" (a reality to be transformed, naturally.) This is where the films of the Dziga Vertov Group came to us from (and earlier, La Chinoise.) In Tout va bien, Numéro deux and Ici et ailleurs, the family apartment has replaced the movie theater (and television has taken the place of cinema), but the essentials remain: people learning a lesson."
Of course Godard himself soon grew out of the type of cine-school that we associate with his Dziga Vertov years. For viewers & commentators who long for pre-'68, "mildly" politicized Godard, this post-DVG "growth" is seen essentially as a thankful renunciation of that evil-to-end-all-evils, communism, and a pesky corrolary, didacticism--Godard at least realized that was crazy and unsexy, right?, and his work from 1980 onwards has been a bunch of fits and starts that occasionally approach or achieve the Criterion Collection greatness of Le Mépris or Alphaville--back when he was playful and "good" and threatened to alienate those with bad taste (but thank god never challenged those with bad politics).
What makes Godard (particularly the immediate post-DVG Godard, the one of Numéro deux and Ici et ailleurs) so interesting to me is that his didacticism is shared with the viewer--as is his ignorance! This is why he stumbled over "filmer's block," why he had to break down his forms in films that most people don't seem to enjoy (and why film culture has relegated them to secondary status at best). He made brilliant films even then: we just haven't taken the jump with him. I suspect that this property of mutual ignorance-learning is true in a submerged sense for even the pre-'74 Marxist tirades in Pravda, Vent d'est, even Tout va bien and Letter to Jane, etc. ... Godard was trying to toe a hard line in good revolutionary faith, but it took him a few years to realize that he had never really "started over" (the opportunity which Numéro deux presumably afforded him). To start from the bottom up, to realize that the direction of real critical thought and real revolutionary behavior. And I don't mean to use words like "critical" and "revolutionary" as quick and lazy Marxist buzzwords, because I think what characterizes the movement of Godard and his art (and that of his collaborators) at this time is a gradually stronger engagement with ethics--the full realization of the challenge he set forth before to make political films politically. Criticism and revolution of the self, of the social whole and its parts: the final concern is with change for the better rather than change for some revolutionary master. Godard has his heroes & his whipping-boys in the late 1960s, but slowly they dissolved as such.
I would venture that his later incendiary comments, such as his unforgiving criticisms of Steven Spielberg, come from a totally different polemical perspective, one that I think was forged in the 'awakening' and 'rebuilding' of Godard in the 1970s. And to touch on this question of Godard, his distaste for Schindler's List (or Full Metal Jacket?), will require more time, and more thought. But I'd like to do it in the future.