Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Godard/Marker, Erasing the Distance

For the final paper for this class I chose to compare Godard’s work to that of Chris Marker’s. I focused on three films, Here and Elsewhere (1974) Sans Soleil (1983) and Far From Vietnam (1967) - an anthology film orchestrated by Marker featuring Godard, Ivens, Varda and other filmmakers from the Left Bank + New Wave. I was drawn to this topic because I am especially interested in how the documentary form intersects with fiction and vice versa. While, H & E and FFV were both dealing with an overtly political subject in a new way i.e. neither film follows the traditional documentary rules. I turned to Sans Soleil because it is the only film that offered me any deeper insights into Marker’s specific style- in the spirit of the collective- Marker was not forthcoming on his exact contribution to FFV.

In my paper, I began by tracing Marker and Godard’s initial fascination for cinema verite. While Marker caused controversy by offering a very partisan look at the lives of Parisians in Le Jolie Mai – clearly a verite film, Godard used verite techniques to lend a documentary feel to his fiction work. Both filmmakers however looked to create new forms of expression that better suited their interest in a more political cinema. I then discuss how both filmmakers create these new forms of cinema, as Astruc predicted; through the camera stylo approach- their content/ideas are embodied in the form itself- they are writing their thoughts onto film.

The paper then cross references all three films; FFV and H & E both are dealing with similar problems- how can one represent a reality that is so far away? FFV mixes performance and fictional accounts with actuality footage from Vietnam, it contains a long piece by Godard who thinks out loud- and discusses the problem of creating an ethical cinema, I see that, many years later, he solves some of these problems in H & E. H & E also attests to the failure of documentary to be a witness. It is indicative of a crisis of representation in cinema.

One of the key conceptual breakthrough’s Godard has in H & E relate to his concept of replacing the ‘or’ with an ‘and’ i.e. by breaking down a binary way of looking at the world, one can close the distance between here and elsewhere, us and them, France and Palestine (Deleuze) I propose that Marker is also doing something similar with his concept of the horizontal montage in Sans Soleil. He is “adding” words to images, and breaking down oppositions, forcing us to consider visuals and text simultaneously. He too is therefore closing the distance. I quote authors who discuss how Marker’s approach to editing is by turns inspired by Eisenstein, Kuleshov and Vertov. (Michael Walsh) Lastly, I discuss how Godard and Marker see images as tools of capitalism, and specific relationships they draw between history, memory, cinema and uniformity of thought. - Preeti

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