The hypnotizing and disjointed 2 ou 3 choses qu je sais d’elle (2 or 3 Things I Know About Her) is Jean-Luc Godard’s brilliantly poignant remark on the influx of capitalism in modern Paris. A duel criticism of both the loss of culture and dignity to “progress” and the indifference to the war in Vietnam, Godard’s film plays more like a series of documentaries than anything resembling a classical narrative.
In a manner that his audience has come to expect, Godard opens his film with a series of flashing title cards announcing the title and actors. He then moves into a whispered dialogue describing the encroaching commercialization of Paris, and the multitude of new construction projects that are taking place. He introduces the main focus of his piece, Juliette Jeanson (Marina Vlady) as both the actress and the character that she is portraying. Godard is a master of never letting his audience forget that they are watching a film, and is constantly derailing his own efforts as a filmmaker. With every scene, Godard is able to build up audience interest using his own unique cinematic language, and instantly cuts off the interactions to transition into other arenas of discussion. While there is no actual plot, Juliette is shown to have taken up prostitution as a means of earning more money to support her expensive lifestyle. As the film circles around her day, we see her shopping for new clothes, getting her hair done and meeting up with various clients. Interwoven in Juliette’s life (much like the overt references to capitalism and marketing) are shots of the ever-expanding Paris, undergoing various stages of transformative construction. Depicted in either complete silence or with Godard’s own whispered narration, these scenes break up the film (much like commercials) to introduce subversive anti-consumerism and anti-war messages.
Robert Bresson’s revolutionary character study, Pickpocket, is one of the prolific director’s best films, and in turn, one of the greatest films in history. This dark and visceral drama is a study of humanity and self-expression.
Pickpocket begins with one of many narrative scenes that include an emphasized “triple” narrative structure. Michel (Martin LaSalle) details an event in his journal that the audience reads, while he vocally narrates the writing; Bresson then cuts to the scene that Michel described, and the audience watches the action take place. In utilizing this complex structure, Bresson is able to accentuate these pivotal moments in a natural way, and allow the story to retain its fluidity. The story of Pickpocket follows Michel on his quest for self discovery on the fringes of mid-twentieth-century France. Michel is a competent and talented young man, yet his ego does not allow him to participate in the various mundane employment opportunities that surround him. In his first journal entry, we see Michel getting arrested for stealing money at a horse race. This begins his descent into the world of pickpocketing, and his eventual partnership with a fellow “craftsman”. Although Michel has the support of friends, he refuses their advice, and continues on his quest for meaning. He constantly trains to become a more capable thief; testing methods of pulling wallets out of his hung-up jacket, or taking a wristwatch off the leg of a table. Michel shows that when he is able to concentrate on something, perhaps for the first time in his life, that he can actually succeed and excel in it.
François Truffaut’s fabulously delightful Jules and Jim (Jules et Jim) is shining example of French New Wave Cinema. This intuitively directed “romantic comedy” features one of the greatest love stories/triangles of all time.
Set in Paris before the outbreak of WWI, Jules and Jim is the tale of two artistically-minded best friends, inhabiting the upper echelon of society. The introduction is extremely fast-paced, and as someone who does not speak French, the subtitles seem to race by. The opening credits are set against a upbeat backdrop, shot in high, natural-seeming light. A narrator (Michel Subor) explains that Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) met when Jules was unable to get tickets for a ballet, which Jim was able to provide. The credits continue at their unrelenting pace, showing the development of the men’s relationship; based on women, the arts and the bohemian lifestyle. The narrator explains that each man is the best listener the other has ever met, and each are constantly bouncing ideas off of one another. Jim, a local Parisian, helps Jules, an Austrian, become more accustomed to France’s bohemian scene, and both teach the other their native tongue. Through a multitude of scenes full of laughing, joking and boxing matches at the local gym, Truffaut makes it seem like the two might be lovers. Although there is a definite air of homosexuality, the two make their heterosexuality (and slightly misogynistic tendencies) clear through the sheer amount of concentration they each put into women.