JLG by JLG
1995, NR, 62 min. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 16, 1995
The JLG of the title is film great Jean-Luc Godard (and if you have no idea who Jean-Luc Godard is or what makes him one of the greats, that's probably a good sign that this movie is not for you). As implied by the title, JLG by JLG is an autobiographical study. It shows the director and film thinker at the age of 65 at his home by a lake in Switzerland. The movie is self-reflexive to the utmost. (Even the title is self-reflexive: Godard's first compilation of critical writings bore the English title Godard on Godard, although in French it was originally called Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard -- a precursor of this movie's French title, JLG par JLG.) In JLG by JLG, we see Godard (or his shadow) as he goes about his day: jotting note fragments to himself, taking walks, reciting aloud passages from Wittgenstein and Johnny Guitar, looking at a childhood picture of himself, and so on. The mood is a kind of agitated melancholy which, halfway through its hour-long running time, is jostled by more restless camera movements and some jocular episodes that, seemingly, try to wrest the director from his insular self-absorption. There's some truly funny stuff in this section, although by the time you reach it, you'll be ready to seize on just about anything for a laugh. And so is Godard; he seems to welcome this humorous self-deprecation as his salvation. My personal reaction to JLG by JLG is almost as intriguing to me as the movie itself because it seems to be telling me as much about my own autobiography as the director's. Though appreciative, I find myself more distracted by his current film exercise than I suspect I might have been, say, 20 years ago, when Godard was revered as the hero of radical filmmakers worldwide. It's a position that Godard, himself, may never have wanted and one from which he is, obviously, still trying to extricate himself. Yet, apparently, I am still wed to a desire for heroics and passive stimulation, a need that overshadows this calculated exercise in anti-autobiography. Despite these personal reflections and the movie's cunning solipsism, JLG by JLG shows Godard pumping at full throttle to create the most meaningful work he's produced in quite some time./////La Vis (The Screw) is a 20-minute short film that also shares the bill with JLG by JLG. This French film which stars Jean Reno (The Professional) recently won the César (French equivalent of the Oscar) award as the best short of last year. It is the first film by well-known theatre director Didier Flamand and the look of the film and the set design hints of its theatrical grounding. On a set that looks something like a bizarre merger of socialist realism and German Expressionism, this odd little comedy is related as unnaturally as possible. Essentially, La Vis tells the story of a man's search for the proper screw to fit some strange apparatus he is building, and through this rudimentary story line offers a commentary on consumer society and our tendency to make square pegs fit round holes. At times, the souped-up comic delivery resembles Chaplin's send-up of mechanization in Modern Times. La Vis, adds to its artificiality with techniques like its iris-frame edits and the frenzied sound of the indecipherable polyglot/make-believe language spoken throughout. The amusing La Vis is a well-conceived and -executed little movie, an example of short filmmaking at its finest.