"Film is over," claimed Jean-Luc Godard in a recent interview with The Guardian. "It's sad nobody is really exploring it." On its surface, this seems an utterly daft overstatement. If his inscrutable output of the past 30 years is any indication, however, Godard watches Godard films almost exclusively. Given his prolonged exposure to himself, Godard's dire verdict is perfectly reasonable, totally forgivable. His plaint, on the other hand, is wrong no matter which way you slice it, for in light of Film Socialisme, the former New Wave brat's latest slog, the sad thing about cinema is that Godard is still bothering to explore it.
Consisting of three distinct parts that add up to one miserable trip through a sad professor's mental museum of rotted lumber, Film Socialisme briefly stumbles into something verging on aesthetic pleasure during its first hour, which is confined to a cruise ship and devoted to the blathering of its polyglot passengers. Because the English subtitles isolate only select words—fragments like "plane surface" and "anyone maydo nogod" and "kamikaze divine wind" stand in for complete translations—one's attention quickly turns to images alone for solace. Once in a while, as when a camera's flash bursts against the bruised hue of a darkening sky, Godard offers something worth looking at.
But more often than not during that first seasick stretch, and throughout the entirety of the film's final landlocked 40 minutes, which follow a film crew making something obnoxiously Godardian before ramping up to a trite found-footage collage, watching Film Socialisme is like climbing a mountain to meet a sage who rewards your perseverance with a gob of spit and a swift kick. Godard has been a master titty pincher for some time now, but this might be the film with which he finally defeats pleasure and joy once and for all, leaving the viewer finally defeated, maimed, suffocated.
There are those who will accuse me of philistinism or contrarian provocation. Please, by all means, see Film Socialisme. But when Godard is done with you, look me in the eye and tell me, with a straight face undisturbed by stifled laughter, that you didn't just see what I saw: the breathlessly bereft work of a one-man Human Centipede, the futile circuits of an obsolete ouroboros of abstruse bullshit who gets off on tasting his own tail in public.
And I don't know about you, but I'm through humoring the dude.
13 SEE IT: Film Socialisme screens at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium at 9 pm Saturday and 7:15 pm Sunday, Oct. 29-30.