May 14, 2018  (Web Review)

Godard + Gorin: Five Films 1968-1971

Arrow, 6 discs, 414 min., in French & English w/English subtitles, not rated, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $99.99

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Jean-Luc Godard, the most politically engaged of the French Nouvelle Vague filmmakers, had been pushing his work into ever more radical directions when he teamed up with young critic and journalist Jean-Pierre Gorin to create a series of films that deconstructed traditional methods of storytelling and documentary filmmaking while delivering a revolutionary message. The five features they made together between 1968 and 1971 are a mix of documentary, essay, lecture, political theater, and self-aware critique that channel the extreme leftist politics of the time. Un film commes les autres (A Film Like Any Other) is presented as a student debate on global politics, capitalism, power, and protest. British Sounds (aka See You at Mao), shot in English, examines labor issues and worker solidarity. Vent d’est features a group of actors playing out scenes of class struggle and oppression in the wilderness. Lotte in Italia confronts its own theorizing with self-criticism, and Vladimir et Rosa satirizes the justice system with a pointed parody of courtroom dramas. These films push the dialectic experiments of Godard’s previous films to extremes with competing voices on the soundtrack, contradictory pronouncements, counterpoint imagery, and textual puns. There are no credits for the actors or filmmakers—the films are credited to the Dziga Vertov Group (named after the great Soviet filmmaker and theorist)—but you can see actresses Anne Wiazemsky and Juliet Berto and even Godard himself here. While they carry historical significance, these didactic films will appeal more to scholars than movie buffs. Bowing on home video in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo set, extras include interviews with Godard and film scholar Michael Witt, an aftershave commercial directed by Godard, and a 60-page booklet. A strong optional purchase. (S. Axmaker)