Monday, June 28, 2004

Goddard on Moore

There have been many days I never thought I would see, and this is one of them. I never thought I'd see the day when rightists attack an American film-maker by using quotations from the aging French avant-garde film-maker Jean-Luc Goddard.

Goddard saw Fahrenheit 911 at Cannes, and made no secret of his distaste for the film. Michael Moore, he said, is a "halfway intelligent" director who "doesn't distinguish between text and image." Moore, he believes, lacks subtlety. Moreover, "he's not even hurting Bush. He's helping him in an underground way. Bush is either less stupid than he looks or so stupid you can't change him."

What to say in response? The "text and image" remark is precisely the sort of affected gibberish Goddard has spouted for decades; I defy anyone to explain his meaning in clear, jargon-free English or French. The prediction about "hurting Bush" at least has the virtue of being testable; judging from the audience reaction to Moore's work, the test has gone against Goddard. As for Bush's intelligence -- well, many people wonder how much horsepower runs in the engine between his ears. He's probably brighter than most of his opponents believe. So what? Such concerns have nothing to do with disagreements over American foreign policy.

I find Goddard's comments grating because, many years ago, I saw La Chinoise and Weekend, two of the films he made during his wild-eyed Maoist phase of the late 1960s. These ghastly exercises forever soured me on the director's work. God knows what gives him the right to criticize any other film-maker on grounds of non-subtlety: Despite his pretentious mannerisms, Goddard delivers his political points with all the delicacy of Godzilla.

La Chinoise is a filmic editorial cartoon, drawn by a man holding a crayon in his fist. It's an advertisement for Mao that would have made the Chairman cringe. Goddard's notion of moral complexity is exemplified by the scene in which his main character wonders if it is permissible to love the film Johnny Guitar, even though it was made by filthy American capitalists.

In Weekend, Goddard follows the antics of a group of cannibalistic terrorists, who, we are to believe, offer a viable alternative to mindless consumerism. I will admit that the sympathetic interview with an Arab terrorist may be of greater interest today than it was in 1967.

Between these two epics, Goddard contributed a segment to the compilation film Far From Vietnam. I have not seen this work, but I am told that it is very talky. (Hmmm...didn't Goddard once say something about the importance of knowing the difference between text and image?) The film fervently supports North Vietnam.

And this is the film-maker Republicans now choose to cite. Astonishing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's Godard dickhead. It's too bad Moore's head is as thick as his mid-drift or he might be dangerous to the establishment he so whole-heartedly supports. Godard is harmless and effective to those who watch his films- they are thought pieces designed to make you think-actively! Moore's films are excercises in mass hysteria that trivialise important issues for the sake of the Hollywood style he endorses and that ultimately makes his bite-size films palatable to people (like him) with simple views and solutions to complex problems. Yes, Godards outright political films can be insufferable but how this dross from Moore is going to look in a few years' time I think will be a lot more embarrassing