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The Conceptual Art of Jean-Luc Godard's Filmmaking:A Freedom and a Guide (part II)


Questioning art through artistic expression

Perhaps the most essential element of Godard's art, unequivocally embraced by all the French New Wave filmmakers, was the dual path of cinematic creation that the artist is supposed to follow. One of these paths leads to the constructive critique of the art of cinema, a precept that goes back to Sartre'sobservationthat the artist is, more than anything,expected to call into question the art itself . The other one, however, leads to the provision of an absolute cinematic experience. Accordingly, one ought to strive to be a storyteller and inspire the audiences with the aesthetics of a plethora of elements of cinematic expression, from choreography to cinematography to character development and beyond, but at the same time one ought to pose implicit questions through one's art, questions that shake the reigning paradigms in the realm of cinema at their foundations. For some members of the French New Wave, such as Truffaut or Rohmer, this balance appeared to have been effortlessly maintainable. In the case of Godard, however, there was a pervasive inclination to the side of film critique at the cost of deliberately deconstructed and thoroughly ad hoc improvised storylines. Hence his famous remark, "I don't make movies; I make cinema" . It is for this reason that I revert to the point made earlier: is all that Godard has ever been just another film critic? Has his reason d'êtreever changed after he left the position of a journalist at Cahiers du Cinéma and began to make auteurs' movies? Or could it be that he was still paying as much attention to his storytelling as he was devoted to questioning the stale standards of commercial cinema, even when this attention was oriented toward destroying the dramaturgical shackles which confined cinema withintheirnarrow limits and freeing itfrom the rusty clutches of theater for the first time since the dreams of DzigaVertov and his man with a movie camera?If that is true, then Godard might not have only wanted to challenge the conventions, but he might have also strived to be an inspirational storyteller, even when this storytelling involved a thorough deconstruction of the story or at times its almost complete abandonment, all until a hardly recognizable, semi-ruinous structure would be left in place of what could have been a lavish edifice, complying all the while to his own guideline: "To make an image, you have to unmake it" . Thus, one could say that, a cinematic anarchist as he is, his style of creative construction has been tied to dismantling and deconstructing the reigning standards of cinematic expression, while simultaneously living up to the principle his hero, Pierrot le fou, read to himself: "Language of poetry rises from the ruins".

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Histoire(s) du cinema: The Coin of the Absolute (1998). The Old Bridge in the city ofMostar, destroyed during the Yugoslav civil war of the 1990s. If Godard was correct when he noticed that "language of poetry rises from the ruins", could this explain why the western Balkans, repeatedly risen from the ashes throughout their history, have been particularly conducive to the birth of scientists-poets?

So we see that Godard could not rest peacefully on that fork in the road between film criticism and film creation, which turned out to be so natural to Francois Truffaut. Rather, he incessantly shifted from one extreme to the other, albeit swaying toward the side of criticism far more often. Yet, what makes intellectual stances sublime is theirinabilityto rest stably neither on grounds occupied by specific philosophies or on any of the middle grounds between them, be they political, scientific, socioeconomic, artistic or other. Rather, by belonging nowhere andat the same time being forced to stand somewhere, all they do is incessantly fall.And this falling is the sign of their greatness. "For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief" (Proverbs 24:16), as the ancient words of wisdom instruct us. Therefore, a question craving elaboration is if this sense of belonging nowhere and constantly falling from any premises maintained for longer than the blink of an eye is what made Godard's art so much more timeless and sublime than that of his down-to-earth La Nouvelle Vague contemporaries.

 

slika 9Histoire(s) du cinema: A New Wave (1998). Godard is intercepted in his reading by two displeased young spectators and asks them, "Did you like it?" "We keep seeing images of the art pieces, but never people", they say, hinting at Godard's lack of interest in his characters on the account of the interest in criticizing the art of cinema through his cinematic works, epitomized in his saying, "I don't make movies, I make cinema", to which end he could be justifiably considered as a film critic, not necessarily a filmmaker in the classical sense of the word. "You are right – art first, and then, the men", responds Godard. "Don't you have a heart", asks back the annoyed young lady, to which Godard says, "We can film the work, not the hearts", before lighting up a cigarette and continuing his musings in now empty room, with his confronters long gone: "Some times have too many hands and not even hearts; yes, times without hearts but not without work. When an era is sick and lacks work for all hands, it sends us a new exhortation. The exhortation to work with our hearts instead of using our hands. And I haven't known a time, not yet, that lacked work for all hearts".

Instructiveness of Godard's conceptual approach for natural sciences and beyond

The scope of instructiveness of this guideline of questioning the form of art through one's art, alongside inspiring the world with it, is best demonstrated by my telling you that I have put it into my daily scientific practice more than any other principledefining Godard's approach to filmmaking that will be mentioned here. Scientist as I am, dividing my efforts between doing research and teaching, I unreservedly live up to this dual role that artistic creation envisioned by Godard and his New Wave comrades ought to embody. Correspondingly, my scientific presentations at conferences or in journals always implicitly question the dominant presentation styles in parallel with providing meaningful basic and/or practical findings. To that end, my vision of a prolific scientist coincides with Godard's vision of a complete artist as the one who uses his art to cleverly question the norms that dominate the field, while simultaneously telling an inspirational story and enriching the collective knowledge or ethos of humanity. However, as both Godard and I know now, following such an approach is bound to cause many doors to be shut loudly in front of our face, the reason being the sheepish, gate-guarding, paradigmatic, change-fearing inclinations of the typical recognized member of academia and of reigning artistic circles. In my case, the interdisciplinary promiscuity of my creative efforts, resulting directly from these attempts to restore romanticism and renaissance in the heart of the scientific enterprise and spanning from hard sciences to the farthest, poetic and theological ends of arts and humanities, has been at times equally playful and seditious as that of Nana fromVivre sa vie, indubitably punishable by the same professional extermination by the regular strait-laced members of the academic universe as that which awaited Nana, herself, or Joan of Arc, whom Nana sobbingly watched from the dark of the Panthéon theater at 13 rue Victor Cousin. "Follow that man; persecute Godard" , the Spanish film critic, ManoloMarinero wrote at the peak of Godard's attempt on the art of cinema, and quite the same whisperings ring behind my back as I walk through the fields of science in a style straightforwardly assaultive to anything phony, insipid and unpoetic in it. Regardless of these pervasive persecutions, I have not ceased to live up to the ideal ofbeing a Lemmy Caution in the world of science, a soul on a mission to crash the cold, deterministic brain behind the wheels of modern science and use poetry to conquer the sterilely rigid mechanism governing its workings, the mechanism run by a computer program, not the infinitely lively, unpredictable and imaginative human intelligence. In addition, I have strived to revolutionize the scientific writings in the same way Godard revolutionized the art of cinema, that is, by creating works that implicitly question and criticize its trends and clichés, while feeding on improvisatory imaginativeness and anarchically disobeying any established principles and precepts, having no beginning or end in the classical sense of the word, like Histoire(s) du Cinema, but rather being mishmashes of impressions and ideas that magically trigger the pathways to enlightenment in the viewer.

 

 


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