THE FILMMAKER-ACTIVIST AND THE COLLECTIVE:
Robert Kramer and Jean-Luc Godard
JEAN-LUC GODARD AND THE DZIGA VERTOV GROUP
In 1970, the American publishing house Grove Press released a press release announcing an American screening tour of films by the French Marxist film collective, the Dziga Vertov Group. The two most prominent members of the group, Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, would accompany the films.
….This cinema group formed in May 1968, and consists of the director [Godard] and several young filmmakers. … [The] films will be exhibited primarily in non-theatrical (university; film society) situations. … According to Godard, the Dziga-Vertov Group is committed to producing more films and exhibiting more films differently (economically and aesthetically). (1)
The tour, covering six states, was undertaken primarily to fund the Group’s latest project, ‘Till Victory, a depiction of the Palestinian revolutionary movement, which had been shot but not edited. It wasn’t the first time Godard had undertaken such tours to promote his films, but it was the first time the Dziga Vertov Group had.
The distinction was perhaps greater for him than it was for his American audiences. The DVG signaled a definitive renunciation of his career so far—which he rejected, according to Amos Vogel, “as hopelessly bourgeois”(2)—not excluding the cult of auteurism which had made him one of the most famous names in European cinema. The Group’s films contained no individual credits and were always espoused as collective endeavours. According to James Roy McBean
By working collectively and withholding his personal “signature” (the art consumer’s guarantee of “originality”) Godard challenges [the] glorification of the individual, and by de-emphasising the exchange value of his reputation, Godard attempts to shift the film-goer’s attention to the use value of a film. (3)
Also, as Erik Ulman has pointed out, “Parceling out authorial responsibilities in these films is difficult, and, indeed, contrary to their intentions.” Their aim was, in Gorin’s words, a “transformation of practice” and, Ulman expands, “a repudiation of the auteurism which Godard had helped formulate.” (4)
Nevertheless, on the 1970 American tour, Godard was inevitably the name that made the headlines. Many articles mentioned the DVG and his collaborators only in passing. In one article-interview by Andrew Sarris, Jean-Pierre Gorin—by most accounts an equal, if not occasionally greater, participant in the group—is referred to only once, and only as Godard’s “assistant Jean-Pierre something or other”. For most commentators, Godard’s renunciation was just another phase in a prolific, difficult and ever-changing career. Those unimpressed with Godard’s latest digression, such as Sarris, were still hopeful about where he may end up next: “It is a mistake to ever write off Godard completely, no matter how chaotic or confused his career may seem at any moment” (5).
One gets the impression he may have preferred to be written off. According to Julia Lesage, he had escaped
from a stultifying bourgeois family into the world of pure cinema. But he found after a few years as director that the commercial production-distribution process had trapped him within an equally stultifying but larger bourgeois family. (6)
In 1967 he explained:
I used to think of the thing we used to call “traditional French film” as a fortress, which had to be taken by storm. I see now that I did in fact succeed in taking it by storm. I occupy it now: I’m its prisoner. … I’m the prisoner, if you like, banging on his dish on the bars of his cell. They let him make all the racket he wants. …. Inside the prison I’m free to do as I please, but still I want to get out… (7)
The Dziga Vertov Group would constitute his most extreme escape attempt.
GETTING AWAY FROM THE CINEMA
Godard’s first fifteen feature films, beginning with Breathless in 1960 and ending with Weekend in 1967, tracked, as David Sterritt put it, “a steady trajectory away from conventionally seamless cinema (resisted since the early shorts) and toward an energetic fracturing of the film-watching experience.”(8)
From the beginning, Godard’s style had violated conventions and disrupted a smooth and uncritical absorption of the film’s narrative—but for the first half of the ‘60s these innovations were contained within genres, and more essentially, were still contained within narratives. While he often brilliantly subverted these elements, he did so affectionately, and his employment and occasional creation of stars such as Anna Karina and Jean-Pierre Leaud (not to mention his own celebrity), firmly placed him within the cinema establishment, albeit on its margins. Although Godard’s interest in politics featured as early as Le Petit Soldat (1960), dealing with the Algerian war, such films, as Darragh O’Donoghue writes, “used a fictional framework derived from Hollywood models, no matter how loosely or satirically applied” and “the askew ‘genre’ pleasures they offered could make critics and admirers easily overlook their politics (and this continues until today)”.(9)
By the second half of the ‘60s, however, his developing formal innovation became increasingly tied to a developing political consciousness. Genre, narrative and even characters retreated into the margins, if they were featured at all. This shift could be said to have begun in earnest with the essayistic trilogy of Masculin Féminin (1966), Made in USA (1966) and 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967), which dealt in a critical and explicitly political way with consumer society, urbanism, Vietnam and Marxist politics.
Godard’s politicisation as a filmmaker was perhaps the most famous in France of that period, but he was far from being the only one. In line with the accelerating political unrest of the time, and influenced by similar developments in America, many French filmmakers were becoming engaged in politics. One of the major and widespread results of this politicisation was the emergence of political film collectives. According to Nicole Brenez, it was “prefigured by the experience of the Newsreels collective in the USA … as well as by the example of Loin du Vietnam (1967)in France.”(10) Initiated by Chris Marker, Loin du Vietnam was an anthology of short films expressing solidarity with the people of Vietnam by French filmmakers, including Godard. It was a significant landmark, according to Julia Lesage, for bringing “together French directors to work collectively to create a political film” (11) and these same directors, along with many others, would join forces again the following year to protest against the firing of Cinémathèque director Henri Langlois.
Langlois, a popular figure among French filmmakers, had been fired as the head of France’s most important arthouse cinema and film institution in February 1968, under pressure from the Centre Nationale du Cinéma and with the agreement of Minister of Culture André Malraux. The controversy provided a rallying point for artists and intellectuals, crystallising their resentment of the government’s control over the arts. Godard was heavily engaged in the protests: leading 3,000 demonstrators against police guarding the cinema’s building, organising press conferences condemning the government, and, along with forty others directors, forbidding the screening of his films in the Cinémathèque.
These protests set a precedent of a combined cultural and political activism that would emerge on a grander scale in May of the same year. Several factors that became clear in February—as Lesage writes, “the rapidity with which the street protests took place,” “the government's total misunderstanding of the French intellectual climate” and “the breaking down of factions among intellectuals to arrive at a consensus about the need for united action”(12)—would make the events of May ’68 possible.
May ’68 is generally remembered for its widespread strikes by both students and workers, but it’s also the month that saw the establishment of the États Généraux du Cinéma. A “communication workers’ organisation” which brought together some 1500 people, including filmmakers and radio/TV workers, the États Généraux consisted of people who, according to Brenez, “wanted to ‘make political films politically’ and who were ready to consider all aspects of film practice, whether it be production, direction or distribution.” (13) occupying the festival’s largest screening room, effectively shutting the festival down.
According to Brenez, “the era of the film collectives (in France) began in the wake of” the États Généraux. These groups included: the Medvedkin Group, the Peasant Front, Cinéthique, the Brittany Cinema Production Unit, Slon/Iskra, Cinema Libra, Cinélutte, les Cahiers de Mai, le Grain de Sable, and Cinéma Politique. Most of these films were similar to early Newsreel in style: “foregrounding the lived experience of protagonists rather than elaborate argumentation, and featuring … the iconography of the struggle and the irrepressible urgency of the here and now.”(14) Brenez quotes the anonymous manifesto of the Cinétracts (1968) project, another anthology film organised by Chris Marker, this time featuring a series of 3-minute shorts made using only photos of May ’68, to give an idea of the passionate if not exactly rigorous philosophy common among these groups: “the cine-tracts must ‘contest-propose-shock-inform-question-assert-convince-think-shout-laugh-denounce-cultivate’ in order to ‘inspire discussion and action’.”(15)
Brenez distinguishes three kinds of aims amongst these groups: the first and second apply to groups such as Marker’s Medvedkin Group, as well as the early and late phases of US Newsreel respectively: “to work on the description of conflicts” and “to encourage the autonomy of the protagonists in the struggle by training them in the use of film equipment”. The third was less widespread but became the DVG’s raison d’etre: “to invent and enrich the cinematic forms of questioning and argumentation.”(16) This aim was influenced by a resurgence in French political theory in the wake of May, which, according to Lesage, “demonstrated the students' potentially key role as a dynamic radical force.”(17)
Marxist authors such as Henri Lefèbvre, André Gorz and Louis Althusser were writing in France at the time and Godard, a fervent intellectual, was reading them all. Their thinking, and wider current trends of Marxist-Leninist and Maoist thought were one of the defining influences on his filmmaking during this period. The reasons Marxist theory had such an influence on filmmakers at the time was, according to Alison Smith, the same reason it had such an impact on students: “They attributed to the cultural apparatus… an active role in preserving the economic status quo through the inculcation of accepted socio-economic roles.” For artists, “such ideas implied rethinking their own production, questioning whether it did not implicitly assume a social structure which the author might in fact wish to disavow.” Such implicit assumptions were, according to Althusser, “an active agent in the perpetuation of the capitalist system” and therefore those involved in cultural production had a tremendous responsibility in political terms.
Writers, artists, students—and above all those concerned with cinema, with its traditionally enormous popular audience—were attributed importance and influence by a rigorous theoretical structure, which placed them at the centre, and not simply the tolerated margins, of Marxist cultural change. The attraction …. of a ‘cultural revolution’ was that it could apparently be made by students, teachers, writers, filmmakers, who in creating a culture built on new and revolutionary assumptions, could destroy the consensus which supported the hegemony of the old one and transmit new perceptions to the population at large. (18)
The urgency of this attraction was that this argument made any non-politicised form of filmmaking untenable, a form of complicity. “These doubts cast by May ’68,” wrote Serge Daney,
reached the generation that had invested most in [film], that of the self-taught cinephiles for whom the cinema had taken the place of school and family, the generation of the New Wave, brought up in the cinémathéques. … In 1968, for the most radical … element among filmmakers, one thing is certain: you have to learn to get away from the cinema (from cinephilia and obscurantism) or at least forge a link between the cinema and something else. And to learn you have to go to school. (19)
In his adoption of a Marxist viewpoint, Godard positioned himself alongside a growing
tendency that rejected the mainstream Communist Party (the PCF). Seen as too conservative in its aspirations (mainly focused on improving material conditions) and tactics (“its parliamentary role has never been revolutionary,” says Lesage), the PCF was also resented for turning against the demonstrators of ’68 in many eyes by choosing to co-operate with the government. Maoist groups in particular formed a large part of the anti-PCF communist contingent.
Radical, and typically Marxist characters, became foregrounded in Godard’s films from ’66 onwards. La Chinoise (1967), depicting a small collective of radical Maoist students debating with and educating each other in an apartment, was his first concentrated exploration of revolutionary characters. While Godard described himself at the time as a Maoist, and the film features many political slogans and didactic techniques, the film is nevertheless coolly critical of (but not unsympathetic towards) the young revolutionaries.
Godard’s next two films would signal, respectively, the decisive death of the “old Godard” and the birth of the “new”. As David Sterritt writes, while Godard “had been travelling these directions from the beginning, picking up speed,” Weekend was their anarchic culmination: the first time Godard fully broke down narrative “in full view of the audience”. It would be a farewell to storytelling: “Pulverised beyond repair, narrative remains mostly absent from Godard’s work for a dozen years after Weekend.”(21) The film’s famous final title—“END OF CINEMA/END OF WORLD”—can be seen as dramatically marking the end of an era for Godard. Le Gai Savoir (1968, made just before the May events) was a conscious attempt to start from scratch, or, as the film itself explains, return to zero. “It is at Zero,” Ruth Perlmutter writes about the film, “at first principles, at the spatial location where sounds and images can be isolated and freed of each other, that we can change what goes on in the head.”(22) Harun Farocki characterised the film as
his attempt to make a film which would break so dramatically with the existing system of production and distribution that he would never be able to use it again. Like the many people in those days who tried hard to lose their jobs or be thrown out of school, Godard hoped that this break would lead to something new. (23)
This “return to zero” marked, more or less, the beginning of the DVG years. The groups’ formation, however, is far from clear-cut. Although all of the next seven films Godard would be involved in following Le Gai Savoir have been attributed to the DVG by at least some sources, it was apparently 1970 before the name was decided on. Godard’s next two films, Un film comme les autres (1969) and British Sounds (aka See You at Mao, 1970), were by most accounts actually directed by him alone, but marked by characteristics that would end up defining the DVG.
From 1969 onwards, according to Lesage, “he worked loosely with other people, especially in the formative stages of planning and even shooting a film” but “usually edited these ‘collective’ projects himself.”(24) Pravda (1970), dealing with the Czechoslovakian revolution, was the first major collaborative project, shot in March of ’69 with fellow radical filmmakers Jean-Henri Roger and Paul Burron. In June of the same year, Godard went to Italy with Roger as well as most of the major leaders of the ’68 protests such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit, during which time Wind from the East (1970) was shot(25). The group’s collaboration proved contentious and at this point Godard invited Jean-Pierre Gorin to come to Italy and participate in the film. A journalist and Marxist activist that Godard had known for several years and who had been an adviser on La Chinoise because of his “first-hand practical and theoretical experience of emergent leftist militancy,” he was, according to Erik Ulman, “one of the most articulate and engaged of France's young New Left” (26). According to Gorin, "The two Marxists really willing to do the film [he and Godard] took power,"(27) and they would finish the film themselves.
At this point almost half of the Group’s output had been shot, without any apparent mention of any group officially existing. With the arrival of Gorin, things appeared to come into focus, and the DVG would, from now on, be effectively a collaboration between Godard and Gorin (although, according to McBean, the initial stages of each film still “involved lengthy discussions with various militant groups”(28). Gorin edited Wind from the East and Godard edited Pravda. The individual results of these films convinced both of their synchronicity as collaborators, according to Lesage. They realised “that Godard's role as the single creative ‘genius’ (genius being a commodity that sells directors) had, as they wished, really been broken down.”(29)
It was this diffusion of individual authorship that convinced them to finally brand themselves as a collective and credit the films to the group alone—notwithstanding that there were now only two of them working collectively.
We realized that even if people were looking at them as Jean-Luc's films, they were not Jean-Luc's films. So we decided to raise the Dziga-Vertov flag at that time, and even to recuperate some of the things Jean-Luc had made alone during the discussions we had [eg, British Sounds]. (30)
The films began to be screened in universities and by political groups in France, and together Godard and Gorin made two more long films under the DVG name, Struggle in Italy (1971) and Vladimir et Rosa (1971). During this time, according to Ulman, they were collaborating on a daily basis and producing several smaller projects, including short news reports featuring interviews and skits (including “Juliet Berto in a bathtub explaining the Vietnam War”) and even proposals for advertisements, at least one of which was filmed.(31)
The choice of presenting themselves as a collective at a time when that label was in fact rather debatable (“pair” or “team” were perhaps more obviously accurate) seemed a way of gesturing towards the idea of a collective and anonymously realised cinema, but without all of the actual conflict and mess involved.
… Working as a group for us had always been the two of us working together … [It is] a good means to cope with the traditional ideology of group filmmaking, collective filmmaking—which was a real crap hanging around after May 68 among the moviemakers. Everybody was going to get collective … and nothing came out of it. And this was a good way to cope with it … Even two people working together dialectically is a step forward … The bad thing is that we've never been able to extend ourselves. (32)
A DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM OF FILM
The first, and simplest, premise of the DVG’s highly politicised and theoretically informed film style is their repudiation of cinéma verité, or any other film theory espousing cinema’s ability to capture, or reflect, reality. For Godard and Gorin, this notion was fundamentally false. A slogan narrated in British Sounds sums up the DVG view quite succinctly: “Photography is not the reflection of reality. It is the reality of that reflection.” They believed cinema was always presentation rather than representation, and to attempt to merely represent or reflect reality was actually to transmit the ideology and values of the status quo. Godard believed “the bourgeoisie creates a world in its image, but it also creates an image of its world that it calls a ‘reflection of reality’.”(33) In agreement, James Monaco argues that no film can “reproduce reality honestly” but “can only produce itself”. To do so honestly requires reflecting on “what it is exactly about the way film is used today that makes it false” and reinventing it.
Godard’s aim, as always (but here more explicit), is not to divorce film from life, but by distanciating his art to make it possible for us to integrate it into our lives. When we see no qualitative difference between film and life, we then have no sense of film, as itself, and it is therefore useless—insidious. (34)
It was natural, then, that Godard had rejected the works of Newsreel or the Medvedkin Group, where, as Lesage writes, “politics seemingly resided on the surface of events.” Opposed to this, Godard wanted to construct a revolutionary form “just as one had to build a revolutionary theory.”(35) Gorin elaborated:
Film is a way to disconnect the normal links of the reality we’re subjected to … and to reconnect them in another way… If you don't break completely with the notion that in films you have to produce realistic effects, then you get nowhere. (36)
Given their Marxist analysis of Western society, to reflect such a “reality” uncritically was a high form of complicity—and one that was all too common. According to Gorin, cinematic language “which will really explain and intervene in the reality we are facing, which is the reality of imperialism.” To avoid this is to close in on oneself and “attempt to negate the fact that we are living in the state of imperialism.”(37)
For the DVG, then, there is no need to deal directly with tangible or everyday reality directly, especially in ways that would lessen their ability to radically intervene in what was being filmed. The key political issue was the film’s form rather than its content. As Lesage writes, since ’68 Godard had “defined his political tasks almost exclusively as aesthetic ones.” For Godard and Gorin, “making films politically meant … finding the best combination of sounds and images for ‘revolutionary’ films.”(38)
But what sort of radical intervention was called for? Godard had been intervening in the smooth cinematic transmission of reality since the beginning of his career. But as he had gradually realised, those interventions had not challenged mainstream cinematic forms but in fact had been incorporated by them. The disruptive montage and self-reflexivity of Godard’s early films had rather rapidly become tricks for the mainstream to spice up lacklustre products with (they have become even more standard and commonplace today). As Ruth Perlmutter writes, “It is inevitable in the development of a genre that radical departures from tradition enter popular culture and are incorporated into a voguish convention.”(39) This had been the fate for works as recent and advanced as Weekend, As James Monaco argued, “The shock effects of Weekend have become the commonplaces of bourgeois cinema in the seventies,” a process he attributes to the “the extraordinary capacity of bourgeois liberalism for co-opting and subsuming opposing ideas.”(40)
This had been the impetus for Le Gai Savoir and everything that followed: as well as breaking “so dramatically with the existing system of production and distribution that he would never be able to use it again”, as Farocki said, it was also in the effort that it wouldn’t be able to use him again. This became the major question for the DVG: how to intervene politically in reality in a way that the mainstream will not be able to co-opt and use for their own purposes?
The main answer suggested by the form of the films is 1) by using Marxist analysis and, consequently, 2) by emphasising the word over the image. The specific forms that such analyses and word-image dynamics take varies with each film. Pravda and Struggle in Italy are structured around Maoist and Althusserian methodology in particular; British Sounds employs a more general Marxist-Leninist analysis. The surprisingly playful and funny Vladimir and Rosa, which addresses the trial of the Chicago Seven in 1968, is informed mainly by Brecht’s theories of theatre. In each film, the sound and vision tracks are distinctly separate, containing very little synch sound and a large amount of voiceover. The soundtrack usually features several different narrators, usually including Godard and Gorin themselves, who frequently analyse the images presented in explicitly intellectual and Marxist terms. As McBean writes, in the DVG films, “the spoken word has clearly asserted its pre-eminence in his films as the conceptualising element in attaining knowledge.”(41) This new style treated cinema less as a canvas to create images on than a microscope to inspect them under, using montage and narration to analyse and reconstruct them. According to Lesage, the idea was to
use film as a blackboard on which to write analyses of socio-economic situations. Godard rejected films, especially political ones, based on feeling. People, he said, had to be led to analyze their place in history. (42)
For the viewer, this reconfiguration was inevitably difficult. But its difficulty was in its insisting on a different relationship between the viewer and the film. “The two directors,” says Lesage, “wanted to change the relations between the subjective and the objective world, especially in terms of the way we received film and the media.”(43) Monaco’s appraisal of Le Gai Savoir can stand for most of the DVG films:
If the film is both materialist and distanciated, then maybe it will be possible for viewers … to use it rather than consume it. (Certainly, it is a nearly impossible film to consume: it sticks in the craw, refuses to be digested.) … Difficult? Yes. But not so intractable if we actively work it through. (44)
This process of working through, of learning and understanding, had been central to Godard’s cinema at least since Le Gai Savoir (“The Joy of Learning”). But the essential project of these films is to develop a clear understanding in order to act upon it. McBean paraphrases Marx’s saying—“man experiences the world not in order to understand it but to transform it”—and asserts that Godard is “aimed not at helping us to understand the world as a given but to understand and affirm our inescapable role of constantly transforming it.”(45) They believed, according to Lesage, this—“a complete cinematic/visual ideological re-education”—was an appropriate contribution to revolutionary struggle and one
particularly necessary at this point in history. Bourgeois hegemony (or as Godard and Gorin pointed out, in socialist countries, revisionist hegemony) is even further entrenched in a technological society because media images dominate and inform our own. It is not from the working class that we should expect the necessary ideological re-evaluation of media images, since the working class has more urgent material battles to fight. Yet the images must be challenged. This may be the specific task of intellectuals like Godard and Gorin and [their] sympathetic viewers. (46)
Gorin believed the DVG films had an impact on the viewer which he called the “feedback effect”. He argued that while the films were often quite abstract and removed from everyday reality, “this abstraction comes out of a certain reality, and this abstraction may drive you back to your own reality.” The films should “drive an audience back, so that looking at the film, they can pick up maybe one, two, three elements and try to deal with them in their life.” (47)
Such an effect is impossible to verify with regards to the DVG films, especially now that the films are almost impossible to see, outside of a few very degraded copies circulating around the internet. The films’ reputations are nevertheless generally poor, and they are often dismissed as naïve and dated political propaganda, as well as Godard’s most misguided endeavours. (Gorin is usually not mentioned.) Outside of the American tour and occasional political and university screenings in France, the films were almost never screened. At the time, Godard and Gorin seemed unperturbed by this, seeing the production of the films as their chief concern and accepting that “perhaps only two or three companions would see the films,” at least for a year or two.(48) Gorin saw this as “part of a historical process, and … also a matter of taking movies seriously.”(49) This seriousness evidently meant ensuring that a film was seen by the “right” people rather than everyone.
Godard and Gorin’s decision (at least they claimed it was their decision) not to commercially distribute the films can be seen both as a refusal to participate in the capitalist market and to allow their works to function as commodities, and also to focus on presenting their films to those that could use them best: namely, according to McBean, “the actively committed Marxist-Leninist or Maoist militant.” While such a narrow focus could be considered elitist, there’s also a case to be made for its humility; an acknowledgement of the limitations of their own backgrounds and the presumptuousness of making films “for the masses or even on behalf of the masses.”
Coming from the petit bourgeois milieu, they acknowledge that they do not have the kind of working-class experience of oppression that would enable them to deal with the day-to-day experience of the worker... Nonetheless, what they can do to help bridge the gap is to begin to work cooperatively and collectively with small groups of militant workers and students and film people. (50)
AFTER THE DZIGA VERTOV GROUP
The abstinence from commercial distribution didn’t last long. In 1972, Godard and Gorin, discarding the DVG title, directed Tout va Bien, a comparatively big-budget, professionally crewed feature film with two big name stars, Jane Fonda and Yves Montand. In a way this “return” wasn’t as drastic as it appeared. Godard and Gorin now claimed they had never really been able to leave the system, pointing to the fact that the DVG films had been financed primarily by TV networks and Grove Press.(51) According to Gorin, the shift came out of a need to get out of the “ghetto” they had placed themselves in as “both a matter of strategy and economy”. In addition he believed that “to do a film that would really intervene in the way people look at films, we had to deal with big stars, because stars are the basis of the film phenomenon.” (52)
The film is in some ways a return to Godard’s earlier work: its stark but lush and colourful cinematography, its use of stars (and even characters), the “love story” between them, a minimal but somewhat dramatic narrative. However, the directors combine this with a strongly Marxist viewpoint and a self-critical acknowledgement of its own commercial complicity. As Gorin says:
It describes from the onset its economic and ideological reality… Because it's a question of constructing a fiction that'll always permit its own analysis and that will lead the spectator back into reality, the reality from which the film itself has come. (53)
Shortly after this film, Godard and Gorin made their last collaboration together, Letter to Jane (1972), which although a companion piece of sorts to Tout va Bien, is stylistically almost its antithesis: an hour long analysis by Godard and Gorin of a photograph of Jane Fonda taken during a visit to Vietnam, containing no moving images and focusing mostly on the Fonda picture alone. They parted ways, apparently amicably, at this point. Asked why it ended a few years later, Godard simply replied, “It was like a marriage. Perhaps no marriage should last too long.”(54) Gorin has directed five films by himself in the years since, and for the last 30 years has been a professor at the University of California in San Diego.
The end of the DVG undoubtedly came about because of many factors, but perhaps the most pivotal, and unpredictable, was the near-fatal motorcycle accident which Godard suffered in 1971; this left him in recovery for several years and also seemed to precipitate his increasingly close personal relationship with filmmaker Anne-Marie Miéville during this period. According to David Sterritt, ‘in addition to helping with personal care, [she] supported his interest in video experimentation and encouraged him to engage with narrative again, albeit in forms that remained thoroughly unconventional.”(55)
Miéville would become Godard’s lifelong partner and he would spend the rest of the 1970s collaborating with her, mainly in projects for television (some of which, unlike the several DVG films commissioned by TV stations, were actually allowed to be aired). Moving out of Paris and into the French Alps, they would eventually settle in the Swiss countryside, where Godard has continued sporadically to make films over the past twenty years. His output since the 1980s has been characterised by a renewed interest in the sensual and spiritual—although the old intellectual proclivities for wordplay, recitations and the dissection of images remain, best exemplified by his epic eight-part TV series Histoire(s) du Cinema (1988-1998), made almost entirely with found footage.
The first of Miéville’s collaborations was, in a way, the last Dziga Vertov film. In 1975, Miéville and Godard completed what had originally been ‘Till Victory, Godard and Gorin’s film about Palestinian revolutionaries shot in 1970. However, shortly after their trip, the group they had been filming was completely wiped out. Their film, according to McBean, “was to have been a defense et illustration of how the Fatah Movement’s thorough, patient, and systematic planning and organisation made it a model of revolutionary preparedness.”(56)
With that analysis subsequently untenable, Godard and Gorin were unsure what to do with the footage. The finished film, with Miéville providing a third perspective, was titled Here and Elsewhere and presented a self-critical reflection on the somewhat vicarious relationship the filmmakers had developed with the Palestinian struggle. In one of the film’s final lines of narration, Miéville asks
why have we been incapable of seeing and listening to those quite simple images and have said, like everybody, something else about them? Something else than what they however said. Probably we don’t know how to see, or to listen.
Still trying to see clearly, to understand, to learn, Godard had found himself back at the beginning—again. Godard would call his next film, Numéro deux (1975), his “second first film”…
1. Quoted in Sarris, 1970/1998
2. Vogel, 1974, p129
3. McBean, 1972, p32.
4. Ulman, 2003/2005, sensesofcinema.com
5. Sarris, 1970/1998, p111.
6. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
7. Godard quoted in McBean, 1970/71, p15.
8. Sterritt, 1999, p9.
9. O’Donoghue, 2005, sensesofcinema.com
10. Brenez, 2004, p234.
11. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
12. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
13. Brenez, 2004, p234.
16. Brenez, 2004, p234.
17. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
18. Smith, 2005, p5.
19. Daney, 1976/2000, p116.
20. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
21. Sterritt, 1999, p129.
22. Perlmutter, 1975, ejumpcut.org
23. Farocki and Silverman, 1998, p111.
24. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
25. Ulman, 2003/2005, sensesofcinema.com
26. Ulman, 2003/2005, sensesofcinema.com
27. Gorin quoted in Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
28. McBean, 1972, p34
29. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
30. Gorin quoted in Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
31. Ulman, 2003/2005, sensesofcinema.com
32. Gorin quoted in Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
33. Godard quoted in McBean, 1970/71, p15.
34. Monaco, 1975, ejumpcut.org
35. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
36. Gorin interviewed by Kolker, 1972/1998, p61.
37. Gorin interviewed by Thomsen, 1974, ejumpcut.org
38. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
39. Perlmutter, 1975, ejumpcut.org
40. Monaco, 1975, ejumpcut.org
41. McBean, 1972, p35.
42. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
43. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
44. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
45. McBean, 1972, p32.
46. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
47. Gorin interviewed by Kolker, 1972/1998, p61.
48. Godard quoted in Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
49. Gorin interviewed by Thomsen, 1974, ejumpcut.org
50. McBean, 1972, p34.
51. Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
52. Gorin interviewed by Thomsen, 1974, ejumpcut.org
53. Gorin quoted in Lesage, 1983, ejumpcut.org
54. Godard quoted in Gilliatt, 1974/1998, p70.
55. Sterritt, 1999, p132.
56. McBean, 1972, p31.