Thursday 24 October 2013

1,001 Films: "Two or Three Things I Know About Her/Deux ou Trois Choses Que Je Sais D'Elle" (1967)

The "her" in the title of Two or Three Things I Know About Her refers to Paris and its environs, which had featured as a character for so long in most Godard films that it deserved the top billing it finally got here. A relationship drama of a sort (in that its chief interest lies in the relationship between objects, ideas and buildings rather than people), it seems designed as much as anything to show off Paris's swish new flyover and dockside developments. But these are just the backdrops against which Godard comes to examine - in meticulous, some might say pedantic detail - the space (i.e. distance) between us, starting with, as in Week-End, the gap between the rate of technological and industrial development and that of the individual.

A succession of skits or tableaux illustrate the difference between what we want to express and what we actually say; between the lives we read and dream about and those we get; between the relationships we desire and those with which we make do; between ourselves and our reflections; even - in the film's most explicitly political strand - between day-to-day events in Paris, where it's clearly business as usual, and what was happening out in Vietnam. "The jeep and the napalm" are cited as two more examples of a misdirected technological development, and - for perhaps the first time in a Godard movie - America starts to manifest itself as the enemy, pitting republique against republic.

It has the most extraordinary sequence in all the director's work, as the camera slowly disappears into the void of a full coffee cup whose contents come to resemble infinity, nothingness, the universe and everything. Yet the film is as noteworthy for the prescience of its ideas as it is for its striking visuals: Godard absolutely foresees post-modernism ("in images, everything goes - the best and the worst") and, indeed, corporate post-modernism (the final shot is of a city constructed entirely of brand names). For once, this director is more interested in what's in other people's heads than simply what's on his own mind - the narration is whispered and hesitant, some distance from the more familiar bombast and hyperbole - but it's an unusually and absurdly modest Godard film: it knows an awful lot more than just a handful of things.

Two or Three Things I Know About Her is available on DVD through Optimum Home Entertainment.

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