Download Speaking about Godard PDF

TitleSpeaking about Godard
PublisherNew York University Press
ISBN 139780814780664
CategoryArts - Film
File Size2.6 MB
Total Pages194
Table of Contents
                            Foreword by Constance Penley
1. Nana Is an Animal My Life to Live/Vivre sa vie (1962)
2. In Search of Homer Contempt/Le Mépris (1963)
3. Words Like Love Alphaville/Alphaville, une éirange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965)
4. Anal Capitalism Weekend/Le Week-End (1967)
5. I Speak, Therefore I’m Not Gay Knowledge/Le Gai Savoir (1968)
6. In Her Place Number Two/Numéro deux (1975)
7. Moving Pictures Passion (1981)
8. The Same, Yet Other New Wave/Nouvelle vague (1990)
	About the Authors
Document Text Contents
Page 98


I Speak, Therefore I’m Not

Gay Knowledge/Le Gai Savoir (1968)

HF: After his success with Breathless (1959), Godard was probably the most successful auteur
filmmaker. Although his films transgressed the market rules, often two or three of them every year found
world distribution. But Godard became increasingly discontent with such half-measures. Cay Knowledge
(1968) was 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. Not surprisingly, then, Gay Knowledge was never shown by the French television station
which commissioned it.1

KS: Gay Knowledge was the beginning of a curious chapter in Godard’s filmmaking career. Most
filmmakers hope to produce “good objects”—films that will “please.”2 Starting with Gay Knowledge,
and continuing through the Dziga Vertov period,3 Godard was motivated by a directly contrary wish—the
wish to produce “bad objects.” During this period, he set out to make films which would frustrate the
expectations of spectators as well as producers, and thereby generate unpleasure. But at least in the case
of Gay Knowledge, some viewers proved surprisingly resilient; they discovered that there can be more
than one way of having fun.

HF: In I968, university students began asking: “What does my work mean politically? What purposes
does it serve?” Once in the air, such questions sowed seeds of self-doubt everywhere; even bureaucrats
began to ask questions about the companies for which they were working. Godard was then ten years
older than the student generation, but he participated in this reflexive turn. “What is cinema?,” he asks in
Gay Knowledge. He poses this question not only with the discourse of his film, but also with its form.

KS: This film, which was shot before the French student uprising of May 1968,4 but edited afterward, is
the product of its historical moment in another sense, as well. It stages as sweeping a cultural revolution
as that carried out by Chairman Mao, the hero of many French students. In Gay Knowledge, two young
people, Patricia Lumumba and Emile Rousseau Quliet Berto and Jean-Pierre Léaud), meet for seven
nights in a darkened television studio to implement a new representational regime. On the first night, they
articulate a three-year plan to be carried out over the next six nights. The first year, they hope to collect
sounds and images. The second year, they expect to critique these sounds and images—to “reduce” them,
“decompose” them, subject them to “substitut[ions]” and “recompose” them. The third year, they propose
to build some alternative textual paradigms.

Page 194

About the Authors

Kaja Silverman is Chancellor’s Professor of Rhetoric and Film at the University of California at
Berkeley. She is the author of several books, including

, and Berlin-based director and film essayist Harun
Farocki has made over seventy films, including


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