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Festival de Cannes 72 Countdown: Adieu au Langage / Goodbye to Language, 2014

We excitedly countdown to the 72nd Festival de Cannes with a different prize winning film each day.

Adieu au Langage / Goodbye to Language, 2014

Prix du Jury – Jean-Luc Godard

Le prix spécial du jury Palm Dog – Roxy

This article is, inherently, a perversion of the notions set forth by its own subject, a film crafted from thoughts and techniques that might genuinely inspire a revolution in filmmaking were they more easily decipherable. But the obnoxious opacity of Goodbye to Language is just one of its many intrinsic, sometimes even literal layers, all of which act as entire theses on cinema, art and artistic expression, penned on what Jean-Luc Godard strives to achieve and/or achieves herein, yet cumulatively act as one remarkably brief thesis, at fewer than 70 minutes.

Its primary complexity is in its contradiction – Godard seeks purity in abstraction, that very purity mitigated by its confounding nature – though even the film’s myriad contradictions (the literalness of the content to the abstraction of the form, the philosophical to the sensory) possess a clarity, cemented within as essential components to Godard’s theories.

Goodbye to Language

Principally, he seeks to abandon verbal communication (forgive the crudeness of my phrasing, only to properly explicate Godard’s intentions could encompass a dozen generous reviews), correctly identifying it as symbolic of a constructed unreality in which we humans feel so comfortable.

It is deceit, and he explores the very furthest reaches of his free aural and visual medium, freed ever further by a boundless artistic imagination bolstered by peerless technical ability, to find such obscure but such effective methods of returning to the truth.

Fitting that he must travel so far down the rabbit hole that he must also come out the other end to return to that truth, since the freedom he utilises and the truth he discovers are equally boundless – their capabilities are immense, as the natural world he shows such reverence for in Goodbye to Language. 

Goodbye to Language

Equally fitting that he utilises a freedom that he was instrumental in designing: this is a most solipsistic film, a documentary, perhaps, of Godard’s imagination, and a statement of tremendous optimism. Fitting, too, that it is so apolitical, as said optimism was drained of Godard’s even-more assaultive expression in his subsequent feature, last year’s The Image BookHe relies upon old innovations to fashion new innovations, and suggests that cinema is so far from finished innovating.

Goodbye to Language, as baffling as it is, has all of the ingredients, technically, to inspire a revolution in filmmaking as A Bout de Souffle once did. Alas, it won’t, since this is not the same world as that which Godard so comprehensively shook up in the 1960s, nor is he supported by a troupe of revolutionary comrades, nor is what he accomplishes here anything near as simple for others to ape successfully as was what he accomplished there.


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