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'In Praise Of Love'

Godard and the transcendence of despair

Friday, November 29, 2002

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

In the gospel according to Jean-Luc Godard, "a film should have a beginning, a middle and an end -- but not necessarily in that order."

'In Praise Of Love'

RATING: Unrated but R in nature for sexual themes

STARRING: Bruno Putzulu, Audrey Klebaner, Cecile Camp

DIRECTOR: Jean-Luc Godard


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It's one of the New Wave guru's nicest epigrams, but there are plenty of other nice ones to choose from during the course of his latest entry, "Eloge de l'Amour" (In Praise of Love).

Godard, as his quotation above suggests, has always been equally concerned with form as with content. "Love," opening at the Regent Square, is a perfect example, harking back to his previous Parisian ode "Masculin/Feminin" of 1966. It's divided into two sections, the first black and white, the second in color-saturated digital video. Both concern Edgar (Bruno Putzulu), a director trying to make a grand statement on the four stages of a love affair (meeting, sex, separation, rediscovery) -- but without much success.

Edgar's would-be leading ladies (Audrey Klebaner and Cecile Camp) get the better of him. In part two, his focus shifts to an elderly couple of World War II Resistance fighters who are negotiating the sale of their life story to Hollywood.

Poignant and ironic in equal measure (as always for Godard), "In Praise of Love" is decidedly didactic and self-referential to the cinema -- oh, those lovely aphorisms!

"It's not whether man will endure, but whether he has a right to."

"Isn't it funny how works of art require titles, like nobility?"

"Most people have the guts to live their life, but not imagine it."

And best of all:

"Americans have no memory of the past -- their machines do, but they don't."

The characters talk off-camera as often as on and leave their relationships with one another as often unresolved as resolved.

Some will find the style no less annoying now than it was 40 years ago. Others, such as my ancient self, will find it consistently thought-provoking in its uniquely ponderous-pretentious French way.

Godard's new film is about failure, Edgar being both a failed filmmaker and a failed lover, but we're told that it "transcends its own despair." I wish I could transcend mine. Instead, I and we must vicariously enjoy Godard's transcendence of his own.

Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.

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