A Film Like Any Other (Godard, 1968): Close-Up Cinema 7.30pm
Only The Cinema website review:
'In the aftermath of the student demonstrations and worker strikes that swept across France in May 1968 and after, Jean-Luc Godard — who had already declared the end of cinema, at least for him, in Week-end — fully embraced the student radicalism and the peculiar French Maoism of the time. He was setting off on a journey away from the cinema, but continued making films (and eventually videos) nonetheless. For the last couple of years of the 60s and throughout the 70s, Godard all but abandoned the commercial cinema for various political and aesthetic experiments in which he would drastically reconfigure his approach to the cinema. A Film Like Any Other was one of the first statements of this new, experimental era in Godard's career, the beginning of his long exodus from the cinema, the first of what would be many attempts to work out, in film form, the political and cinematic questions that concerned him. In that respect, this film is a precursor to the films that Godard would make collaboratively with his Dziga Vertov Group experiments, as well as the later (and ultimately much more advanced) videos he'd create with Anne-Marie Miéville.
A Film Like Any Other establishes many of the concerns that would motivate the later films: the possibility of real change, the problems of how to better organize revolutionary actions, and implicitly the central idea that would drive the Dziga Vertov Group's work: Godard's attempts to reconstruct a cinematic form appropriate to ideological films. Whether intentionally or not, A Film Like Any Other also winds up demonstrating, better than any of the other films Godard made during his revolutionary period, just why the student idealism and radicalism of this period ultimately amounted to so little. The film is a direct response to (and document of) the events of May 1968. It is constructed primarily around footage of a group of workers and students having a discussion in a field with tall grass and flowers, interspersed with black-and-white documentary images shot during the May protests. The color footage of the discussion is shot from a low angle, with the speakers mostly either turned away from the camera or with their heads chopped off by the top of the frame, so that they remain anonymous representatives of student or proletariat interests rather than individuals.'
“Two 54-minute segments, with identical successions of images but different soundtracks. Students from Nanterre (where May 68 more or less began) sit on the grass (shot from the neck down) and discuss where the movement will go next; two Renault workers discuss their own ideas of a revolutionary future – their images are intercut with black and white footage of May 68, their words mingle with Godard’s own rhetoric. When the film was shown at the 1968 New York Film Festival, Godard told the projectionist to flip a coin and decided on the spot which 16mm reel to begin with. According to D.A. Pennebaker, the American distributor, the audience “began to tear up their seats.”” – Film Society of Lincoln Center