Friday, 7 April 2023

Prénom Carmen (First Name: Carmen) [1983]

 Prénom Carmen – which completed a remarkable trilogy with Every Man for Himself and Passion, in that they all featured disillusioned filmmakers in existential limbo, and the crumbling of “small movies” under overbearing financial considerations – wasn’t just a magisterial work that established the 1980s as one of the richest decades for Godard, it also places among his most aesthetically dazzling films with its fragmentary storytelling, shallow-focus visuals and rapturously beautiful use of music. It was most fascinating in how it provided an interplay between classicism and modernist deconstructions, narrative and form, solemn and absurdist, composure and chaos, melancholy and sardonic humour, personal and political. The film played out along three interconnected narrative strands that frequently overlapped but were also noteworthy for their departures. The central strand – which was a radical reimagining of Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, by Anne-Marie Miéville – covered the passionate, tumultuous and ultimately self-destructive affair between the ravishingly beautiful Carmen (played with sultry allure by 20-year-old neophyte Maruschka Detmers), who’s part of an underground post-Maoist revolutionary cell, and a naïve security guard (Jacques Bonnaffé) who gets entangled with her during a bank robbery and falls obsessively in love with her. In parallel we see a neurotic, hilariously deadpan, aphorism-spouting, lecherous, washed-up filmmaker (played with satiric, self-deprecating aplomb by Godard himself) who’s refusing to leave the sanitorium that he’s cooped up in; and a string quartet, whose absorbing Beethoven rehearsals provided stirring emotional parallels to the actions. The heady mix of doomed lovers, militant politics and operatic violence aimed at capitalist structures stirred my memories of Le Petit Soldat and La Chinoise, while interjections of “live” music recording with narrative elements made me draw parallels with One Plus One.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Genre: Drama/Political Drama/Romantic Drama/Crime Drama/Musical/Showbiz Satire

Language: French

Country: France

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