Monday 3 April 2023

Every Man for Himself [1980]

 Godard, after spending well over a decade in absolute, self-imposed exile from mainstream cinema – during which time he first severed all ties with his Nouvelle Vague legacy, then made a series of politically radical agitprop Marxist essays in 16mm as part of the underground Dziga Vertov collective, and thereafter joined hands with Anne-Marie Miéville on avant-garde and formally dense video productions during his “SonImage” phase – made his return to 35mm feature films with Every Man for Himself. He therefore heralded the 1980s, and began yet another phase of extraordinary creativity, with this movie which he called his “second first film”, not least because it released two decades after his pathbreaking debut Breathless. Yet, for Godard, a return to commercial filmmaking can never be simply that, and hence, despite its apparent narrative elements and formal restraint, it was still a thematically provocative and stylistically exciting work. It was filled with striking flourishes – stunning use of slo-mos, bursts of pulsating non-diagetic music (including instances where one character can hear it while others can’t), idiosyncratic and even incredibly scandalous digressions – and comprised of biting social commentary on sexual politics, late-stage capitalism, commodification of relationships, and the inherently abusive nature of anyone in positions of power (including, in a sardonically self-referential touch, the filmmaker himself). It focussed on three existentially estranged characters – Paul Godard (Jacques Dutronc), a divorced, impassive and emotionally alienated television filmmaker; Denise Rimbaud (Nathalie Baye), a TV producer who’s having a stressful breakup with Paul, and hopes to thoroughly upend both her professional and personal lives; and Isabelle Rivière (Isabelle Huppert, in a disarmingly enchanting turn), a saucy, sexy, alluring, and self-assured prostitute for whom nothing is out of bounds.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Relationship Drama

Language: French

Country: France

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