JLG/JLG: Self Portrait in December (1994)
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard.
Written by: Jean-Luc Godard.
Whenever I watch a film from late period Godard – pretty much anything he made starting with Histoire(s) du Cinema (begun in 1989) – I am torn between two reactions. One is that Godard is still obviously a genius – his ability to create striking, memorable images – and in particular his editing and sound design is truly amazing, and several times during the runtime of one of his films, you are struck dumb by something you see or hear. But the other part of me thinks that most of what Godard has down in that period is self-involved claptrap – intellectual exercises for an increasingly small number of people, as he looks down on everyone else who isn’t a genius like Jean-Luc Godard. Is this some of this perhaps my own insecurity – worrying that I don’t understand what Godard is talking about? Undeniably – I really don’t have any clue what he’s talking about half the time in these films.
In his 1994 film, JLG/JLG: Self Portrait in December is an hour long film in which Godard considers his own place in cinema history – as well as who he is as an artist at this late stage (he was in his 1960s by then). By this point, Godard had already become less and less commercial viable – something he seemed to actively court for nearly 30 years, as he more and more abandoned narrative film for avant-garde essays and montages. Godard looks morose throughout much of the film as he considers his past successes – and how out-of-sync he is now. There is also a little bit of playfulness in the film – as Godard interacts with his cleaning ladies (which you could choose to see as playful, or sexist, or perhaps both) – and then pokes at his critics who have accused him of anti-Semitism, by explaining stereo sound with a diagram, that ends up being a Star of David. And like any late Godard film, there is lot of philosophical quotes – as Godard seemingly brings up arguments, and then shoots them down in rapid succession.