26 August 2015 | Rodrigo_Amaro
Godard and the power of speech
One of Godard's lesser known works, "The Power of Speech" feels and reads like great quality visual and sonorous poetry and one of his best moments in the 1980's - but for some reason, this video project went without any proper distribution. In terms of dialog with many different forms of art from several decades, going from Edgar Allan Poe to James M. Cain, using Beethoven, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Ravel as background music, JLG's ambition is limitless; now, deciphering all that and trying to compose a whole image is up to each viewer. It's not easy, and was never meant to be. Once again, we're talking about the l'infant terrible of the French New Wave and his mind and film process goes in too many directions at same time and speed.
The description I read somewhere says this movie is about two couples, one who uses dialogues from "The Postman Rings Twice"; and another one who quotes from a Poe's poem. The one who used of Cain's novel is the most interesting segment, bearing more resemblance with the original work, except it would be an updated version of that printed material, with the married woman making phone calls to Frank, talking about how their love can never be fulfilled. The segment involving the poem exposes the earth's creation and other nature metaphors; you may not fully understand what they're saying and why they say it, but at least they feel more connected to each other than the other couple. To make things more complicated: Godard makes intersections with both segments and it feels all random (it's not, obviously).
It's not the director's intention to make his audience invest their attention in the simple stories, or any deep focus on the "narrative". Godard's aiming at the perversion of words, the subversion of the speech. Gooodbye, language! Speech, words can be subverted, reshaped, redesigned in order to accommodate another situation in another era, and still make complete sense. Duh, you may think. Unlike bringing Shakespeare to modern settings (JLG did with "King Lear") or throw contemporary songs in period pieces, Godard makes of "The Power of Speech" a respectable, multi-layered Frankenstein with countless dimensions. Texts from the 1800's and 1940's plus modern settings dealing with themes such as the distance between lovers, communication problems, technology, love, systems, cultural references...it's all thrown and blended in this fabulous and almost insane monster (Godard finally finds a way to leave politics aside, the feelings that his guerrilla filmmaker days had expired and the Soviets were just about to collapse). The speech, even traded and brought to another space in time, still holds a power.
In terms of what art can bring to our hearts and minds and the dialog between art forms, I find this short film very interesting, loved the images and the way it was all put together. Don't find all too perfect, all too great due to some minor lack of coherence, sometimes it's just too wordy and all those words sound heartless, without conviction, without realism. Not exactly sure if the fault lies with the director/writer or with the actors. Worthy of your time and maybe subsequent views. 7/10