The two words, "No Comment," in medium-sized white type on a black screen, conclude Jean-Luc Godard's latest, "Film Socialisme." Unexpectedly, that appears to be his only statement on his new film, which debuted today at the Cannes Film Festival.
In a disappointment that tops the negative reactions to some films here so far this week, Jean-Luc Godard has abruptly canceled his trip to Cannes, cutting off a chance to speak with the legendary auteur on the 50th anniversary of his first film, "Breathless."
"There is no official reason, just that he's not here." the festival's head of press Christine Aimé told indieWIRE today, standing alone outside the room where a press conference was to begin.
A few minutes after the first screening of Godard's new feature film, "Film Socialisme," one that some have said would be his last, critics made their way to the press conference venue. Manohla Dargis, J Hoberman, Michael Phillips, Anne Thompson and many others assembled on the third floor of the Palais des Festivals here in Cannes, even though rumors of Godard's absence were rampant.
"It would be very Godardian for him to show up anyway," one critic said hopefully. Moments later, a guard reiterated that the press conference was canceled and the media dispersed. One journalist said that Godard has a history of canceling trips to festivals, while others wondered about his health.
"Due to problems the Greeks would be familiar with, I unfortunately cannot be at your disposal in Cannes," Godard said, in a statement in French newspaper Liberation today (as translated from French by indieWIRE). "I'd walk to the ends of the earth for the festival," he added, "But alas I will not be taking a single step further. Sincerely, Jean-Luc Godard."
In its original French, the statement read: "Suite à des problèmes de type Grec, je ne pourrai être votre obligé à Cannes."Avec le festival, j’irai jusqu’à la mort, mais je ne ferai pas un pas de plus. Amicalement. Jean-Luc Godard."
Godard's latest, "Film Socialisme," is a 100-minute experimental assemblage of video images, sounds and text, following a loose narrative and incorporating archival footage that begins on a cruise ship. While rocker Patti Smith, strumming a guitar, makes a cameo appearance in part one of the three part movie, the film primarily follows on a group of young people who are armed with a camera and incorporates separate imagery from six locations, including Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona.
A four-minute teaser trailer for the film features fast forwarded footage from the film, giving viewers a sense of what to expect. "Film Socialisme" is also being made available via VOD here in France this week concurrent with the movie's debut at the festival.
The last time Godard was in Cannes, on May 16th 2001, he spent an hour with the press at a Q & A that began with the welcome, "In Godard, there is God" as moderator Henri Behar introduced the director by invoking a comment from an American journalist earlier in the day.
Reprinting indieWIRE's report from that press conference, timed to the festival debut of "Eloge de l'Amour" (In Praise of Love), the 2001 discussion began by touching upon the Internet and email, technologies that Godard said he has not embraced.
"I still have a very old typewriter," he said, "Typewriters were invented for blind people, so that is exactly what I need."
The fact that he did not use the Internet would be a recurring comment at the 2001 press conference. Another frequent subject touched upon by Godard was television, a medium that, in the mind of the director, he felt was better suited for coverage of live events.
"Television does not produce anything -- films are produced to be distributed," he said.
Later, when asked by another writer if he ever considered returning to the role of film critic (Godard was a writer at Cahiers du Cinema), he responded, "Yes, very often, but you don't swim twice in the same water." Continuing he said without a grin, "I am afraid that I might say nasty things."
Godard was critical of the changes in the movies over the past few decades, specifically singling out filmmaking from Hollywood.
"Nothing has changed since the advent of cinematography," he said, "I thought that filmmaking was to show things big and in a very different way. That didn't really succeed."
The four minute, fast-forwarded teaser for Jean-Luc Godard's "Filme Socialism" follows: