After abandoning (relatively) conventional narrative decades ago, French maverick Jean-Luc Godard’s latest feature is a philosophical exploration of three dimensional cinema – a concept explored not only in the 3D format, but in the content itself, and the films sound design. Getting a front row seat in the giant Hoyts cinema where it had its first MIFF screening, I lasted about fifteen minutes before running for the exit.
It’s not so much that Goodbye to Language is a necessarily bad film – followers of late-Godard (in particular his magnum opus Histoire(s) du Cinéma) will be familiar with his scatter-brain, highly intellectual sensibility and style while others will have no I idea what’s going on, no, it was that the film is literary an assault on the senses.
The image shifts relentlessly from the 2D to 3D, from low-quality digital video to vintage movie clips with his usual motif of graphics and text weaving all over the screen, and 3D action that will in one moment draw your attention to far screen left, before something pops out straight away in screen right. As aforementioned, Godard combines his visual flourishes with sound design which shifts from mono to surround sound in ear-popping changes throughout (which is particularly hurtful on the Hoyts state-of-the-art sound system).
Such effects on the viewer are, of course, intentional by Godard. Cinema’s most daring and militantly intellectual is testing the absolute limits of dimensionality in cinema, the problem (at least for me) is that he also tests his audiences ability to endure the film, which is a shame, because even at 83 he still obviously has a lot more to say.
Goodbye to Language is screening as part of the 2014 Melbourne International Film Festival on Saturday 2 August and Wednesday 6 August.