Daily Archives: November 7, 2017

LE VRAI COUPABLE: Two Kinds of Criticism in Godard’s Work

This was originally a lecture given at a conference on Godard held in Cerisy, France on August 20, 1998. It subsequently appeared in a printed form somewhat closer to that found below, in Screen magazine (vol 40, no. 3). in Autumn 1999, as part of a Godard dossier assembled by the estimable Michael Witt. But, if memory serves, it took about a year of correspondence and wrangling before anyone on the magazine’s staff agreed to send me any copy of the issue. (Note: for a more general essay and interview with Godard about Histoire(s) du cinéma, go here.) —J.R.

Le Vrai Coupable: Two Kinds of Criticism in Godard’s Work

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Since the outset of his career, Godard has been interested in two kinds of criticism — film criticism and social criticism — and these two interests are apparent in practically everything he does and says as an artist. The first two critical texts that he published–in the second and third issues of Gazette du cinéma in 1950 — are entitled “Joseph Mankiewicz” and “Pour un cinéma politique”, and his first two features, A bout de souffle and Le petit soldat, made about a decade later, reflect the same dichotomy.… Read more »

Family Plot (1976 review)

I still seem to be in a minority in preferring Family Plot to Alfred Hitchcock’s other late films, but after reseeing the film countless times, I’m not about to revise my opinion. It would appear that some of Hitchcock’s biggest champions, such as Robin Wood, have tended to dismiss the film because it isn’t sicker. I tried to respond to their criticism at least provisionally in the opening of this review, written  for the summer 1976 Sight and Sound, which they ran as their cover story for that issue and which I’ve now revised, but only minimally. — J.R.

Family Plot

“Everything’s perverted in a different way,” Hitchcock has noted; and perhaps no other filmmaker has illustrated this postulate better, by starting from precisely the opposite premise. Without a well-established sense of the normal, the abnormal doesn’t even stand a chance of being recognized, and the director has always made it his business to offer all the right signposts and comforts to guarantee complacency before proceeding to unhinge it. Yet one of the rules of the game is deception, and if the Master’s artistry has been identified more with rude shocks than with the subtler conditioning which makes them possible, one can be certain that this too plays a role in his overall strategies.… Read more »

French for Beginners (UN AIR DE FAMILLE)

From the Chicago Reader (October 2, 1998). — J.R.

Un Air De Famille

Rating *** A must see

Directed by Cedric Klapisch

Written by Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri, and Klapisch

With Bacri, Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Catherine Frot, Claire Maurier, and Wladimir Yordanoff.

Foreign-film distribution in this country often operates on the brand-name principle — as is apparent with Un air de famille (1996), playing at the Music Box this week. Director and cowriter Cedric Klapisch had considerable commercial success here with his third picture, the 1995 When the Cat’s Away (this one is his fourth). I haven’t seen Klapisch’s first two; what I know about him mainly is that he received a degree from New York University’s graduate film school and worked as a director of photography on a dozen short films in New York before returning to France to make his own films.

When the Cat’s Away is an intelligent enough movie, but the adjectives I’d apply to it are “charming” and “slight”; Un air de famille, which I like a good deal more, is neither. The most significant aspect of the film is the couple, Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri, who wrote the very successful play on which it’s based.… Read more »