Movie Reviews: October 1994


You know, in the last few issues I’ve been kinda slamming a filmmaker named Jean-Luc Godard, so it’s only fitting that the guy has got a new film and it’s coming to the Tower starting October 14. I guess I need to explain myself. 

For those unenlightened souls, I’m not talking about the captain of the Starship Enterprise … this is the leader of the French New Wave movement and one of the world’s foremost film scholars and critics, and perhaps the most influential filmmaker of the last 35 years. You’re probably wondering two things then—if he’s so great, why have you never heard of him and why is this SLUG reviewer hassling him? Well, part of the answer to both questions is because he’s French. But like Godard’s films themselves, the other part of the answer is more complex. 

Beginning as a film critic and then taking up directing with his first flick Breathless (not the Richard Gere remake), Godard quickly redefined filmmaking with a rigorously self-conscious style. He was not interested in presenting stories so much as he wanted to present ideas. To that purpose he played with the structure, the language if you will, of film, so that viewers were constantly challenged to derive meaning from both what was happening on the screen and how that action was presented filmically. Thus, you might say to yourself, “Oh, he did that little obnoxious edit to jar me out of my passive acceptance of the story. He wants me to be aware that this is a movie, to never sink into ignorant acceptance, to understand he is setting up some concepts that need to be analyzed, not just digested.” 

Basically, Godard doesn’t want to tell you a story, he wants to present ideas and make you think about them. To that purpose, it doesn’t make sense to present a two-hour film where you are guided from point A to point B, never having to analyze for yourself but just soaking it all in. Godard makes you work for your meaning and that’s why his films frequently piss me off. I don’t always get them on first viewing and I rarely watch films more than once. Another reason I like to slam Godard is that he has so many groupies. Every director and film school student worships the man and thinks every word he says and every frame he makes is a cryptic utterance from the oracle. If I mention a similarity to Deadheads, I think you’ll understand. 

Anyway, Hélas Pour Moi stars Gérard Depardieu (the guy who stars in all French films) and it’s about God coming down and inhabiting a man’s body for a day so that she can experience directly what it’s like to be a human. I haven’t seen it yet, but you can be sure it’s a complex and challenging film—check it out. 

Moving on to films I have seen. One after my own heart, Sex, Drugs and Democracy, is a flick about the Dutch vision of society and government involvement in the lives of its people. Holland is kinda unique in the world. They decriminalized marijuana use, legalized prostitution, granted full civil rights to homosexuals and women and have socialized medicine, which includes abortion and euthanasia on demand. Taxes are huge but the government holds out a large all-encompassing safety net, public nudity is legal, etc., etc., etc. Everybody seems happy and well-adjusted ‘cause there ain’t much crime, there’s little social strife, there’s no mafia ‘cause everything’s legal and nobody gets so rich that they make everybody jealous ‘cause they all get taxed to death. In short, they’ve got a bob-damned utopian society over there! 

Why not here then, you ask? I mean, isn’t the government of the United States supposed to safe-guard the “pursuit of happiness,” to be “for the people and by the people,” etc. etc. etc.? Well, in theory, yes—but in practice, not always. We’ve been legislating morality from day one. Let’s face it, Western civilization still reels from the effects of centuries of dysfunctional Judeo-Christian/patriarchal leadership. There is a legacy of repressed feelings and intellect, a general loathing for the body and a fear of self-expression. We need to move beyond our history and not be judgemental of different lifestyles as long as they are not endangering other people or the environment. 

Sex, Drugs and Democracy makes you take a long hard look at the constrictive nature of our own society and compare it to the pragmatic, humanistic nature of the Dutch government. It made me sad that we are wasting so much on repression of lifestyle choices, when what is needed is acceptance. ‘Choices’ is the operative word. In the Netherlands, you are allowed to make your own. The government is designed not to constrict you, but to support you. Instead of wasting time in repression, it addresses the important questions of how to protect the environment and civil rights of individuals, how to reduce social conflict and how to provide for the inopportune. The Netherlands may not be perfect, but their progressive vision sets an example that I hope is followed by the rest of the west.

By the way, this film gets kinda gratuitous about showing drug use, the sex shows, prostitutes, etc. so it’s one of those have-to-be-18-or-older gigs. It plays for two weeks starting October 7, also at the Tower Theater. —Ima Mess

Read more from our October 1994 Issue here.