#KickingtheCanon by Sam Thomas-Redfern Film

Tout va Bien | Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Pierre Gorin

March 3, 2019
tout

Jean Luc-Godard’s career came to an end in 1967, with Weekend — only for it to rise again out of the ashes, and for the filmmaker to summarily dismiss everything he’d made before. The violent and vehement events of May 1968 marked a return to zero for Godard, the requisite thrust towards a revolutionary form that asserted cinema’s capabilities beyond mere representation. Rejecting the ‘bourgeois’ image which Godard saw as necessarily resulting from an attempt to “reflect reality,” the director sought instead to create films distanced from the standard mode of representation, so that reality could be fragmented and then stitched together again — confronting the audience with a critical (and distinctly Marxist) lens through which to view society. The collective that’s typically associated with this period of Godard’s career is the Dziga Vertov Group; though not officially formed until Pravda, in 1970, most tend to lump A Film Like Any Other and British Sounds in with the group’s productions. Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin were the predominant members of the Dziga Vertov Group, but they used the name to dispel notions of individual authorship, whilst espousing their revolutionary aesthetics. The films they made were never meant for a wider audience, and were mostly screened at universities or film societies, thereby relieving their work of any potential industry pressures and circumventing the market altogether. Tout va Bien came towards the end of the group’s life. In an attempt to pull themselves out of the “ghetto” their previous films had put them in, Godard and Gorin decided on the use of celebrities to reach a larger audience, and as “a matter of strategy and economy.” 

Serves as an example of the adaptations that were felt to be necessary in a world post-failure — four years after May ‘68. The actors’ presences are, of course, used to ironic effect — though they, and their on-screen relationships, become more than this as well, an illustration of sorts of the core message here.

Beginning with a reflexive nod to, and pointing out the re-introduced financial sine qua nons of filmmaking with, the stars (Jane Fonda and Yves Montand), Tou va Bien serves as an example of the adaptations that were felt to be necessary in a world post-failure — four years after May ‘68. The actors’ presences are, of course, used to ironic effect — though they, and their on-screen relationships, become more than this as well, an illustration of sorts of the core message here. The story that surrounds them consists firstly of a strike at a sausage factory, before moving on to look at the effects that this event has on their lives. But G&G have no intention to create characters for their audience to become emotionally invested in; profile shots are used to give confrontational addresses that frequently result in the interrogation of the beliefs that characters signify, the set of the sausage factory distantiates our investment in the events so as to examine its discordant operations, and audio and image are sporadically separated, indicating the distance between words and actions in the scenarios depicted. In this sense, Tout va Bien could be viewed as reductive of the complex composition of societal strife, even painting the factory manager as nothing more than a bombastic cartoon. But the film isn’t so much about the aforementioned events and its characters as it is the lack of harmony between actions derived from similar (if not the same) intentions. As such, the film ends by stating that there are no clear answers, especially not the ones given to you by institutionalized political parties. If any change is to be affected, the individual must consider themselves within their historical context — “each his own historian.” And “you don’t have to be a leftist to think like that.”

Part of Kicking the Canon – The Film Canon.

You Might Also Like