projection 41

Film Socialism by Jean Luc Godard
Curated by Cliona Harmey. 

6.30pm / Tuesday 20 May 2014
Irish Film Institute - 6 Eustace Street, Temple Bar, Dublin

Book Tickets 

Film Socialisme sees Godard on the offensive with a violent experimental drive and urgency..”[1]

The film takes many unconventional approaches to narrative, montage, screen text, titling, editing, image and sound giving the film an experimental edge.

The first movement is set on a voyage around the Mediterranean of the ill-fated cruise ship Costa Concordia. The ships acts as a sort of micro continent[2]. Godard uses the combined footage of four camera men/agents, taken on multiple moving image formats, from high end HD to poor quality cctv, cheap mobile phone and handy-cam images and with low-grade sound to create highly visual, colour saturated episodes.

“As some of the sound is recorded quite crudely—with wind flapping against a cheap mic on a cheap camera—and prone to drop-outs and fading, the eccentric spacing creates not only a gap between words, but also, quite significantly for the viewer, a mental gap between sounds”[3].

This gap is further evidenced in the fragmentary narrative which touches on ideas, hidden histories and stories of the circulation of disappeared /stolen spanish gold.  “Pilfering clips from Pollet (mediteranee), Rossellini, Eisenstein, Chaplin, Ford, Varda et al., Godard makes like his subjects and pathologically steals images from the world (and the inscription of war)”[4]. The reverberations of time and the echo of  history in the present, is elucidated in the first part with reference to the circulation of cultural artifacts (paintings, gold coins, a watch, cinema itself).

“the watch that doesn't give the hour and the still camera that will become a movie camera. Two contradictory machines that cross the Mediterranean, passing hand to hand"[5].

The film also has a strong engagement with the making and taking of pictures. The camera is at the core, with the slippage between the still and moving image, the image as artifact and also the site of privilege and power.

Film Socialisme is replete with images of people taking photos. Photographers are seen everywhere, snapshots are taken, shutters are clicking incessantly, flashes flare and the world is revealed as a hyper- and multi-mediated voyage through seeing “photographically.” [6]

Language, bold typography, wordplay, versions, descriptions, spacings, omissions are also a major part of the film. There are multiple versions of the trailers: which exist as small works in themselves with varying treatments, time-tracks and time compressions.  There is more than one title for the film and more than one translation. For the initial screening at Cannes the english subtitling was deliberately only partial and was described by Godard as “Navajo English” : a type of truncated pidgin english. After initially wanting to leave the film subtitle free, he eventually agreed to do it “his way”l[7]  getting an initial translation of all the french dialogue to english. “With a marker pen, he crossed out the words that did not interest him and left only those which seemed especially meaningful to him, before rearranging them..”[8] thus the viewer who spoke only english received a type of haiku like experience of language.

There are three movements in the film each given a separate title “Des choses comme ça” (“Things like that”), “Quo Vadis Europa” and “Nos humanités” (“Our humanities”). The first follows onboard the cruise ship, the second follows a family in a small house at a gas station and the third : “recapitulates the Mediterranean journey of the first, depicting places where what Godard terms “our humanities” were born—Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas (i.e. Greece, hélas), Naples, Barcelona—largely by scavenging through banked images of 20th-century horror”[9]. 

This screening is the last element in conjunction with “Troposphere” an exhibition of system based video and sculpture works at Pallas Project’s by Cliona Harmey which combined spatial, broadcast and environmental phenomena.

[1]         Williams, James S. Williams “Entering the Desert: The Book of Film Socialisme”
[2]          Bordwell, David,  “Observations on Film Art”  On his site Bordwell gives some interesting extra information on the Costa Concordia, which “was designed with thirteen decks, each named for a European nation (using the Italian version of each name, since that is where the vessel is registered)”.
[3]          :Picard, Andrea  Spotlight | Film Socialisme “
[4]          IBID
[5]          Phelps, David “Film Socialism Annotated” from Moving Image Source
[6]          Petho?,A?gnes, Jean-Luc Godard’s Passages from the Photo-Graphic to the Post-Cinematic. Images in between Intermediality and Convergence accessed at
[7]          Bréan, Samuel, ”godard     english     cannes: The Reception of Film Socialisme‘s “Navajo English” Subtitles” Senses of Cinema, Feature Articles, Issue 60 | October 2011
[8]   IBID
[9]   Taubin, Amy,  Film Socialisme review