Wednesday, March 11, 1998

For Ever Mozart

Posted By on Wed, Mar 11, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Jean-Luc Godard has been making a certain type of highly personal, fragmented and doggedly philosophical film for almost 40 years now and, on the evidence of his latest feature to be released here, 1996's For Ever Mozart, he shows no signs of changing his recondite ways. While DFT-goers had an opportunity last season, with the showing of Contempt (1963), to view the director at his most accessible, Mozart offers undiluted Godard &emdash; thorny, querulous, funny and confused.

To suggest there's a plot would be misleading, but there are concerns. A misguided group, including a young philosopher and her filmmaker father, travel to the battleground of Sarajevo to put on a production of Musset's One Mustn't Play at Love (a good joke, perhaps inspired by Susan Sontag's somewhat less quixotic Sarajevo venture with Beckett's Waiting for Godot). Meanwhile (a loose term — time and place are often problematic in a Godard film), the father is also busy with the making of a film called Fatal Bolero, the "fatal" representing the commercial aspirations of the film's producer. "Why 'fatal?' " one character keeps asking, apparently unfamiliar with the concept of pretested titles. It quickly becomes clear that the director couldn't make a commercial film at gunpoint and the parallels to the production hassles of Contempt are obvious. But little else is.

As is customary in a Godard film, the aphorisms fly like bullets, hard-packed groups of words whizzing past the hapless characters. "It's what I like in cinema," says Bolero's director, "a fsaturation of glorious signs, bathing in the light of their absent explanation." The trip to Sarajevo comes to a bad end and a Brechtian bout of torture. Fatal Bolero opens to a tepid box office; customers are lured to a nearby showing of Terminator IV.

Godard fans will find much here to relish. His love-hate affair with the medium is as vital as ever. Or, as his fictional filmmaker says, "This must be why I've always felt a profound sadness in cinema — (there's) both a possibility of expression and the trace of something essential, renounced."

Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for the Metro Times. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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