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Godard: To Live and To Create
In Reverse

by Tainah Negreiros

          The house where I live is some 30 kilometers from Jean-Luc Godard's house. I have been living between São Raimundo Nonato, São Paulo, and Renens/Lausanne since 2020, when I moved there to work as a researcher, funded by the Swiss government, and since then I have been going back and forth. It is one of those crazy things in life that takes you from one place to another. As soon as I learned where I was going to be, Maria Chiaretti and Mateus Araújo told me: "oh, you are going to live near Godard and Straub". 

          Finding out where Godard lived was easy. In Rolle, despite his discretion, he was known for his walks by the lake and for sitting in a specific café where he would read the newspaper, probably Libération. I had gone there once before, by train, hoping to see him, and also as speculation about the final scene in Agnès Varda's Visages, Villages (2017), filmed outside his house and on the lake. When I went, it was a Wimbledon final, and Godard was probably staying quiet, at home, watching a sport of back and forth, which, according to him, mimicked the logic of his thinking and his relationship to the world.

          This time, in an impulsive, deliberate, poorly explained decision, I left home with a bottle of water and some grapes in my backpack, dressed in red and blue, I adjusted the saddle of my touring bicycle - which is far from light or sporty, made for short distances - and headed for Lake Geneva. The bike is difficult, when I get up to reach a higher speed it doesn't answer, it goes slow, it reacts badly to the force I put into it. In one of these attempts, as I was crossing through a large Swiss green field, a place of domesticated nature, I remembered Every man for Himself (1980). It was the scene with Nathalie Baye making a similar move against a green background of trees and Jean Luc Godard decided to freeze the image and fragment it to remind us that it is an image. My bad bike was like Godard's intentional gesture. There, as throughout his whole cinema, the jump cuts in Breathless (1960), or the commentary on dancing in Band of Outsiders (1964), what he did was to remind us that images are images, and that cinema is a collection and a combination of them. They are not life, neither are them the truth, but it may happen that there is truth in them.

          While I was biking, I asked myself what made me do a pilgrimage like this one. Godard's cinema is far too important for me, but it was never for him that I thought I would be biking. It is one of those things that you discover at the heat of the moment, something that as an impulse can reveal something about yourself. I started to search in my memory for what kind of gratitude had made me do such a route. Even without being a sportswoman, even with my legs already sore in that strange way that can even bring you a kind of pleasure, I kept taking some breaks, thinking about the movies and the words. I remembered when I was 17 and read Godard talking about cinema starting from the visuality necessary to see certain invisibilities. Something taken for granted, well understood by my generation, but that was then very new to me, and still guides me even when I am not aware that it does. I kept biking.

         I deeply hoped that along the way I would meet a dog. One of those dogs without pedigree but so film-like as Goodbye to Language’s Roxie. It was one of the first movies I thought of when I heard that Godard had left us. I thought of the current Godard, 3D, with the animal cause among its fights. I thought about the saturation of greens, the kind of images he connected in it, and the more or less drifting boats who are taking us through Brazil, Europe, Palestine, Serbia. On the way I met this small dog who spoke to me, and also the woman carrying him. Before him there was a big-headed cat, like most European cats and those from Film Socialism (2010) that represent such an immense rebellion, freedom, and tension seen in that movie, which I saw in a theater and have never watched again. Things were happening and films started being remembered.

       Some movies were spinning in my head, and they have remained very present since. First Name Carmen (1983) has been a constant ever since I rewatched it. The helplessness of the artist and of the social bandit. It is a film that has the sad beauty of a deep understanding of lost struggles. The same is true of Our Music (2004). Especially after the loss to fascism in the 2018 Brazilian elections, I have been thinking about defeat, about the formal treatment given to defeat by filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard. In what seems like defeat, but is actually just the rule of things, which art and resistance can reinvent, as he told us, in Je vous Salue Sarajevo (1993). An image decomposed in an Eisenteinian manner to discuss a state of affairs, of long length. After Godard's death, I rehearsed how to say all these things. I felt like crying many times on the way, thinking about how his cinema is one devoted to the beauty of lost causes and a stab at persistence in face of that. I thought about living and dying in Je Vous Salue Sarajevo, about the open struggle made out of primary colors and blunt messages in La Chinoise (1967), I thought about the dilemma proposed by Glauber Rocha at the crossroads in Wind from the East (1969), I thought of the images Godard produced and the new images he created out of images from others in Historie(s) du Cinema (1980-1988) and The Image Book (2018). I thought about Our Music again.  

         The connections that Jean-Luc Godard traced, his image books, the words he transformed into image through a series of articulations that belong to him alone, everything composes a beautiful and rebellious whole in praise of inadequacy. Godard lived and died as an inappropriate, in reversal, imperfect, very certain, mistaken, lost like a Pierrot between reds and blues, like a free organizer of thoughts, melancholic as the main character of his In Praise of Love (2001).  

        The year is 2022, Jean-Luc Godard's movies circulate through the air, in torrent files, on cell phone screens, looping in art exhibitions, reminding us of something that remains: inequality, injustice. But also, the radical inadequacy, the dignity of images of those who fight, the rule of culture, of capitalism, and art as an interruption of this order. Like never - as in Kiarostami, as a flower in the middle of Tehran, as in André Dias poem, - art interrupts this rule and helps us to keep going even in the most devastating realizations. Even when you can't get funding for a next project, even when there are those who still don't have enough to eat, who still can't live in peace in their own country. At the end of my ride, after almost four hours, already standing by the lakeside, half crying at night, holding a flower that I would leave for him, I found that I rode for Godard as a praise to love, to love this world despite of it, or in praise of anything, a praise for remaining the reverse of a ritual like this announces. Thanks!


October, 2022

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