Film legend Godard blames Greeks for Cannes no-show

17th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Film legend Jean-Luc Godard, known to some simply as "God", disappointed his following by cancelling a rare and much anticipated appearance at Cannes Monday for his latest movie "Film Socialism."

In a message of excuse as laconic and obscure as some of his recent works, the French New Wave icon said he was unable to attend "following problems of a Greek type" -- whether budgetary or Greek-style tragedy was unclear.

References to ancient Greece, including Sophocles, Pericles and Euclid are peppered through "Film Socialism", which releases this week in theatres and can be downloaded on the Internet Monday and Tuesday.

The 100-minute kaleidoscope of image, sound and SMS-style text journeys through history and ideas, from ancient times through the Second World War, the Holocaust and the plight of Palestinians, a pet Godard theme.

The reclusive, almost 80-year-old director, who shot to fame with "Breathless" starring Jean Seberg in 1960, and followed up with classics such as "Alphaville" and "Contempt", had been keenly awaited at the film world's largest annual event.

"I will go until death with the festival but I will not take a step more," he also said.

Expectations amid the several thousand film critics at Cannes had been high, both for the film and his scheduled follow-up press conference, in hopes it would match his unique provocative presentations of the past.

Fifty years after "Breathless", his latest work, which film lovers fear may be his last, is the first since 2004 to screen at Cannes and was shown in the "Un Certain Regard" section of the festival.

Although a steady trickle of people exited the theatre during the screening, the reflective film won warm plaudits from the critics, with French director Agnes Varda commented that Godard had lost none of his special touch.

Borrowing sound from the likes of Beethoven and Chet Baker, Godard cites writers from Goethe to Sartre to Shakespeare as inspiration and throws sample cuts from Eisenstein to Youssef Chahine.

The saga kicks off aboard a cruise ship, cutting from quiet sea-backgrounded scenes and elliptic statements on deck to high energy shots in the ship's casinos and clubs.

"War is war but a crime is a crime," says one character.

"We face a kind of zero situation," says another.

"What happened to the Spanish bullion," wonders another in reference to gold that went missing in the Spanish civil war and in Russia.

As in recent Godard works, printed statements on screen are not necessarily related to the action.

The second of the three-part saga is set in a garage in France, where journalists film a lama and a family whose children are about to run for a local election on a platform to ban the verb "to be".

Without Godard on hand, the text and sub-text remain difficult to clarify.

But asked in production notes to state the difference between cinema and films, he says: "Cinema is not necessarily to be found in films."

© 2010 AFP

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