Jean-Luc Godard was one of the French New Wave directors who created
a sensation in the late fifties. His first film Breathless
is regarded as a classic as are his later films Contempt and Week
End. In the late sixties Godard became very involved in far left
wing causes and his films became more experimental and very inscrutable.
By the 80's he finally returned to more traditional story telling and has
continued to make films to this day, though none of them have been widely
seen. One film from this later period is 1996's For Ever Mozart
an obtuse film that has some beautiful images, but lacks the appeal of
him earliest more famous works.
This film is loosely constructed and has only the framework of a plot.
A group of actors travel to war-torn Sarajevo in order to put on a play,
One Mustn't Trifle with Love by Musset. Soon after they enter
the war torn area though, things go badly for the troupe and they are captured
by one of the warring factions.
In another storyline, the lead actress' grandfather is an old film director
(obviously based on Godard himself, at least in part) who is trying to
complete his latest project; Fatal Bolero. In doing so he
ends up arguing with producers who only seem to get in his way.
This is basically an excuse to have characters wax poetically about
their feelings (and by extension Godard's) about war, love, film making,
and politics. As was mentioned earlier, the film is rather obtuse
and hard to follow, and Godard's meaning isn't always clear. In one
scene, for example, a woman is spouting philosophy while digging her own
grave: "Philosophy will be out girlfriend forever. Even if
she loses her name. Even in her absence...And that which is wakeful
in us, even in our sleep, is due to her difficult relationship."
The whole film is filled with dialog like that, with shells exploding and
machine guns rattling in the background. It's not only that the film
is hard to understand though, there is also the nagging suspicion that
it isn't even worth deciphering.
Though the plot and dialog are a mess, the film does feature Godard's
wonderful eye for composition and color. There are several scenes
that are just beautiful, often because of the contradictory feelings they
invoke. One such scene takes place about half way through the film:
There is a quite peaceful lake at sunset, with the last light of the day
glimmering off of the water. A man walks up to a tube on a small
peninsula and fires a mortar shell from the tube, and then walks back as
the report of the shell exploding echoes from the distance. A beautiful
scene showing a horrible action.
Though I enjoyed the look of much of the film, and understood Godard's
comments on the futility and uselessness of, I don't think this is a strong
film. The structure is just too much of a mess, and there are too
many characters in the film. It's often hard to keep them straight.
The philosophical musing of the characters don't come across as deep and
meaningful but rather pompous and purposefully vague. An admirable
try, but not a film that will add to Godard's reputation.
This DVD has a stereo French soundtrack with optional English subtitles.
One problem I had with the subtitles is that they didn't translate everything.
Many small phrases are just left for the viewer to translate by themselves,
which isn't much of a problem, but several whole sentences are skipped
too. This didn't effect the meaning or understanding of the film,
but it was more than a little irritating.
The audio quality was pretty good. There wasn't any distortion
or dropouts, and the dialog was easy to discern. The range was acceptable.
Though there wasn't a lot of bass, this didn't hurt the film.
The film is presented in with its original theatrical aspect ratio (1.66:1)
intact. The anamorphically enhanced image looks good for the most
part. The colors are not overly bright but look solid, and there
is a good amount of contrast and detail. There are some details that
get lost in dark areas such as black coats and shirts, but the blacks are
deep and solid.
With a run time of 80 minutes as opposed to the original run time of
84 minutes, I suspect that this NTSC DVD was created from a PAL master
which results in a 4% speed up. This results in a slightly higher
register for the actors voices, something you won't notice unless you are
very familiar with them. There are usually other artifacts, such
as ghosting, that is a result of this process. I did not see any
such imperfections in this film though.
Unfortunately, there are no extras with this disc. Since it is
such a recent feature, I was hoping that they would include some bonus
material. It's too bad that this disc is bare bones.
For Ever Mozart has some wonderful images, but that's about it.
This complex film doesn't give viewers enough to grasp on to. There
are no memorable characters in the film, as a mater of fact there are so
many people that it is hard to keep them all straight. The political
and philosophical speeches come across as pretentious and dull and don't
spark the imagination. If you are a die-hard Godard fan, by all means
check this out, but casual viewers should just skip it.