The latest film from Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, 84-year old icon of the French New Wave (you know the hits: Breathless, Pierrot le fou, Contempt), after a smash-hit two-night run at the Cinerama earlier this month, gets a full run of shows this week at the Uptown. In keeping with the director’s late style, it’s a series of disjointed and overlapping ruminations and jokes, half-oblique narrative and half-essay film, shot in an experimental digital 3D that is guaranteed to slice out your eyeballs. Like a handful of other auteur projects (Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Wim Wenders’s Pina), Adieu au langage (I prefer the French title, if only because it’s riffed and punned on throughout the movie) makes the case for the potential of digital 3D to add something truly new and wondrous to the art form, rather than simply as a tool for ever more “spectacular” effects designed to lure teenagers to the multiplex. There’s a kind of a plot, about two couples, or one couple twice, but like most late Godard, it isn’t, for the most part, immediately comprehensible (Professor David Bordwell has helpfully elucidated on his website his reading of the plot and its structure, along with a lot of other insights gleaned over much research and several viewings). Yet despite the gnomic impenetrability, few 2014 films are more immediately pleasurable, more of an experience. Under the sheen of narrative games and puns and references both literary and cinematic, at the center of it all, is a dog, Roxy Miéville, wandering the countryside, beside a lake, through a woods, a natural world utterly transformed by the phantasmagoric possibilities of digital cinema.
(Goodbye to Language 3D plays digitally at SIFF Cinema Uptown 1/23-1/29)