Criterion Project #6: 2 OR 3 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER (1967)

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her

Year: 1967

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

This is the first of only two Jean-Luc Godard films in my collection, and the other one is WAY down the list so this is a rare opportunity to talk about the New Wave icon. I’m not sure why I have so few of his films, which could be something to explore in the future (perhaps a commentary on the re-watchability of his films?) Godard certainly has a “way” about him that is unique. I think 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, in particular, appealed to a burgeoning young cinephile because of its structure and concept, or perhaps its “Godard-ism”.

Before this watch I had a vague recollection of the concept of this film – a discussion about language. All these years later and I think that’s still an apt description of the plot, though I might re-word it and say the film challenges the idea of structures (as most Godard films do). Ostensibly, it’s a meandering slice-of-life movie about a Parisian housewife from morning to night.

First we’re greeted by a whispering narrator, who is none other than Godard, himself, droning on about the horrors of capitalism. I don’t recall my impression of this tactic from my first watch but this go-round I found it annoying. The twenty-something-year-old version of myself who fancies himself an intellectual wouldn’t be happy with me saying that, but it’s true. It’s Godard being overly self-indulgent with his need to subvert conventional narrative structures. Younger me is just going to have to come to terms with it.

That being said, the discussion of language is still a fascinating one. Godard essentially has an extended conversation between words and images about man-made structures. While he yammers on about economic systems, he intersperses images of construction sites around Paris to highlight physical structures being built. And when he does cut back to the story the characters are interacting with a soundless interviewer regarding the purpose and meaning of language (which is also a man-made structure).

In true philosophical form many questions are asked and none of them are answered. So the film is basically the visual representation of a philosophy paper, which makes me wonder what philosophers think of Godard’s work. The entire exercise is one big giant question about how we’re to blame for the condition of society and where it’s headed if we stick to this model.

In that sense you’d have to say he was right to question things. Is society any better off than we were in 1967? Capitalism is strong as ever, industrialization continues, and I’d venture to say language has never been more rocky from a structural standpoint. But maybe that was the point? Language is the most pliable of these concepts (and, boy, are we testing those limits these days) so it’s easiest to see the evolution of that particular structure.

What does it all amount to? A thought-provoking film that basks in its stylistic choices. Godard is infamous for his director-ly flourishes and it’s no different here. Also, his disdain for humans is so incredibly palpable in this film, you truly believe he would hit the reset button on civilization if such a thing existed.

If we consider blowing up conventions to be “Godard-ian” in the truest sense of the term, then this might be the most Godard film of them all. It dares to ask, if humans have built this entire civilized world with no meaning behind anything except what we ascribe to it, and if we consider that humans are awful, then what does anything mean?

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