I Saw A Film

A story about a communist revolutionary cell, actually an intense little group of boys and girls studying at the Sorbonne.

At the center of this collage of words, both spoken, written on the walls and broadcast on the radio, often all crossing at once, is the poignant story of how the ancient Egyptians wanted to prove that their language was that of the gods and that they taught it to us. A simple experiment was devised and children were isolated away from language and society. When the researchers returned years later, the children indeed spoke to each other, but they bleated like sheep. The researchers had overlooked a sheep pen right next door to the abode.

Godard plays with the ideas of revolution and revolutionary thought, one young woman, Veronique, becomes mesmerized by violence. She hates Liberalism as not being strict enough to enforce discipline. Mao’s words ring in our ears, that there is no event so wicked that capitalists will turn from their system. And Veronique compounds her dedication to violent upheaval, going so far as to tell a former Algerian professor (a freedom fighter himself) that she isn’t interested in the aftermath. She’s only a working-class fighter who wants to end the University and blow up the Louvre. Teaching is disgusting to her, and the revolution should not pretty, and not a party. The professor argues with her, reminding her that she’s part of no actual revolution and that alone she’s really not doing anything of import.

They don’t have the example of Manson to lean on here, that would occur a few years later. After Manson’s sentencing he reportedly said to the prosecutor that he’d almost succeeded, that he’d almost brought about the revolution he so longed for. It wasn’t so, of course, all that had happened was some innocent people were stabbed to death in their homes by his direction to a bunch of devoted followers. It is an interesting contrast of ideology and means, Veronique doesn’t really care, at 19 she merely wants to engage what she sees as a necessary violent act to bring about a righteous upheaval. She brings up the fact that China had closed its universities, we know now what grotesque misery this caused so many young students working to become doctors to find themselves tending crops, like a reversal of natural societal progress. Jefferson became a warrior so that his son could be a farmer so that his son could be a poet. And the lack of feminine roles aside here (we know to include all now) the point is not to tear down possible progress.

I find myself arguing. Isn’t violence, aren’t guns after all, bourgeois? Should an enlightened society provide the finest weapons to its citizenry free of charge? For my end as soon as you’re blowing up busloads of children (as did the IRA) you’ve lost your ideological struggle. You can’t impugn a monster by behaving like one. None of those children deserved a violent death on a bus. But this is not part of our film, I’m off on a terrorist tangent.

Movies cost money but the army is free (basically a socialism) and the communists think this should be reversed. Arts and entertainments should be free war should be expensive. That’s a delightful play, but it falls down, war is expensive, the military is, of course, the most expensive thing we maintain. It only seems free to us because we can join it without cost.

Veronique stops at books, she does not feel books should be burned, but why not? It’s obvious why. It’s all she’s aware of. Her narrow range of studies have prepared her for little else. Her sheep pen has trained her well. Pol Pot is also not brought up, but we’re on the verge of that bizarre, murderous and costly revolution as well.

And of course, American Imperialists are at war in Vietnam. A sad boondoggle that can now safely be presented as such, despite the Ronald Reagans of the world threatening it was silly for us to suggest we could lose that war when we could have paved the country several times over. Yet, lose we did, because paving the nation into a huge grave was not the point. But, the point after all was wickedly lost with the face of a confused halibut staring up from a frying pan.

Arguments abound but in the end when we talk about fighting for freedom and we launch ourselves into battle, tactics require clear achievable goals. And even the great surrealist Godard leans on a pistol to bring the film to a daft conclusion (daft because Veronique screws up the room numbers and has to try again), though, with an overlooked electric gate slowly closing on our protagonist assassins.

I don’t know what to call this film. I suppose it’s a kind of mockumentary long before such things existed. It’s a story of the intensity of this young people driving one another into a frenzy of aimless desire to fight. Are fantasies things that are flagged into purpose by the reading of Mao’s book? Why is Che Guevara still such a popular poster and t-shirt on campuses (much the same reason Confederate flags still flame a kind of rebellious pride (and not just in Southerners) detached from actual Civil War concerns for so many young people. Both Guevara and that flag had abominable ideology married to them.

Impatience is another accusation leveled by the young professor, at nineteen we haven’t got time for a Pinker lesson on the inevitable climb of progressiveness. Despite all we live the best world that’s ever existed right now. Of course there are tips and displeasures and killing and other lousy mayhem. But where there used to be massive poverty, there isn’t anymore. And where there used to be massive hunger is food, and where there used to be basically endless European war is now an EU.

Our current leadership brings about antagonism that riles any progressive. We ball our fists and fantasize about the end of this regime. Crotch-kicking means play out in our fantasies, but the reality is that only leads to more crotch-kicking, and worse.

And so no Manson-esque escalation for us. The Marxist-Lenonists are selling vegetables by the Seine.

It costs dollars to watch French surrealists on Prime.

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