Jean-Luc Godard’s decision to be a filmmaker is interesting given that perhaps more than any other director he has a fascination with words and language. Films like Alphaville and Film Socialisme at times seem more interested in the written word than in cinema and his latest film is even titled Goodbye to Language.
Two or Three Things I Know About Her… follows the life of Juliette Jeanson (Marina Vlady), but it’s not that much about her. Yes, the events of her life—shopping, taking care of her children, and moonlighting as a prostitute to make ends meet—comprise moments of the film, but they’re rarely what is significant about any particular scene or sequence.
For instance, when Juliette is introduced the film’s narrator (Godard himself) tells details about her and then caps it all off by saying that she turns her head one direction and that it has no significance. The film also introduces Marina Vlady as the actress playing Juliette, narrating details about her in a similar style and also noting that she turns her head in a certain direction and that too has no significance.
This introduction into the movie suggest that while words have significance, images themselves may or may not have significance. A turn of the head may not signify anything, it may only be. However, words always convey or mean something. It’s interesting that Godard uses cinema to explore language, a cinema where the narrative in the film simply is while the film ponders something else.
Narration also factors into the lives of the many characters introduced throughout the film. As a scene plays, a character will often stop and speak directly to the camera, talking about the status of her or his life, what she or he feel, or what she or he are thinking. Words serve as a medium to express the inner-thoughts and feelings of characters that cannot be expressed through images alone.
Words also hold a power over people. Perhaps the greatest example of this is when two strangers strike up a conversation in a café. One of them brings up the subject of sex and how few people want to freely discuss it. He then even goes as far as to say that no one will ever say a phrase he always brings up. Here, the power of words is that they often suggest and convey certain things that are considered taboo and most people would want them to remain unsaid.
These musings on words leads Godard to contemplate the value and worth of words. As the camera focuses on a swirling cup of coffee, an image reminiscent of celestial bodies spinning, he speaks of words as a form of completing the universe. Words, Godard says, are the final act of creation, words complete a thing’s existence.
In the scope of Godard’s narratives, Two or Three Things I Know About Her… lacks the punch of his other films. The narrative is a weaker version of Vivre Sa Vie. However, the pontification on the power of words and many of the film’s sequences are some of the most astounding and thought-provoking of Godard’s body of work.
© 2015 James Blake Ewing