Home Video Hovel: Goodbye to Language, by David Bax
As with any film by Jean-Luc Godard, there’s a lot going on in Goodbye to Language. If there’s a single unifying concept, though, it would seem to be ugliness. Many of the images are digitally muddy and the ones that are clear still use 3D to disorient the viewer rather than wow them, which is 3D’s standard purpose. If this wasn’t headache-inducing enough already, there’s also the technique of splitting the two sides of stereo 3D into completely separate shots. Equally ugly is the sound design, clanging loudly and often placing diegetic sound at higher volumes than the narration.
It’s tempting, what with Goodbye to Language often being an unpleasant experience, to write this garishness off as the misanthropic prank of cinema’s greatest curmudgeon. Yet the dialogue, while just as off-putting, makes clear that there’s more going on. Ugliness of a different sort is the topic of conversation. Human and cultural ugliness, from Hitler to Richelieu to terrorism to war torn Africa, are among the subjects covered.
These conversations aren’t convivial ones either. Many of them are carried out by a couple who seem to weaponize all their thoughts against one another, often while defecating loudly.
Goodbye to Language has to be the first film to embrace 3D for its griminess. The dual images detract from legibility, like smeared ink. The Blu-ray release is available in 2D for those like me who don’t own televisions with 3D capability. Watching it that way cleared things up quite a bit. For instance, there’s a gun in the movie that I never saw in my theatrical viewing. But if Godard’s intention is to be ugly, does the visual relief of 2D betray the film? If I liked it in 2D, did I really like it at all?
One thing remains true of Goodbye to Language no matter how you view it. The best part is the cute dog.
Special features include the trailer, an interview with Godard, an essay by David Bordwell and, as mentioned, both the 2D and 3D versions of the film.