It might seem surprising that directors Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Soderbergh, Wes Anderson, and the Coen brothers have never made a movie in 3-D—while monsieur malcontent/hater of all things Hollywood Jean-Luc Godard has. Then again, the 83-year-old has rarely missed an opportunity to use film as a means of messing with audience perceptions, whether by choice of subject matter or technique. Soderbergh, in fact, recently said in The New York Times, ”There just isn’t anything interesting happening now that he didn’t do or try first.” His 1960 debut, Breathless, innovated the use of jump cuts, which are de rigueur for goosing up action movies today. His last feature, 2011’s Film Socialisme, was partly shot on his cell phone. And while his newest, Goodbye to Language, is a ponderous reverie on the themes of love and pain that have consumed his brain for half a century, 3-D is the ideal toy for an old enfant terrible like Godard to play with. Packed with dazzling images, the film makes 3-D feel like something brand-new to the medium.
Acknowledging from the first shot that the ”3D” (which we see in red block letters obscuring the puny white ”2D”) is the main attraction, Godard proceeds to pull and then stretch glimpses of beauty from the everyday. The reflection of trees on the surface of a pond. Windshield wipers. A couple (Héloïse Godet and Kamel Abdelli) meeting behind an iron gate, their hands lightly touching on the bars. Close-ups of their dog (played by Godard’s own, Roxy) looking forlorn as the subtitles change dimension depending on the position of her nose. As usual, Godard’s dialogue is riddle-filled—several discussions are had on the toilet, with one character musing, ”Our thoughts regain their place in poop.” But his best magic trick comes in two scenes of romantic quarreling. Godard splits the 3-D image so that each of our eyes focuses on a different lover as the couple push apart in opposite directions. In someone else’s film it would be a technical glitch. Here it’s perfect: fraught love as migraine vision. No doubt Godard appreciates the fact that 3-D—much like life—can give you a headache. B