When news broke last year that Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialism would premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, much speculation ensued about what the Franco-Swiss cineaste would say about his film. But he didn't say anything - he wasn't even at Cannes, choosing to remain at home in Rolle. His no-show echoed the final frame of his film, comprising only the words 'no comment' in white on a black background.
Godard might have chosen to say nothing about the film, but he has certainly said a lot with the film. Film Socialism might begin and end by questioning the idea of private property - the first line is that 'money is a public good' and the 'no comment' text is preceded by an FBI copyright protection warning and then the statement, 'When the law is not just, justice comes before the law'. A character also frowns at the verb 'to be', saying, 'Use the word 'to have' and everything will be better in France'. The film also touches on neo-colonialism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The three-parter's first 'movement', Des Choses Comme Ca ('Things Like That'), takes place mostly on a cruise liner travelling through the Mediterranean, docking at cradles of civilisation such as Egypt and Greece, contentious points in modern history such as Naples (a city liberated on October 1, 1943, by the same Allies who bombed it to smithereens) and Palestine, and bastions of new cosmopolitanism like Barcelona. In between, unnamed characters - from war criminals and detectives to Patti Smith - reflect on history, economics and philosophy. A vague narrative follows several individuals' attempts to uncover a conspiracy involving the transport of Spanish gold to Moscow during the second world war.
The second part, Our Europe, is set in a French village. A television journalist tries to interview the 'family Martin', in which the two children, Florine and Lucien, are locked in battle with their parents over a debate about liberty, equality and fraternity. From this, the film moves to its final section, Our Humanities, drawing on the ideas of legendary thinkers and revolutionaries to reflect on the downfall of civilised life and culture in Europe in the past century. All this leads to 'no comment' - but comment is what Godard does, even if in disjointed doses which warrant much work from the viewer.
Film Socialism, June 25, 7.30pm, Arts Centre