Aug 12, 2016

Numéro deux

While La Nouvelle Vague alpha-auteur Jean-Luc Godard (Alphaville, Pierrot le Fou) is credited with many singular accomplishments as a filmmaker, including discovering and defiling Danish diva Anna Karina and inspiring multiple generations of filmmakers in terms of how they looked at and created films, few people seem to realize that he has directed what is undoubtedly one of the most epically banal and uniquely incoherent yet nonetheless somewhat intriguing fuck flicks ever made. Indeed, Numéro deux (1975) aka Number Two is an insanely inept anti-erotic abortion of the oftentimes infantile sort where the viewer has the distinct voyeuristic misfortune of spying on the sexual habits of three generation of one family under a single roof in a very cramped apartment where the children regularly pay witness to their mouthy Marxist mother’s rather bushy beaver and impassioned rants about her irregular bowel movements and lack of sexual satisfaction. Originally ostensibly intended as a remake of the director’s legendary debut feature À bout de soufflé (1960) aka Breathless, the film has virtually nothing in common with its black-and-white predecessor aside from being also produced by Georges de Beauregard on a fairly meager 6,000 franc (or $120,000) budget. In fact, it was de Beauregard that originally proposed that Godard direct the remake, which the filmmaker agreed to do, but like many of his film projects, he had no real intention of honoring his agreement with the producer and instead ultimately sired something totally different with decidedly dull and innately materialistic and sexually pathetic Marcusian undertones. As Godard stated himself in regard to the importance of utilizing the same exact 1960 budget as Breathless for naughty non-remake, “the originality consists in saying that the cost of living has increased by a factor of four, but we are making a film with . . . the same budget.” Made after the director’s two failed marriages, declaration of the death of cinema in Weekend (1967), foolish adoption of then-trendy culturally corrosive scam of Maoism, less than artistically fruitful five-film collaboration under the quite fitting name ‘The Dziga Vertov Group’ with young Jewish communist Jean-Pierre Gorin between 1968 and 1973, and troubled recovery from a life-changing motorcycle accident that resulted in the loss of one of his testicles and the development of various psychological problems like agoraphobia, Number Two was intended as a big comeback film of sorts for Godard, but it was, somewhat predictably, an abject failure that remains fairly obscure to this day even among the filmmaker’s die hard fans. Of course, Godard should not have expected anything less when he deceived his fans by agreeing to remake his first and arguably most popular film, but instead created what seems like a quasi-feminist family film for the hopelessly sexually autistic and vaguely incestuous. 

 Once described by Godard himself in 1975 in Politique Hebdo as an “ethnological film” that could literally be named “The Sexual Economy of the Inhabitants of Lower Grenoble,” Number Two is ultimately an unintentionally absurd and bizarrely comedic anti-erotic cinematic experiment where the auteur demonstrates his pathological obsession with both Marxism and sexual perversion by crudely attempting to link poverty and unemployment with sexual impotence and constipation. Indeed, centering around three generations of one family living under the same roof in a white prole ghetto in the southeastern France city of Grenoble, Godard’s somewhat creepy and oftentimes embarrassingly ridiculous film depicts a patently pathetic microcosm of (post)Marxist moaning and bitching where a young mother complains that she has not shit in two weeks because she cannot find a job, an elderly grandfather plays with his tiny shriveled up penis while recalling the good old days of communist activism and his friendship with kosher commie leader Henri Krasucki, and a young father confesses his minor shame in regard to a sad and pathetic “family affair” involving his prepubescent daughter witnessing him brutally sodomizing his cheating wife. A film featuring perennially flaccid pricks, close-up shots of a little girl’s vagina, and a mother and father that give their children a rather intimate lesson about their genitals and what they describe as ‘love,’ Number Two is a film that is unmistakably the work of a pathetically perverted sexual cripple and tiresomely pedantic intellectual with a strange talent for draining out all of the joy, magic, and intimacy of sex, hence why he was probably divorced by two of the cutest French film stars of their era. 

 Aside being a comeback film for Godard, this piece of unintended kitsch was also intended as the director’s first attempt at creating a new type of cinema that had completely transcended anything that he or any other filmmaker had done before. Armed with a new film studio full of then-state-of-the-art video equipment (in fact, a good portion of the film’s budget went into said equipment) and a new central collaborator in the form of his photographer companion Anne-Marie Miéville, Number Two—a film that’s title indubitably announces the second big phase in the filmmaker’s uniquely uneven filmmaking career—is the sometimes intriguing and almost always awkward failed first cinematic experiment of an artistically desperate auteur in the middle of both a personal and artistic rebirth. As his American Judaic biographer Richard Brody noted in Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard (2008), Godard began publicly attacking his former comrades from Cahiers du Cinéma in 1975 by accusing them of being nothing more than derivative hacks as indicated by remarks like: “I am amazed that people who lack ideas for new films (including some old friends like Truffaut, Rivette, who don’t have any more ideas than the guys whom they denounced twenty years ago), continue to adhere to the one and self-same system of filmmaking, which is easy to describe: a sum of so many million, multiplied by so many weeks, multiplied by a certain number of people.” Suffering the supreme and seemingly aesthetically retarded delusion that the new video technology of that time was a superior medium to actual film, Godard was convinced that, not unlike a megalomaniacal mad scientist in his laboratory, his new film studio would lead to revolutionary cinematic creations that would change mankind, yet Number Two is anything but groundbreaking unless you look at it as a rare example of a quasi-incestuous family film for politically active pedophiliac art fags. Indeed, not unlike Anthony Aikman’s The Genesis Children (1972) and Pier Giuseppe Murgia’s Maladolescenza (1977) aka Puppy Love starring Eva Ionesco, Godard’s film is a patently preposterous post-counterculture cinematic oddity that some might describe as kiddy art-porn. Thankfully, unlike Aikman’s and Murgia’s films, Godard’s cinematic work is relatively conservative when it comes to the naked naughty bits of children. 

Seemingly partly inspired by the plotless and naturalistic gutter realism of Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey, Number Two could easily be mistaken as a piece of eccentrically assembled cinéma-vérité were it not for the random mundanely executed and clearly contrived Marxist and feminist diatribes that are sprinkled throughout the film.  Indeed, the commie dialogue and narration in the film is so phony and inauthentic sounding that it is as if Godard included these things in the film to convince himself of his own misguided and clearly abstract politically beliefs. Somewhat giving the viewer the impression they are watching security footage that was shot in a claustrophobic apartment with little room for movement, the ‘film’ features the tiresome gimmick of having one or more video monitors in virtually every single frame, with Godard himself immediately breaking down the fourth wall by appearing at the very beginning in an extended introduction from the comfort of his own film studio and babbling pretentious pseudo-hermetic twaddle about how it is a “factory” where he is the “boss,” thereupon underscoring his glaring post-Maoist psychosis.  In short, Godard wants the viewer to seem him as a ‘worker’ in the commie sense who has achieved the bolshevik dream of owning and controlling his own factory where he produces true blue prole cinematic products via his own extensive self-directed ‘labor.’  Somewhat ironically, Godard’s old school Hollywood hero Nicholas Ray would beat him to the chase in terms of cinematic innovation with his similarly experimental multi-monitor swansong We Can't Go Home Again (1973), with a rough cut of the film having its Cannes premiere in 1973. Additionally, Jane Arden and Jack Bond’s extremely underrated final collaboration Anti-Clock (1979) makes Godard’s film seem like both literal and figurative child’s play in terms of its clever and fairly idiosyncratic utilization of archaic video technology as a tool of dark voyeuristic intrigue. On the other hand, Number Two still proves to be quite the shocker to anyone familiar with the director’s early overtly cinephiliac classic cinematic works like Breathless, Le Mépris (1963) aka Contempt, Bande à part (1964) aka Band of Outsider, and Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965), among countless other examples, as the film seems like it was created by someone with a deep-seated contempt for cinema, especially of the genre oriented sort.  Indeed, one certainly gets the sense that Godard's one-time leading man Jean-Paul Belmondo was right when he declared in 1980 in retaliation for his former collaborator unkind public remarks, “There's no doubt that the person I saw who called himself Godard, with his lies and his little tricks, has nothing to do with the auteur of BREATHLESS, PIERROT LE FOU, or BAND OF OUTSIDERS.  The Godard of the 1960s is dead forever.”

 If Godard’s foremost object with Number Two was to alienate his audience in a most obnoxious fashion to the point where they want to violently smash their TV, he indubitably does a splendid job at the beginning of the film where he rambles on in his film studio while his four-eyed face is visible on a monitor that is sitting a couple feet from his partly headless body. Indeed, Godard spends about the first ten minutes of the film speaking in a somewhat unnervingly self-righteous fashion about his new and hardly improved form of pseudo-metaphysical Marxist filmmaking, stating, “I’m the boss. But I’m a special kind of boss because I’m also a worker. And I’m not alone as a worker. We’ve taken power […] I was ill for a long time and that made me think about the factory. I’d say what’s wrong here is, there’s too much DNA, not enough RNA. We learned it in school. You can’t ever use what you learn in school. It’s a pain in the ass. The government has closed half the schools in the area. They shove us into school and teach us useless things. If I say ‘DNA, biology’ to you, you wonder what I’m on about. I’m talking about you and your program.” According to Godard, “wordplays” and “puns” can cure illnesses, thus they are not “worthless.” While Godard makes vague reference to having been “ill,” he neglects to mention that he lost a testicle during said illness, which may or may not explain his new sense of cinematic perversity in the form of obsession over the interfamilial sexual habits of card-carrying commie proles.  Undoubtedly, if Number Two convinced me of anything, it is that Godard only understands sex in an abstract and intellectual sense, as if he was born without the capacity to get aroused by the smell or curves of a woman and thus looks at the flesh of the so-called fairer sex with the cold detachment of a space alien, hence his quite questionable sexual interest in prepubescent children.

 While Godard’s strange introduction is oftentimes incredibly intolerable, it is nothing compared to the repugnant narrating of an unseen female narrator that follows him who asks many redundant questions and then sometimes includes equally redundant answers as indicated by the following innately irritating piece of intellectual masturbation, “This film, Number Two, shows all of this. Unbelievable things. Things in close-up. Ordinary things. Shitty things and pleasurable things. Where does it happen? Pleasure is complicated. I think so anyway. I think pain is simple, but not pleasure. I think unemployment is simple. Not pleasure. And you see, when you find pleasure in being unemployed, it leads to Fascism. Number Two. This films is not left or right, but before and behind. In front are children. Behind is the government. The children of the homeland. Of the homeland. In school, you learn it’s a factory. Cinema is a factory, too. A factory that manufactures images. Like television. There was once an image. There were once two images. There was twice a sound. There were once two sounds. Number one and number two. Number Two. A film by Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard, with Sandrine Batistella, Pierre Audry and others. Number Two. Coming to this screen son. And this screen is on a wall. What do you think this wall is between? Another political film? It’s not politics, it’s sex. No, it’s not sex, it’s politics. So is it about sex or politics? Why is it always either/or? It can be both sometimes. Sometimes. Which times? We always say, ‘There was once.’ Why don’t we ever say, ‘There was twice.’ This film, you see, is called Number Two. What does it talk about? Talk, talk. You can listen sometimes. You can watch. You see, Number Two, is a film you can watch. Watch peacefully. Watch what? You don’t always need to go far. There’s quite a lot to see.” As the above quote clearly demonstrates, the female narrator is not only redundant, but exceedingly obnoxious, not least of all because she a fiercely grating frogrette voice. 

 When the ‘feature presentation’ finally begins and the viewer no longer has to suffer Godard and the female narrator's pseudo-esoteric ramblings about mostly pointless nonsense that rarely provides insight as to what will follow, the viewer is introduced to a precocious little girl named Vanessa who asks her more or less completely naked mother Sandrine Battistella, “Will I bleed between my legs when I’m big?,” to which she receives an affirmative “yes” and is told to watch out for boys because they can be “hard work.” While Sandrine describes boys as “hard work,” her hubby Pierre Oudrey has a lot trouble just getting a proper hard-on.  Of course, as the viewer might have predicated, Godard attempts to link Pierre's impotence with capitalist tyranny and poverty, among other asinine absurdities, even though everyone knows the Bertolucci-esque stereotype of peasants making for passionate and virile lovers. Notably, towards the beginning of the film, Pierre pisses in a sink while his hysterically horny wife bitches, “I love your cock. But it’s always you who decides! It’s hard work” and then tries in vain to get his cock hard by stroking it. In fact, Sandrine is so desperate for dick that she apparently cheats on her husband Pierre, who naturally decides to get revenge, or as he states himself in regard to his wife while sounding rather pathetic, “I wanted to rape her. She let me, so I fucked her in the ass. She started screaming. Afterwards we realized Vanessa had been watching. Family affairs, I suppose.” Somewhat curiously, an image of little girl Vanessa is superimposed over a shot of Pierre sodomizing his wife, thus underscoring Godard’s dubious fetish for awkward interfamilial fucking. Needless to say, it is no surprise when Vanessa confesses, “Sometimes I think it’s pretty, Mummy and Daddy, sometimes I think it’s caca.”  After all, a child cannot help but think of the perils of poop after seeing their enraged father penetrate their mother's bunghole with a pulsating pecker.

 Out of everyone in the family, Sandrine, who is always flashing around her tits and dark bushy beaver in front of both of her kids, is easily the most insufferable and just all around repulsive, which largely has to do with her whimsical bitchiness, lame leftist sloganeering (e.g. “Anarchy isn’t a bomb, it’s justice and freedom”), self-absorbed fits of rage, and overall anti-maternal behavior. Indeed, aside from giving her daughter a bath while talking about her vagina and giving her kids a fucked up form of sexual education that involves exposing her aroused genitals, Sandrine does virtually nothing for her children and instead spends most of the time trying in vain to arouse her unsurprisingly impotent husband, who seems to know better than anyone that there is no greater turn-off for a man than a bitchy broad that loves to pontificate about her poop problems. In fact, when Sandrine is not bitching about her lack of cock intake, she is yammering on about the fact that she has not had a proper bowel movement in two weeks. In what is arguably the most overtly ‘tender’ moment of the entire film, Sandrine calls her kids into her bedroom while she is completely naked with her husband, touches her vagina, and then states while playing with her labia, “See this? They’re lips. My sex lips,” to which Pierre replies in a fatherly fashion while touching his peter, “See here, it’s a kind of mouth. And with this mouth, you kiss your lover’s sex lips.” After showing off her pussy to her kids, Sandrine states, “It’s called love. Love teaches us to talk” and Pierre adds, “And when it’s all over, Death put its finger to its lips and tells us to be quiet.” Unfortunately, it seems no one has ever told Sandrine to be quiet, as she is always talking even though she has nothing to really say. As for Sandrine’s thoughts about being a mother, she makes things fairly clear when she states in regard to the birth of her son, “I shitted him out from between my legs. And now everything’s blocked. I had to stuff myself. Even gladly. But it’s too strong. My tissue is torn. I get the feeling that everything I say is shit.” 

 In what is arguably the most grueling segment of the entire film, Godard juxtaposes footage of ‘grandma’ (Rachel Stefanopoli) bathing using a wet rag and a sink with insane feminist (translation: anti-female) quotes from loathsome female eunuch Germaine Greer like, “Women do not realize how much men hate them. Punished, punished, punished for being the object of hatred, through her orifices, her mouth and cunt, poor Taralala. Women never commit sexual crimes even when they are enacted upon the bodies of men. The male perversion of violence is an essential condition of the degradation of women. Women cannot be liberated from their impotence by the gift of a gun, although they are equally capable of firing them as men are. Men are tired of having all the responsibility for sex, it is time they were relieved of it. The vagina must come into its own. It’s worth repeating. The female attitude to violence is inseparable from this problem.” As subsequent narration indicates, Godard seems to believe that a woman can only be truly happy if she revolts against traditional female norms and traditions, which is somewhat ironic when one considers that Sandrine—a reckless mother and intolerable wife that puts her sexual drive before her own children—seems to be totally miserable, but of course the viewer is expected to blame her misery on capitalist tyranny and imaginary bogeymen like the patriarchy.  Of course, as a sad impotent cuck that can only get an erection upon feeling enraged that his wanton wifey has cheat on him, Sandrine's husband can hardly be described as a tyrannical patriarch.  In fact, in Sandrine's family, the grandfather is even berated by his grandchildren without the children having the slightest fear that they may be punished for their less than respectful indiscretions to their elders.

 If grandma seems to be a little bit senile, grandpa (Alexandre Rignault of Jean Renoir’s La Chienne (1931) and Georges Franju’s Les yeux sans visage (1960) aka Eyes Without a Face) is strikingly sharp by comparison for an old school Marxist true believer, but then again, as he proudly describes himself, he was a revolutionary at a time when it was not exactly safe to be a revolutionary and thus he can hardly be compared to the candy ass ‘bobos’ (aka ‘bourgeois bohemians’) that became Maoists during the late-1960s like many of Godard's friends and acquaintances.  Unfortunately for grandpa, he gets little respect from his rather ungrateful family and even his own grandson will not let him use the television so that he can watch a Soviet propaganda film (or what he describes as a “Russian film”).  As Grandpa remarks in regard to his past employment at Auschwitz, “You don’t tell anyone you worked in a death camp and the CEO was Hitler, or that you took the wages simply to survive.” According to Grandpa, he was once a loyal shabbos goy deputy of French Jew commie and trade unionist Henri Krasucki, but clearly he never received even a tiny degree of the power or prestige of his ex-boss, as he now spends his golden years rotting away in a tiny apartment with children and grandchildren that treat him like he is a great nuisance. During a slightly humorous scene where Godard seems to mock the viewer for enduring his softcore family sitcom, Grandpa sits completely naked at a table while telling old commie stories about his glory years as a frog Bolshevik and eventually remarks with gusto while grabbing his tiny shriveled penis, “Instead of watching movies, I watch my prick.” One certainly gets the sense that if Grandpa had not raised his kid(s) to be Marxist morons, his film would be, at the very least, slightly less fucked up. In short, Numéro deux might fail in many regards, but it indubitably makes for a great case against commie parenting and virtually every form of the Marxist Weltanschauung.  Indeed, the Marxist lumpenrproles of the film do not seem to believe in anything aside from their own misery.  Rather fittingly, Godard reappears at the conclusion of the film while looking fairly dejected and distressed, as if he has realized the film he has just realized he has produced the artistic equivalent of diarrhea and he is not happy or comfortable with what he sees.

 While I am somewhat hesitant to accuse him of being some sort of proud pedophile based solely off of Numéro deux, I cannot ignore the fact that Godard would continue to demonstrate with subsequent films that he has some of little girl fetish and that he hardly seems to be ashamed of that fact.  Indeed, for one of the episodes of his largely forgettable 12-part TV series Six fois deux (1976), Godard directed a disturbing scene of his companion Anne-Marie Miéville’s then-10-year-old daughter doing a completely naked ballet routine. Arguably even more disturbing, Godard blackmailed 9-year-old Camille Virolleaud to get naked for his TV miniseries France/tour/detour/deux/enfants (1977-1978) by threatening to stop the shoot if she refused to comply with his serious demand for completely unclad preteen titillation. Not surprisingly considering that virtually all of her classmates would see her naked after the miniseries was broadcasted television, Virolleaud was totally traumatized by the self-described “hyperviolent” experience to the point where she denied ever even being part of France/tour/detour/deux/enfants for two decades.  Of course, it should be no surprise that Godard was a comrade of kosher commie Daniel ‘Daniel the Red’ Cohn-Bendit, who is infamous for describing in his book The Great Bazaar (1975) aka Der grosse Basar how he engaged in erotic encounters with 5-year-olds while a teacher at a so-called ‘anti-authoritarian kindergarten.’ Rather disturbingly, Cohn-Bendit’s pro-pedo views were not exactly atypical, as it was a common belief among both intellectuals and layman alike associated with the student movement of 1968 that children should not be forbidden from anything sexual, including child-adult relations. One must also not forget that both Miéville and Camille Virolleaud’s mother gave their full consent to Godard to direct scenes featuring their unclad prepubescent daughters, thus underscoring the warped parenting trends of that time. Either way, it is unequivocally creepy and alarming when a middle-aged four-eyed ‘intellectual’ is so concerned with getting a little girl disrobed that he threatens her in the sort of manipulative manner that one would expect from a craven sexual predator, but then again Godard does not look like a sort of frog Woody Allen for nothing (incidentally, Allen would have an uncredited cameo in Godard’s preposterous cinematic disaster King Lear (1987)).

While not plagued with child nudity, Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980) aka Every Man for Himself is another example of where Godard exploited a child for sexual reasons. Indeed, apparently Godard developed a strange infatuation with Swiss auteur Alain Tanner’s daughter Cécile Tanner and, not unlike the stereotypical scheming pedo, attempted to appeal to her by promising to direct a film about her involving her favorite sport of soccer. While Tanner would eventually get to play a soccer girl in Every Man for Himself—Godard’s self-described “second first film” and, unlike Number Two, his true comeback flick—when she was 12-years-old, she had no idea it would be in an incestuous pedophiliac context.  Indeed, as Richard Brody noted in regard to Tanner’s response upon first seeing the film and realizing that Godard had exploited her in a cinematically sexual fashion without her knowledge, “When I saw it, at the private screening for the crew, I crawled under my seat, I was dying of shame.”  Of course, considering that Godard is a long celebrated figure among film academics and a good number of respected mainstream film critics and virtually all of these individuals are staunch leftists, if not downright communists, he obviously gets a pass for his dubious sexual proclivities just like Allen and Polanski.  In fact, Godard's Judaic biographer Brody spends more time in Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard complaining about the filmmaker's supposed antisemitism than his more overt and well documented little girl fetish, but I digress.

 As a result of my somewhat recent discovery that Godard is a longtime enemy of Zion, noted critic of Claude Lanzmann’s singularly overrated Zionistic pity party Shoah (1985), and fan of great alpha-antisemite Louis-Ferdinand Céline (whose classic novel Voyage au bout de la nuit (1972) aka Journey to the End of the Night he once attempt to adapt), my general disdain for Godard began to wane over the past couple months, yet after watching Number Two—a virtual vision of prole parenting purgatory as directed by a man that seems to think that carnal knowledge and crapping are of equal significance—I cannot help but feel overcoming disgust for the auteur. Still, at the same time, I somehow cannot help but to feel a bit of pity and Fremdscham for old man Godard, as his film strikes me as the product of a socially and sexually inept emotional cripple who has retreated to a hopelessly lonely inward realm of worthless and outrageously outmoded quasi-Marxist abstractions and debasing aberrosexual fetishes because he can no longer stomach the metaphysical pain of living in the real world. Indeed, Number Two is ultimately the curious product of a childless unmarried family suffering from a curious combination of neurasthenia and delusions of grandeur who looks at a nuclear family with less passion and intimacy than a microbiologist would look at bacteria, hence why he has probably never had a family of his own (apparently, he once got his first wife Anna Karina pregnant, but she had a miscarriage). Undoubtedly no sane man sexually healthy father with a daughter would have a sort of self-destructive urge to direct nude little girls or depicting them in sexual situations with naked adult men that are fiddling with their cocks. Ultimately, Number Two features about as much socio-political insight and carries about as much cultural weight as Godard's somewhat autistic remark, “Once we know the number one, we believe that we know the number two, because one plus one equals two. We forget that first we must know the meaning of plus.” Of course, one can never truly trust the art or thoughts of a goofy looking guy who let a marriage to a great beauty like Anne Wiazemsky go to shit because he devoted most of his attention to a young Jewish communist like Gorin.

Forget inbred Appalachian meth heads, Detroit wiggers, and oxy-addled second generations polacks from Baltimore, Number Two features what can be described as the ultimate white trash family in what is the post-Sartrean intellectual equivalent to literal poverty porn.

-Ty E

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