Oct 19, 2016

Every Man for Himself

Although I still regard him as a somewhat preposterous and pathologically pedantic quasi-autistic frog who ranks among the most overrated filmmakers in filmmaking history, my opinion of Jean-Luc Godard has changed somewhat drastically over the past couple years and I now at least consider him to be a sort of eccentric cinematic genius whose overall oeuvre is not even really truly appreciated or understood by many of the same communist and left-wing dildos that claim to be his greatest proponents.  After all, even Godard himself regards one of his most famous and insanely overrated films, Bande à part (1964) aka Band of Outsiders, as nothing more than mere hack work that he created to help his then wife Anna Karina's career, or as the auteur once stated himself in regard to its lack of importance in the context of his entire oeuvre, “That's why I called it ‘Bande à part.’ It's really apart, it won't change anything, it's a diversion, a Bande à part.” Despite the fact that he never stopped creating innovative films or evolving as an artist, many people seem to assume that he stopped being an interesting filmmaker after he finished his apocalyptic dystopian black comedy Weekend (1967 film), fired his regular crew, and began living a more reclusive existence. Although Godard did waste about 12 or 13 years creating mostly worthless Maoist agitprop flicks with kosher communist Jean-Pierre Gorin under the so-called ‘Dziga Vertov Group’ and tinkering around with building a video studio and experimenting with then-state-of-the-art video technology, he did eventually return to what he described as “cinema cinema” and attempted to reenter the mainstream with a fairly fine flick that he would curiously describe as his “second first film.”  Indeed, although largely plotless and fairly idiosyncratic, Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980) aka Every Man for Himself aka Slow Motion was a fairly serious attempt by Godard to get back into the public consciousness and create a film that could be appreciated by more people than just ‘bobos’ (aka bourgeois bohemians) and socially retarded film dorks. After finally watching the film, I must admit that is indubitably one of Godard’s most humorous and accessible works, albeit if not for some of the wrong reasons which largely have to do with self-exploitation and what might be described as ‘aesthetic autism.’

 Notable for being an embarrassingly personal work for Godard, especially in regard to his early years with his longtime partner Anne-Marie Miéville, the director once described the title as being best translated into English as “Save Your Ass,” which makes much sense when one considers the absolutely appalling female lovers and ex-lovers that the insufferably hip and emotionally broken protagonist must put up with while walking around like a sullen bohemian ghost. Don’t get me wrong, the overtly autobiographically named protagonist Paul Godard is a too-cool-for-school sack of shit that has incestuous fantasies about his own preteen daughter (who was inspired by Godard’s partner Miéville’s daughter), regularly calls his daughter and girlfriend a “bitch,” and is just an all around unlikable frog shithead that has next to no redeeming qualities aside from his biting sincerity, yet he still seems to have a tiny inkling more of humanity than the “Les Bitches” that plague his absolutely miserable life. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons I enjoyed the film so much is due to Godard’s unadulterated honesty in terms of demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt that he and many of the people in his life are soulless snakes, self-absorbed pieces of elegantly packaged excrement, and intemperate sexual predators with patently pathetic post-Marxist political persuasions who really seem to epitomize everything that is wrong with post-counterculture Europe, especially among the so-called cultural elite (after all, one cannot forget that Godard is considered a national treasure of sorts and that he has been strongly supported by influential leaders like Hebraic socialist Jack Lang, who served as France's Minister of Culture from 1981 to 1986 and 1988 to 1992). 

 Notably, the Criterion Collection release of the film included an essay entitled Every Man for Himself: Themes and Variations by Amy Taubin where the misguidedly gynocentric authoress reveals she has never actually done any serious research on Godard or his personal life by absurdly arguing that the cinematic work is really the director’s “second first film” because he had some sort of life-changing feminist awakening where he realized the errors of the ostensible patriarchal male gaze, but in reality the auteur is a closest misogynist of sorts whose rare feminist posturing is even less sincere than his moronic Maoist phase. In fact, Taubin notes that the only “empathetic connection” in the film occurs between the female protagonists, but any sane non-cucked male will easily realize that the scene in question is nothing more than a stereotypical depiction of the sort of shallow female solidarity that women show for one another against a man that they both happened to have fucked. After all, only a thoroughly brainwashed feminist like Taubin, who once appeared in a film by ultra-feminist Jewess Yvonne Rainer, could describe a film like Every Man for Himself as “erroneously titled” that concludes with the male protagonist dying in the street whilst his daughter and ex-wife walk away in cold indifference (indeed, one can only assume that Taubin believes that Paul Godard's tragic death was well deserved).  Made after the auteur suffered two failed marriages that ended in bitter divorces and causes irrevocable emotional damaged that blatantly affected his filmmaking career, Godard’s “second first film” is the disturbing yet nonetheless devilishly humorous expression of a completely disillusioned man that has clearly given up on the prospect of true love and creating a family, hence the director’s lack of children and continued less than monogamous relationship with Miéville, who can hardly compete with Anna Karina or Anne Wiazemsky in terms of sheer elegance or pulchritude, among other things.

 Right from the get-go with his debut feature À bout de souffle (1960) aka Breathless where the male protagonist is killed after his dyke-cut-adorned American girlfriend betrays him by ratting him out to the cops, Godard revealed in what would ultimately prove to be a lifelong theme that the so-called fairer sex has a certain instinctual lack of loyalty and empathy when it comes to members of the opposite sex. In his semi-autobiographical eight feature Une femme mariée (1964) aka A Married Woman that was inspired by his one-sided marriage to Anna Karina, Godard would argue that modern European women lack the capacity for love and monogamy because they have been brainwashed by magazines, movies, and cultural trends that have instilled them with the grand delusion that the ideal 'liberated' woman is more or less a self-worshiping hedonistic whore of the culturally retarded sort who is only interested in her own quest for pleasure and shallow reputation among other vainglorious women that live to model their largely worthless lives after the fantasy worlds created by the homo advertisers of Madison Avenue. Of course, in Masculin Féminin (1966) Godard would demonstrate that most young women are mindless idiots that have the wants and needs of insatiable ADHD-ridden toddlers. Needless to say, Every Man for Himself—a film that was made at a time when Godard had given up on love and pretty much life in general—is no less unflattering in its portrayal of pretty people with pussies. In fact, the film seems to be a sort of rejection of women in general, so it should be no surprise that cultural Marxist wimp Robert Phillip Kolker once described the title of the flick in his book The Altering Eye (1983) as being “…not only sexist but almost the same as Werner Herzog’s EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF AND GOD AGAINST ALL.” Undoubtedly, only an exceedingly emasculated pansy would describe the title as “sexist,” especially considering the film more or less demonstrates that both men and women are responsible for dysfunctional relationships, even if women are inordinately cold and self-consumed beings that have a nasty knack for being able to turn-off their emotions when it is to their personal advantage, especially when men are involved. 

 In her classic text The Manipulated Man (1971), anti-feminist Jewess Esther Vila expressed a sentiment that Godard would probably agree with when she stated, “Women really are callous creatures – mainly because it is to their disadvantage to feel deeply. Feelings might seduce them into choosing a man who is of no use to them, i.e., a man who they could not manipulate at will.”  Undoubtedly Every Man for Himself is notable for depicting two very different female protagonists suppressing their feelings towards men in a film that subtly demonstrates that women all have a sort of innate quasi-sociopathic quality that is beneficial to their survival. Indeed, as someone that still seems to love her (ex)boyfriend yet wants to be completely independent and start a career of her own as a writer, Denise Rimbaud (Nathalie Baye) cannot give into her true emotions lest she ruin her dubious professional plans. In a somewhat different and all the more debasing fashion, cutesy yet cunty streetwalker Isabelle Rivière (Isabelle Huppert) has to pretend she fancies fat bald old farts because she makes her living peddling her pussy. In fact, the only character that dares to ever expose any degree of personal vulnerability is male protagonist Paul Godard (French rock musician Jacques Dutronc), who makes one last desperate yet ultimately completely hopeless attempt at the end of the film in what is arguably the most memorable scene of the entire flick to both literally and figuratively ‘hold onto’ his ex-girlfriend Denise before she leaves him for good.  In that sense, Every Man for Himself is undoubtedly Godard's most strangely and unforgettably heartbreaking film.

 Divided into three main segments (and a couple sub-segments) that follows three protagonists whose stories prove to intersect in the end, Every Man for Himself is a sort of exceedingly eccentric esoteric romantic-comedy for lovelorn misanthropes and cynics.  Undoubtedly, one could also describe the flick as a melodrama for irredeemably miserable intellectuals who have forgotten what it means to truly feel something, especially when it comes to other people. Not unlike Godard, the autobiographical protagonist Paul—a less than sunny sunglasses-adorned jerk-off that somewhat resembles a more refined and anally retentive 1980s era James Spader—is a filmmaker that works at a TV station, loves fiddling with video equipment, and is responsible for using his professional connections to give his (ex)lover a job working in his trade. At the beginning of the film, Paul calls his ex-girlfriend Denise from a hotel while working on a television project and then leaves the building abruptly after telling her that he will be by to see her in an hour. Somewhat hilariously, while Paul is attempting to get in his car, a racially ambiguous male hotel employee declares his love for him and states in a sickly salacious fashion, “I want you to fuck my ass. Fuck me, sir. I’ve been fucked by half the navy. There’s nothing better than a nice little asshole,” but naturally the rampantly heterosexual filmmaker turns down the rather needy troglodyte's extra odious request. While Paul is not beneath banging hookers and fantasizing about his flat-chested preteen daughter, he is certainly no rectum-reaming homo.  Of course, it is only Paul's bad luck that the only person that wants to fuck him is a disgusting creature that he wants nothing to do with. As far as the viewer knows, the only pussy that Paul is regularly penetrating is that of less than sweet streetwalker Isabelle Rivière, who seems completely incapable of any genuine human affection, let alone love with a man. 

 When Paul goes to pick up his daughter Cécile (Swiss auteur Alain Tanner’s daughter Cécile Tanner) from soccer practice, he talks to her commie coach and asks him in a curiously nonchalant fashion, “You ever felt like feeling her up or fucking her up the ass or something?” In a scene that hints at the director’s somewhat less than ambiguous pedophiliac tendencies, Paul also complains to the coach, “I think it’s unfair that a mother can touch her daughter or son more easily than a father can,” thus underscoring the character's somewhat warped logic and busted moral compass (though one must admit that women are typically more likely to get away with child abuse; whether it be sexual or otherwise).  As a favor to his ex-girlfriend, Paul attempts to pick up filmmaker and novelist Marguerite Duras from a college, but the old hag seems to be absurdly antisocial and never even makes a single appearance in the film. Since Ms. Duras refuses to speak in front of a class that she is supposed to lecture to at the college, Paul reluctantly stands in for her and states to the class in a vaguely melancholic fashion, “I make films to keep myself busy. If I had the strength, I’d do nothing at all. Because I can’t bear to do nothing, I make films. There’s no other reason. That’s the most honest thing I can say about my work. That goes for me too. As for Ms. Duras, every time you see a truck pass by . . . think of it as the word of a woman passing by.” Ultimately, Paul falls to manage to bring Duras to the local TV station where they both work for a planned TV interview, so pissy prima donna Denise reacts by absurdly calling him a “fascist” and smacking the shit out of him right in front of his daughter, thus underscoring the heroine's deep-seated and highly irrational hostility for her ex-beau. That night, Paul eats dinner with his ex-wife and daughter (Paule Muret) and they treat him with bitter resentment like virtually all of the women in his life, so he reacts by calling them “bitches.”  Of course, the only reason Paul's ex-wife agrees to eat dinner with him is to get her monthly child support check.  Not unlike Denise, Paul's ex-wife deeply resents him and has no qualms about letting him know it.  Luckily, Paul has enough money that he can pay for a woman that at least tries to pretend that she loves him and his seemingly wandering cock.

 As hinted at various points in the film, Denise would not have a career in television were it not for her ex-boyfriend Paul, but now she has it in her mind that she wants to be completely free and is willing to live on a farm in the country and work at a publishing company that is owned by another ex-boyfriend to make a new life for herself. Indeed, over-the-hill debutante Denise—a nasty passive-aggressive bitch that no man should have to suffer—believes that her bicycle will bring her true freedom.  While visiting the farm house that she plans to live at, a girl that already lives there states to Denise, “Let me show you something” and then proceeds to drop her pants, bend over with her ass and pussy in front of a line of cows, and proudly declares, “Sometimes they give your ass crack a good lick.” Of course, being an emotionally barren woman that seems to lack a sense of humor, Denise is hardly impressed by the rather raunchy and zany quasi-zoophilic display. As Denise confesses to Paul over the phone in regard to why their relationship is a failure and why it must end for good, “People always say – They always say – They say you need someone to lean on. I wanted someone to lean with. We’ve never really leaned on each other. We never leaned on each other. Something seemed to stop us.” Of course, both Paul and Denise are miserable broken individuals that really know how to make an ugly situation even uglier.  To Denise’s credit, she does not seem to be nearly as innately and irrevocably soulless as Paul's prostitute pal Isabelle, but it seems dubious at best that she could ever maintain anything resembling a healthy relationship.  Needless to say, it is a good thing that Denise does not have any children, as she lacks any real nurturing qualities and could only bring great pain and misery to the lives of any progeny she might spawn.

 When we first meet pretty pussy-peddler Isabelle Rivière—a sassy bitch that lacks tact who seems to loathe everyone and everything, including men and sex—she is waiting in line for a movie with Paul, who is attempting to be a gentleman by taking her on a date even though he is really only with her to purchase her pink-eye. Not interested in the charade of romantic courting, Isabelle coerces Paul into skipping the movie and just going straight to the fucking. While they are having sex, Paul gets annoyed with Isabelle’s blatantly fake moans of pleasures and complains, “stop working so hard” and “stop pretending.” Of course, as the viewer soon discovers, Isabelle seems to lack the capacity for any sort of genuine human emotion aside from a vague degree of melancholy to the point where she seems like a rare women with Asperger syndrome. For whatever reason, all of Isabelle’s roommates seem to hate her and are quite glad that she is moving out of their apartment. When Isabelle’s sister randomly shows up at the flat and begs for money so that she can bail some friends out of jail, the robot-like prostitute gets a sick idea and offers to be her little sis’ pimp despite the fact that she hates pimps as demonstrated by the fact she was roughed up by one while being given the following words of wisdom in regard to her gender, “No one’s independent. Not the whore or the typist […] Only banks are independent, but banks are killers.” To make sure her sister has the appropriate carnal goods, Isabelle demands to see her tits and asks if she has a “thick bush.” To prepare for the pussy-peddling trade, Isabelle also asks her sister, “Have you ever licked a guy’s asshole?” and then remarks, “You’ll probably have to. But don’t just say yes to everything. What guys like is to humiliate you,” thus highlighting her rather misandric view of men. The next day, Isabelle is humiliated by a middle-aged mensch who makes her do a little bit of roleplaying where she pretends to be his daughter, but she fails miserably and is kicked out of the hotel room due to her lack of spirit and emotional authenticity. Luckily, Isabelle bumps into a grade school friend by happenstance who offers her an exceedingly easy job working for a TV station, but she does not even seem marginally interested in pursuing a lucrative career that does not involve allowing strange old men to defile her cunt.  Indeed, it almost seems like Isabelle likes being a prostitute because it gives her some exceedingly warped sense of personal sovereignty (of course, such deranged thinking is not uncommon among contemporary feminists, hence the preposterous propensity of certain porn stars and prostitutes to make lame statements about the supposed feministic qualities of their trashy choice of trade).

 In a nice little twist towards the end of the film where all three of the protagonists are confronted with one another by mere happenstance, Isabelle shows up to an apartment that she hopes to rent and randomly discovers Paul jumping over a table and tackling Denise in an allegorical scene where the filmmaker makes one last desperate attempt to save his relationship by symbolically breaking through the gap that separates him and his beloved. Of course, Paul’s rather sad and hopeless self-described “idea” is a total failure and he confesses, “We want to touch, but we only bruise each other.” Needless to say, little misandrist Isabelle is horrified by Paul’s final last attempt to save his relationship with Denise and complains, “You’re crazy. She looks like she’s hurt,” to which he humorously replies, “She’s got a hard head. She’s a banker’s daughter. I’m going out for a walk.” Not surprisingly, Denise and Isabelle seem to bond over their mutual resentment towards Paul, though the former confesses that it will be hard leaving him, thus revealing that she truly loves him after all even though her extremely harsh words and actions indicate otherwise. In the end, Paul is hit by a car after bumping into his ex-wife and daughter. On top of the fact that she seems totally disinterested in Paul’s previous proposal that they see each other more often, the ex-wife makes no attempt to get him help while he lies dying in the street. In fact, Paul’s ex-wife even says to their daughter, “it's nothing to do with us” and then forces the little girl to leave while her father assumedly dies in the street.  Notably, Isabelle's novice prostitute sister also sees Paul and even seems concerned about him, but her john manages to coerce her into leaving the scene lest the two be spotted by the wrong people. While lying in the street, Paul thinks to himself, “Rather stupidly, I started thinking I’m not dying. My life hasn’t flashed before my eyes. I’m not dying . . . I don’t feel any . . .” 

 Admittedly, one of the reasons I found Every Man for Himself to be so (unintentionally) humorous is because it features a number of absurdly awkward slow-motion scenes that make it seem as if Godard is fairly autistic when it comes to cinematically expressing certain human emotions. Godard named this strangely wacky slo-mo technique ‘decomposition’ and he first employed it in his quasi-pedo TV series France/tour/détour/deux/enfants (1977). Notably, ‘decomposition’ is even utilized in a seemingly unintentionally hilarious climatic scene when the male protagonist is hit by a car, which becomes all the more strikingly odd when one considers that Godard almost died in the summer of 1972 as a result of terrible motorcycle accident that cost him one of his testicles and contributed to him becoming a social recluse of sorts. Surely, there is no doubt to anyone that has seen Godard’s “second first film” that it was directed by a decidedly unhappy and devastatingly disillusioned individual that is haunted by ex-lovers that he believes are ‘killing’ him. Indeed, while Godard might have a cold and unintentionally humorously smug exterior, it seems that a hopelessly haunted and terminally lovelorn man exists underneath. In a scathing review that she wrote on the film for The New Yorker, obnoxious philistine Jewess Pauline Kael somewhat rightly complained, “I got the feeling that Godard doesn’t believe in anything anymore; he wants to make movies, but maybe he doesn’t really believe in movies anymore, either.” Of course, what Kael seems to fail to realize is that Godard had finally matured and realizes that there was more to life than movies and making silly pomo Tarantino-esque movies about movies.  Not surprisingly, Godard would later criticize his former friends from the French New Wave due to their formulaic cinephiliac approach to filmmaking, stating, “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.”  Indeed, while one can argue that some of Godard's later films are nothing more than badly botched experiments, no one cannot deny that he has not continued to evolve as an artist and create cinematic works that were increasingly more complex and challenging. After all, only an obsessively committed oddball genius of sorts could create something like Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-1998).

 Indeed, instead of being a “film about film” like his “first first filmBreathless, Every Man for Himself is a surprisingly vulnerable and incriminating film about a uniquely unlikable and pathetically perverted man that finally got the gall to expose his particularly preternatural persuasion to the entire world.  As Richard Brody described in his biography Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard (2008), Godard did not even write a script for the film but instead created a “video script” that included still photographs of the actors and a voiceover commentary from the auteur where he describes “how I see” as opposed to simply “images of the film, how they will be.” Additionally, after hiring Nathalie Baye as the female protagonist (Miou-Miou was originally cast for the role, but opted out when she discovered she would be starring alongside Isabelle Huppert), he convinced her to let him stay at her country home for several days because, as the actress speculates, he “needed to imbue himself with each of [her] gestures.” In short, unlike his perennially infantile would-be-protégé Tarantino, Godard eventually stopped being a mere cinephiliac fanboy poser and began making films about real-life, most notably his own rather dejecting existence. While Breathless was a big hit that changed cinema history and inspired important film movements ranging from New Hollywood to New German Cinema, Every Man for Himself had a much different fate, including being booed when it was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980, though the film was a relative commercial success and positively received by many critics at that time.  Incidentally, Godard himself would once note regarding the difference between his “second first film” and how he originally approached filmmaking, “With BREATHLESS, I rebelled against all those tired shots with the camera anchored on a tripod, and now I made a film of what I used to think were those awful steady shots.”  Indeed, say what you will about the content, but Every Man for Himself is seemingly infinitely more immaculate in terms of form than Breathless, which is the rebellious work of an intemperate boy and not a thoughtful man with life experience.

 Personally, as someone that initially greatly disliked Godard because I felt his films were too phony and contrived (incidentally, I would later discover that the filmmaker considers some of his most popular films like Contempt (1963) and Band Of Outsiders (1964) to be more or less hack work), I must confess that Every Man for Himself is probably my favorite flick by the auteur. Indeed, in the film we discover that Godard is a bitter, spiteful, and all-around despicable self-pitying twat that patronizes hookers and fancies little girls, but certainly that is more interesting and enthralling to see than the mundane meta masturbation of a sexually challenged film dork like the young immature auteur that directed Breathless, which might be best described as the ‘poser film fanboy par excellence.’ Of course, one also cannot completely write-off the integrity of a filmmaker who once rejected a special prize from the New York Film Critics in 1995 because, to quote a fax sent by Godard, “JLG was never able through his whole moviemaker/career to: Prevent M. Spielberg from rebuilding Auschwitz.”  In Every Man for Himself, Godard rebuilt something that is certainly more horrifying than the Auschwitz showers of Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), as the filmmaker presents his life as a sort of perpetual purgatory where he is consumed by gynocentric ridicule and mockery and pangs of lovesick disgrace, isolation, and personal failure.  In short, quite unlike the director's early films, no aspiring filmmaker one can watch the flick and seriously see Godard as an admirable hero or cool role model.  Still, despite Godard's decided disillusionment with love and women in general, Every Man for Himself manages to express a deep affection for feminine beauty in an understated and nicely nuanced fashion, as if the auteur is almost ashamed to reveal his infatuation with femininity.  Certainly, I cannot think of another film where I became so entranced by a woman's hair blowing in the wind as I did with Nathalie Baye's in Godard's film, which I consider amazing on retrospect considering I found her character to be mostly insufferable otherwise.  Aside from being a one-man pity part, Every Man for Himself is also a film about the tragedy of still deeply loving a person that you have grown to loathe.  Also, the film is a rare cinematic work that manages to communicate the sort of metaphysical affliction that comes with being in love with a person but knowing your relationship with them is hopelessly doomed and that there is nothing you can do about it even though your soul longs to be with them for eternity.  In short, Godard's film is the sort of ruthless romcom Woody Allen might direct if he had some degree of testicular fortitude and was less interested in being a smart ass.

A portrait of the obscenely grotesque joke that has become Occidental love and romance, Every Man for Himself is a virtual testament to Godard's failure as both a man and lover.  Of course, judging by the female characters in the film who somehow manage to be both frigid yet whorish and heartless yet hysterical, it is easy to see why he has thrown in the towel on love. Although Godard might slightly disprove, I must admit that at the end of the film where the male protagonist is dying in the street I could not help but think of José Millán Astray's classic quote, “Death to intelligence! Long live death!”

-Ty E

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