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Cannes 2010 Day 6 - The Worst Film of the Festival

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Mark Kermode | 11:18 UK time, Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Three reviews today: Kitano's Outrage, Godard's Film Socialisme and Kiarostami's Copie Conforme and one of them is by far the worst film at Cannes this year with days left to go...

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  • Comment number 1.

    I have been waiting for this review of Godard's new film with baited breath ever since I heard the initial rumblings from the press. Mr Kermode, once again did not disappoint. I love the fact that by seeing the worst film in Cannes, it has added that extra spring in his step and now he genuinely looks he is having fun.

  • Comment number 2.

    Holy Moly, what's that? An obnoxious stand-up comedian pretending to be a film critic? I don't quite get the joke.

  • Comment number 3.

    I love the fact that the man who 'famously' shouted at a screen in French can call a film pretentious! And the idea of the person next to you "reviewing the film with their left leg" Dr K you are a living legend!

  • Comment number 4.

    Mr. Kermode, you have left me with no doubt whatsoever as to the worthlessness of your criticisms on the matter of film. Anyone who considers a dated shocker (namely, The Exorcist) to be the greatest ever made should not be allowed to go near serious cinema (let alone get PAID for it). You might find yourself getting less frustrated if you avoid work meant for adults...

  • Comment number 5.

    Blimey, the Godard fanboys are out in top form today. For me, he is the poster child for intellectual masturbation. I like some of his films (namely Alphaville and the gloriously bonkers Week End) but most of them are pretty worthless exercises in self-indulgence.

    From Todd McCarthy's review:

    "Whereas Godard's one-time comrade-in-art-and-arms and subsequent favorite whipping boy Truffaut adhered to Jean Renoir's generosity of spirit, Godard has long since become the mean-minded anti-Renoir, someone who can say nothing good about anyone except himself. Like his film, it's not a worldview that says anything to me at this point."

  • Comment number 6.

    Yeah I liked reading McCarthy's and Ebert's response to Godard's latest, because they're was a distinct feeling of disappointment. I was so excited about getting Dr K's review but I feel a bit sick now in seeing my favourite critic seemingly revel in the failure of one of cinema's most important figures.

    I seem to remember Stewart Lee saying in an interview how he hated stand-up audiences that had already been won over by the comedian before they began, how he found it disconcerting when the entire audience is on the side of the comic and that medium is at its best when an audience has to be won over and is divided.

    I feel the same about this situation. I like the way Dr K seems to cut through the artspeak, pretentiousness of some 'arthouse' cinema, and I like how he's not won over by Godard simply because of his reputation. But when I saw him jumping for joy at Godard's latest, I was left saddened; it felt like he wanted to dislike it just to stick it to the Godard fanboys and pander to his blog fanboys (something I've never really thought he'd do).

    I trust Dr K's response, just a bit miffed he was so happy it sucked.

  • Comment number 7.

    Fair enough.

  • Comment number 8.

    Let us please remember that this was a very entertaining blog

  • Comment number 9.

    This still IS a very entertaining blog. I'm sure Mark isn't revelling in shadenfreund that the lastest Goddard movie is cobblers. He was probly just in a good mood, and more so that he overcame the urge to walk out so he could say without reservation 'This movie sucks'. Mark doesn't like pretensiousness for the sake of it, and omitting subtitles is just that.

    I'm glad he didn't pan the new Kitano movie (surely Zatoichi is his best film?) but at the same time it sounded like it was damned with faint praise. Ah well, between that and Nakata's apparent dud, The Housemaid may be the only asian movie I'll watch from Cannes.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think it is interesting that the two posters who 'contributed' to this blog attacking Kermode don't appear to have posted ever previously... hmmm why go on a blog specifically to get annoyed? If you don't like his criticism, don't tune in!

    Also Owelle, I can assume from your reaction that you were in attendance at the screening and can of course validate your attacks with reference to your opinion of said film? Oh, right... so you haven't actually seen it then? This gives you the right of reply how exactly?

  • Comment number 11.

    Yowser! That was a flappy handed extravaganza! I totally agree with you 'boyinabubble' it certainly has put a spring in Dr K's step. That is definitely the most animated blog yet by far.
    Oh dear! the Godard film does sound like a pretentious, overblown art installation piece, and a bit of a case of the Emperors New Clothes with most of the audience.
    Good on ya Mark for saying what you think. I wish you had stood up and played the part of the child pointing out that the Emperor was infact naked, by sreaming at the top of your lungs.
    For a film expert as yourself to come out of that screening and say you "literally" could not understand it then it has to be pretty poor.

  • Comment number 12.

    In Kermode's considered opinion, "Film Socialisme is a pile of shit".

    That clinches it then.

    The most hilarious part in Kermode's hissy fit is when he claims he would be amazed if any distributor would take the film. To bad no one bothered to inform him the film was premièred and simultaneously distributed via web stream.

  • Comment number 13.

    Dr K
    A wonderfully animated performance from your good self that really cheered me up after a hard day's graft. As MargeGunderson rightly pointed out it's 'The Emporer's new clothes gig' all over again. There are many supposedly high brow films that I have never quite 'got' and have been made to feel like a social outcast among my film going buddies as a result.;-) Sorry but.... You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. There endeth the lesson.

  • Comment number 14.

    I just KNEW it was going to be the Godard. It's bemusing to consider how much reverence his work still receives today in spite of having had one good decade of film making forty years ago then not making anything of interest since. Redfield's "intellectual masturbation" comment is right on target, Godard's current output of work more resemble a series of student film projects than something one would expect from a director with fifty plus odd years of experience in the medium. The whole Film Socialisme deal sounds like that scene in Ghost World where the girl has the tampon in the teacup.

    But it does seem to have put the zeal back in you! Imagine if you had just had a completely wonderful time at Cannes with no missteps, what a horrible waste that would be, right?

  • Comment number 15.

    I love it, best video blog of Cannes, and of course you were ripping a movie to bits. Being a studying film student at the School of Visual Arts, I'm exposed to quite a few classics. Godard's name pops up a lot and just to see how far he's seemingly fallen is wildly intriguing.

    Cheers from NYC!


  • Comment number 16.

    What a wonderful blog from the Good Dr. Brilliant that he thought Socialisme by Godard is such a pile of 'merde'. I abhore nothing more than an existential wankfest and it looks like this movie is the one of the festival to beat.

    Nice to see Dr K in full rant mode. Keep the energy up and give us more of those "large, velvety hand" moments.

  • Comment number 17.

    it's great to see a film critic saying exactly how he feels about a movie!
    I'm sure that if 'film socialisme' was the debut of some wannabe auteur director he'd have given it an equally rabid mauling. i can't stand it when reviewers sit on the fence about a bad film out of respect for a once great filmmaker.
    all the best directors have got at least stinker on their CV ( the wiz, popeye, dune, anything oliver stone has done in the last ten years...).
    a bad film is a bad film regardless of whose name is on it.
    in fact, can anyone name a director who has never made a terrible film?
    sorry mark, i'm stepping on your toes a bit there, i'll leave the homework assignments to you. keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 18.

    Poor Dr., I feel sorry for you having sat through a Godard movie. The last good Godard film was Weekend, over 43 year ago!

  • Comment number 19.

    I like how some people seem to have a formula for their comments;

    Dr K's opinion + extra irrelevant fact that gives the impression they've contributed something = their own opinion + hope Dr K will give them a heads up on his next feedback post

    Might be being a bit hostile to the Dr K community that I actually do really respect and admire here, but I just feel someone's gotta say something who isn't a Godard fanboy (and will say anything to dispute Dr K) or a Dr K fanboy (who will agree with Dr K no matter what).

    I stick by what I said at 6, all this anti-Godard is kind of unsettling. Again, not a Godard fanboy, in fact in truth I really haven't seen a great deal of his films, I've just read a fair amount about the New Wave, autuerism, blah, blah ...

    Fair enough if Godard's film is crap, I'm sure it is. I don't really get why the man who is a large part of the reason cinema is so globally respected and (more importantly) loved is so happily sneered at? OK, so now he's someone who has been around for too long in the industry and has become terribly pretentious and perhaps even self-important, so what?

    This is the person that was one of the first directors to celebrate 'cool' cinema as art. This is the person that gave several decades of what well respected minds (including Ebert and Kael) found to be some of the greatest years in cinema. Who cares if for every ground breaking film he made forty years ago, he's made a stonker now? That kind of makes sense to me, if you've made that many films.

    Again not saying I'm in love with the guy, I'm pretty miffed at how he seems to despise those who celebrated him - but it's probably that mentality that made him a revolutionary and desire to keep changing. I just think I'd rather see a film made by someone whose trying to do something totally radically different, for a love and belief in their medium and then miss-fire totally, than Pirates of the Caribbean 4 in 3D. So what if it means the good Doctor has to waste a couple of hours in a theatre? Seems like it's worth the sacrifice; maybe Cannes can just realise he's not actually God if he does come back next year.

  • Comment number 20.

    I'd have to agree with the general tone of Matthew Highmoor's post above, which would seem to be the absolute voice of reason on this, and comes from the perspective of someone who obviously has a great deal of respect for cinema, and isn't in the habit of reducing the "unknowable" to some sort of self-righteous punch line.
    The disparity between the general critical reputation of Godard as someone who actually changed the face of modern cinema, and will be remembered alongside names like Eisenstein, Ford, Welles, Hitchcock, Vertov, etc as a pioneer, and the image of the man as it is presented in this thread, as a pretentious "poseur" or a "boring old fart", is strange and rather disheartening. Whatever your opinion of Godard and his work, the fact remains he is one of the most important figures in the history of cinema. Someone who is not only a groundbreaking filmmaker but was (and people tend to forget this) one of the most important film critics of his generation (circa the 1950s, when he was what... still in his 20s?).
    To quote something I read this morning in relation to this very issue; why is it such a threat, or such a big deal, for Godard to make films that simply AREN'T FOR EVERYONE, when (a) there are obviously plenty of people who are willing to grapple with them, and (b) there are tens of thousands of other films that don't make the same demands?
    Lest I be misunderstood, I'm not saying they shouldn't be critiqued. I'm just asking why, of all the things critics or cinephiles can do, so many people keep coming back to the charges of elitism or insularity. And lately this is mostly being done via what Roland Barthes called "Deaf and Dumb Criticism." "I'm an expert, and this thing makes no sense to me whatsoever, so clearly it sucks and the rest of you don't have to worry about it at all. Moving on...."
    I don't deny Kermode his opinion. I disagree with him, as I have on several other occasions as a follower of this blog, or through his early appearances on FilmFour, but I still think one could have a little more respect for a man who is, rightly, considered a legend by everyone from Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, to Pedro Costa and Jia Zhang-Ke. People should try to acknowledge that there is a world of difference between a "bad film" and a "film I don't like". Ones opinion should not necessarily be represented as fact.

  • Comment number 21.

    so what did you really think of godard's latest?

    joking aside, i find him to be one of the most overrated directors of all time, even his "good" films are rubbish

    oh and that's a nice shade of pink your turning into

  • Comment number 22.

    Whilst I respect your views #19 and #20 I feel that you are being a bit unnecessarily defensive. Mark's views on Godard were in fact rather similar to what a few of us on here were saying about Woody Allen too, yet strangely no one sprang to his defence. By passionately critiquing a recent piece of work by either of these directors, their life’s work will not be completely obliterated.
    Any person of talent, whether they are artist, musician or filmmaker, can sometimes be too highly revered. Therefore when they produce a piece of work that is not necessarily up to previous standards people find it hard to criticise appropriately, which is where the “Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome comes in.
    As you said #20 Godard is considered a genius by the likes of Scorsese and Tarantino who in turn are considered to be geniuses by film fans and film students of today.
    Although there will be genuine fans of Godard’s work, who love and understand everything that he does; I can’t help thinking that sometimes the myth of an artist’s apparent genius can be perpetuated simply by someone we respect ourselves, stating it!
    However I’m sure both #19 and #20 do not fall into this category and they are genuine fans that know his work well.
    Maybe Mark could have chosen some better words than “boring old fart” to describe Godard but there is no denying his passion and honesty!

  • Comment number 23.

    I am actually amazed JLG is still getting financing. He's a bit like Peter Greenaway in that respect: rational people still put up the cash for this stuff? Recently I watched Weekend for the first time and it is unmitigated, unadulterated bilge from start to finish. A film in which the action (for want of a better word, and I can think of one but I'll be reactively moderated if I use it) grinds to a halt so people can [1] ramble endlessly on about the evils of capitalism and [2] indulge in incoherent gibberish. I also had my first sight of A Bout De Souffle and whatever innovation and invention it had have frankly faded in the intervening 50 years.

    Yes, Weekend has a very long single-take tracking shot in it. But has The Bonfire Of The Vanities and that's not a masterpiece, is it? Maybe these are films of the moment: maybe you really need to have seen A Bout De Souffle in Paris, in the 1960s, wearing a hat, stinking of Gitanes and surrounded by radicals and bolshy students. Well, I didn't. I saw it in my flat in 2010 with nothing more politically contentious than a packet of custard creams to hand. But really, genuinely great movies are timeless: Casablanca works at home now as well as it did in a suburban Odeon in 1950. Aliens thrills me whnever and wherever I watch it. "Maybe you had to be there" is the excuse for the failed anecdote.

    I guess the great divide is between those who think Godard has fallen from past triumphs, and those who think he didn't have any triumphs in the first place. Personally, the end result of my brief flirtation with Jean-Luc was my fingers blurred to translucence as I hastened with all speed to my online rental suppliers and instructed them to send me something with chainsaws in it.

  • Comment number 24.

    Fair comments from #22 and #23. I was only marginally miffed by Dr K's comments; I get that after watching film after film in Cannes he probably couldn't contain his bemusement,astonishment and disdain for what is probably a pretty poor film. Just didn't like the climate of sneering that followed from most people after who seemed happy that it was crap.

    Liked #23's post as it was just pure and simple opinion and reason; not a fan of Godard, which is fine. I'm not that big of a fan, I fell asleep in Le Mepris. But even if Godard is an immensely overrated hack, there was a time when people absolutely worshipped him (both pretentious arty types and well respected critics and film-makers) and because of what he did (along with his friends) people really took cinema seriously and loved it.

    As a romantic, I like to think of the debates of 'autuer theory' between Sarris and Kael and how much that is down to the films of Godard and the New Wave.

  • Comment number 25.

    I have a question for you Dr K. If a distributor does pick up Film Socialisme surely they will have the common sense and financial intensive to put full and proper subtitles to accompany the film. If they do, do you think the film could be redeemable in some way? I love (some) of the films by Godard and would love to be able to see him make another great (or even good) film. Was it just the subtitles that put you off the film or did it appear that the rest was a clueless mess as well?

  • Comment number 26.

    I for one appreciate the reply at "22". However, I don't think it's being "unnecessarily defensive". Maybe some of the posts earlier in the discussion could be accused of that, but in my case it was more of an attempt to change the one-side bias of the commentary thus far by offering a fresh perspective.

    It's easy to be protective when something you really respond to and care passionately about or find an interest in is dismissed from the position of wilful ignorance, especially when it's done by people who (in their own words) don't understand the work(s) in question - don't even want to understand it - but nonetheless feel the need to tell people they're wrong to even find enjoyment in it. Attitudes like this are, to me, far more arrogant and pretentious than anything in Godard's work.

    The general tone of these comments maintain the position that Godard "hasn't made a great film since Week End", which is complete untrue. It's like saying Bob Dylan hasn't made a great album since Desire. Maybe Godard, like Dylan, stopped being relevant a long time ago, and these days he's is just a museum piece, or a name to look up in your history books, but there are nonetheless a lot of admirers of Godard's work post-1980 (serious critics and cinema goers alike) who write passionately about it, who really enjoy the exchange of ideas, who appreciate the sometimes broad sense of humour, who are stunned by the incredibly rich sound-design or the beautiful cinematography, etc.

    In fact, several critics cited In Praise of Love (2001) and Our Music (2004) as two of the greatest films of the last decade in the same issue of Sight and Sound that Mark Kermode contributed his own list to.

    But Dr. K's response, not just to Godard, but to several other directors who approach cinema from the same perspective (i.e. about ideas), such as Van Sant and von Trier, seem to occasionally come from a position of benign prejudice. In music, a hip-hop fan can find their own way to something meaningful, just as a jazz fan can find their way to something that works for them; a sound or style that they can claim as their own. They don't have to attack one style to promote the other; they don't have to destroy one to enjoy the other. The view of cinema however tends to be much more limited; everyone has an idea of what a movie should be... what it a movie can achieve; and anything that deliberately moves away from that is dismissed, often as a knee-jerk reaction.

    Maybe that sounds conceited, but so much of contemporary cinema caters to a single demographic. We like to pretend that it doesn't - and if someone didn't like The Dark Knight they can still find worth in Shutter Island, or Wall-E - but in truth, 99% of all films released conform to a standard: narrative driven, three act structure, emphasis on character, everything building to a climax, etc. Beyond that there is a tiny, tiny minority of films that really strive to offer a genuine alternative, that attempt to create debate, stir up a fuss, or inspire thought and agitation. We may not like these films, but given the increasing dominance of franchise cinema/cinema of spectacle, which basically offers the movie equivalent of a pop-up book, surely it's good to have something like Film Socialism come along every few years to get people talking?

    P.S. I was just as annoyed with Mark's off-hand dismissal of the last few Kitano films as being "too quirky" or whatever, but that's not the way the discussion went.

  • Comment number 27.

    Congrats Mark,
    one of the funniest blog yet!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    "As a romantic, I like to think of the debates of 'autuer theory' between Sarris and Kael and how much that is down to the films of Godard and the New Wave."

    That's a fair point, but it doesn't improve his films any.

    I'm just not a fan of Godard. I love unconventional films and respect that there is a certain historical relevance surrounding Godard's classics, but watching them today they just feel like a lot of valueless posturing and his newer work is worse if anything. It's easy for me to dismiss Film Socialisme because it sounds exactly like something Godard would make and my past experiences with Godard's films - unfortunately too many - have spanned from indifference to annoyance. That may not sound fair to some people, but there are enough truly interesting films out there to see that it seems silly to waste two hours of my life watching one that sounds terrible just to make a superfluous point (though I suppose Kermode can because he actually gets paid for it). Films that are different for the sake of being different or simply exist to provoke or agitate can be just as dull as any cookie-cutter movie of the week.

    Oh well.

  • Comment number 29.

    I'm a massive fan of Godard from Breathless to Week End, all great films over a wide range of genres but after the 68 Student Riots he went totally up his own arse and lost it, one or 2 films afterwards are good but saying that Alphaville, Bande a part & Pierrot Le Fou are still 3 of my favourite films of alltime.

  • Comment number 30.

    Oh ya, one more thing.... The reason I love early Godard is 2 reasons... he was basicly making arty versions of American b-movies and Anna Karina.

  • Comment number 31.

    I preferred Jean Luc when he was on Star Trek..., um, oh wait...

    The Pierrot Le Fou re-release was one of my favorite films last year, and cheered me up when we'd had a few weeks of consistent rubbish. On the other hand the ponderous Hail Mary almost had me going from deriding the religious protesters outside the cinema to contemplating joining them afterwards for purely secular reasons. I've not subjected myself to any "newer" Godard since, which may be small and bloody minded of me, but there's self preservation to consider.

    Godard has become a purely art filmmaker, not necessarily good art, but only driven by his own aesthetic. Enjoying or even appreciating his work entails buying into that aesthetic, which is too high a price to pay for me. I find it by turns humourless, polemic, cod-political, cod-poetic.

  • Comment number 32.

    Kitano - Yakuza, violence, thats a stretch for him. Looking forward to it.

  • Comment number 33.

    How ironic; a blog about pretentiousness at Cannes, and we get a load of pseudo intellectual, pretentious drivel commenting on a pretentious film. Please, this isn't Newsnight Review. Unclench.

    No, I haven't seen this god-awful Godard film, but then I'm not a moron who thinks I can only reserve judgment on a film until I've actually watched the stupid thing. Yea, like I can't really tell if stepping in a cowpat will be an unpleasant experience until I've actually sought one out in a field somewhere and stepped in one. *rolls eyes*

    Believe it or not, you CAN judge a film without ever seeing it. That's how I've managed to miss most of the 'merde' coming out of Hollywood over the years (unlike some people who actually seem to like wasting money on films they KNOW will be butt-clenchingly awful). And yes, Godard's 'Socialisme' as Mark so eloquently illustrated for anyone with eyes in their heads, IS pants. Come on, be daring. Judge a film you haven't seen. It's easier than you think.

    Great rant, great video.

  • Comment number 34.

    Well, Kermode is judging something that he HAS seen (even though he acknowledges the fact that he doesn't understand it) so that's not really an issue. Although it must be said, the smug gloating about Film Socialisme having "no chance" of being picked up for distribution was awfully close to "I think this film is terrible and I'm glad no one is ever going to see it", which, you know, sounds a tad like creative censorship to me; and coming from someone so highly recognised and respected as an advocate of free-expression/anti-censorship, just seems a tad hypocritical.

    Anyway, the film has the support of Agnés Poirier, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Peter Bradshaw and Mark Cousins, who called it the best and most exciting film at the festival.

  • Comment number 35.

    It's a pity that one of BBC's film reviewers thinks he can inflate his ego by calling Godard shit. If he had any sense of history, he might have known that Godard (like Eugene Green, for instance) feel that English is the language of political and cultural (USA predominantly) imperialisme, and that's why he's 'provoking' you (and has done for more than 25 years). Also, it's a telling example of someone behaving like the typical islander, boasting about not knowing French.

  • Comment number 36.

    I suspect from your knowing smile at the end that you were provoking a bevy of comments, but Godard's work has been discussed for decades and will be dicussed for many more. He is an artist and sociologist who uses the medium of cinema and the immediate effect of his films, which you miss if you are too busy snoring, cover vast ranges of human knowledge, although they dispense with narrative like a child's toy, and, yes, you've got to do some work, but the rewards are well worth it. Have a look at the Hell section of Notre Musique and tell me recent Godard is rubbish and that you truly love and understand cinema in the same breath. Cannes looks great fun from a critic's POV.

  • Comment number 37.

    Could this be a lost Godard?

    The Doctor and the Pencil


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