on choosing to take offence; j-l g here and elsewhere


Tricky isn’t it? Actual ongoing ethnic cleansing punctuated by regular massacre, or slack visual montaging in an interesting but ‘off” film by one of very few really significant makers of film ever?

Did you miss the incontinent accusations levelled by supporters of racist killers against Godard recently? I’m not going to disseminate, digest or link to the ‘controversy’ with its easy-peasy ‘infallible’ poison…


It did make me wonder who has seen this film of Godard’s; Ici et ailleurs? Those of the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s? His Histoires? You do know why Godard would never go to Hollywood for an award, of course. Right? Don’t you?


If not, then understand that it isn’t for fear of anything! Two Q.’s: why is complexity so disparaged and why are fools so slavishly embraced? Three! why is no offence taken for Henry? [Tee hee.] There is another frame here which is too crude for me!

A fake controversy given much coverage in the NYT and The G. etc. accused Godard of being racist because of this last flash frame [and a couple of unsubstantiated remarks which are just that], showing two people who actually were murderous racists -for a suggestive moment. The unique acuteness of Nazism’s crimes needs no introduction. However Zionist Israel’s murderous racism is uniquely chronic; pointing it out does not make anyone racist! or ‘anti-semitic’! or relate to anyone’s relationship with Jewishness! Obviously!

Of course the banal truth is presently unsayable; apparently it undoes any critique of Israel’s founding and ongoing dispossession of the peoples of Palestine. I’m not forcing a link and Godard was only suggesting one himself, provoking thought rather than comparing or conflating. Their different but indisputably related offence is so much greater than any conceivable offence created by remarking upon it, that I’m not going to be silently complicit.

In fact, I’m reminded of something Mahmoud Darwish -who died a refugee in his own country- wrote; “defiance is resistance, and resistance is the beginning of being.” That is exactly right and for one thing I resist ‘your’ unsayability, having witnessed what it means day by day by decade. I’d even adapt Darwish and advise those so bottomlessly gratified by the taking of offence to attempt to defy the reflex… resist… etc.

My loathing for murdering racists of rare ilk is unbounded. David Ben Gurion was sure that those ethnically cleansed from Palestine would die off, their children forget. Golda Meir found it impossible to remember the Palestinians -to coin a phrase- so Godard helped her out and reminded us what such forgetting means. Unsayable? Unshowable? When there was criticism of Israel’s well-documented massacre at Sabra and Shatila, the offenders screamed Blood Libel! Really! When Israel sent white phosphorus into UN refugee schools in Camp Gaza 2 years ago, only a collaborator’s silence reigned. I think mass-murdering racists should be confronted wherever -even whoever- they are; there are no excuses.

Finally, since Richard Brody’s very comprehensive biography –Everything is Cinema– was misused and reduced, you really ought to read his response to the recent little confection in his New Yorker blog here or as a pdf of the print page here; The New Yorker. On the narrow issue he writes:

“Godard is also the filmmaker who, more than any other beside Claude Lanzmann, has approached the Holocaust with the greatest moral seriousness; in his films, he has treated it as the central political and even aesthetic crisis of the time and has argued, in films and in interviews, that the failure of the cinema to document the Holocaust in the hope of preventing it can even be described as the medium’s—and its artists’— definitive and irreparable failure. In such films as “Hélas pour moi” and “Eloge de l’amour,” Godard creates a cinema that is deeply infused with the spirit of Jewish thought, identity, tradition, and history. They are not unalloyed celebrations of Jews; they are profound artistic meditations on the intellectual and emotional connections between the complex heritage and the people who bear it.”

Godard has a complex critique of and relationship with Lanzmann. I suppose that I do too in that his Shoah was a mortifying experience to watch on release. However he developed a familiar blindness to Palestine and Palestinians too [undoing his own project, just a little bit, no? These are crimes against humanity after all], so I can’t mention him without advocating the no less mortifying experience of watching the hard-to-see Route 181 by Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan which has been the object of relentless attack for its perfectly appropriate barber shop episode and is full of the horror of living Israeli racism and advocacy of “transfer”. See Cabinet magazine for a re-staging and transcription of the libel trial related to these films here.

Oh and yes of course I have a complex relationship with Godard too! He’s not above reproach. I was re-reading a 1968 interview with Marcel Broodthaers only recently, where he talks of how “whether [she] knows it or not, every artist today is engagé,” and continues “the seeming engagement of people like Godard and others disturbs me.” This is similar to the Situationist line and one I find a bit weary/ing. Like all lines, it’s just too easy to follow it. I’m always a strayer off [explorer/eraser of] lines, into the complex difficulty of what is and what is made.

Actually, I prepared but didn’t deliver a talk on this once, but let me just say that a comparison between the great Debord’s ultimate conservatism viz Paris and even Godard’s One Plus One [shot in London, of course], in all its messy potency, undermines easy sneers about the latter’s engagedness or otherwise. The reason it remains potent and very watcheable today is because he couldn’t keep to any lines! [which is not true of the line-minders filmed in this epic montage-film.]

On the wider issues; read the book! watch the films! keep working at it! keep on into the woods! most of all start or keep on resisting racists! and be scrupulous too!

FN: J-L G bios…

> I’m presuming that you’ve read both books by Colin McCabe; Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy and his much earlier BFI study Godard; Images, Sounds, Politics [1980]. Good luck finding a copy, thanks again K&D!

> On Brody’s definitely strange-at-times account, its worth reading a critique here; Kinbrody and the Ceejays by Bill Krohn or here; Contempt by Adrian Martin.

> I find the absurdity that is HBL very avoidable, but there is this at TheHuffPost.

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