Jean-Luc Godard‘s “King Lear” (1987)
I first watched Jean-Luc Godard’s “King Lear” on a TV a long time ago with three older, heavy drinking and masculine roommates. I picked it up from Jumbo Video down the street and convinced them that viewing it on a Friday night on the sole television in the house would be a good time.
Nearing the end of the movie, I was the only one still awake or in the room and I was completely captivated by the final scene. It consisted of a long shot of Woody Allen quietly cutting a film in a New York studio. It was a surprise to see him and it was an unusual image of Allen — not smiling, not talking. He was concentrated, relaxed and very serious. And somehow, as usual for the end of a Godard film, the scene was mysteriously full of hope.
I thought of this scene for some reason recently and wanted it to keep me company while I was doing a bit of banal work on my computer. I couldn’t find the clip at first, but found a video of a conversation between Woody Allen and Godard that took place just a year before “King Lear.” It was made by Godard and was titled “Meetin’ WA.” I opened a small window for it among other open files on my screen and listened while I worked. There were no other sounds.
The two men sit across from each other in a hotel room. It is 1986. The camera shows the back of Godard’s head and is primarily focused on Woody Allen’s face. They talk quietly back and forth, and eventually come anxiously to the subject of video and television. Godard leans in and asks Woody Allen,
“Do you have the feeling that something has really changed?”
Like his appearance in “King Lear,” Woody Allen here doesn’t smile or joke around. But he does look a bit nervous. He seems slightly alarmed by Godard, who is kind of playing with him. He says he is worried about the pettiness of the small image and the tragedy of young people seeing great films for the first time on their television sets. Godard is worried about the confusion of too many perspectives – too many channels coming in. They are having trouble communicating.
As I leaned closer to their little window (though as flandersfails points out in the video’s text comments, “this interview is kind of bad actually”), I started to have the feeling that I was from the future: Exciting but worn-down computer gadgets surrounding me. My worries are very different from theirs, my head is nearly five times as big as Allen’s and three times as big as Godard’s, and they have no idea that I both learned of and opened their conversation in practically the same moment, and that it took me one second to slide an arrow beneath them so that I could hear them discuss, again, the possible dangers of televisual radiation.
They have no idea where in the world I am. They have no idea what kind of a monster I am, that I saw most of their movies before I was 18 on a small television in my mother’s basement, that my viewing habits were random, indecipherable, and included quite a lot of television, that there were no guardians or curators bringing them to me other than the kids at the local video store. Or that, at 18, I had yet to see one of Godard’s or Allen’s movies on film, in a city, or even to understand that anyone needed me to.
Because I didn’t know anything about the fear involved in this small screen business, their movies have always been completely mine. I have loved and owned them and they have affected my life. I appreciate very much that they managed to reach me in the places where I happened to grow up. I always understood this to be a combination of generosity and accident.
I bet both directors, especially Godard, would be sort of happy to know how many young monsters like me there are in the world. And I would bet that out of all the directors I can think of, these two would probably be the first to tell me to watch other respected directors’ films on a big screen, but that my mother’s basement would have been just fine for watching their work. I would tell them that it’s magic to be a giant monster in a tiny little theatre. And I would tell them that somehow, even though there are now more channels than we can imagine, things are mysteriously beginning to make quite a lot of sense.
I know that this video is being offered for viewing, but I will warn you that mirella99 concurs with flandersfails initial warning (mentioned above) and adds that it “is like a badtrip.” okuhfesa most recently adds, “Mwahahaha.”
But here it is if you are curious.
Jean-Luc Godard, “Meetin’ WA” (1986)
And here is another video that I highly recommend, a too short outside-in-the-bad-weather dancing video from an eighteen-year old, from who-knows-where.
princeofdreamz, “Umbrella Girls” (2007)
– Margaux Williamson