The image, no longer just aurally but visually, becomes firstly a question, and secondly, a critique.   

– Nicole Brenez1

Godard is too Bazanian to commit himself to the loss of “reality”, which is replaced by a generalised interplay of references from one image to another, or to an acceptance that the image can no longer be used as a human means of communication, even negatively.

– Serge Daney2 

I like to argue, in the philosophical sense. But nobody likes that anymore.     

– Jean-Luc Godard3

The above quotes can apply to all Jean-Luc Godard’s work. But they seem especially apposite for Éloge de l’amour (In Praise of Love), his 2001 feature that received theatrical release and a level of critical attention rather unusual at that point in the legendary nouvelle vague veteran’s career. This relative prominence was in part because Éloge took a long time to complete, by the director’s consistently productive standards. It emerged a full five years since his previous feature, the largely “essay film”-like For Ever Mozart (1996), although he had made various shorter works in the same period. But also because, compared to much of his previous decade’s output – especially the series of highly influential video essays collectively entitled Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-1998), the final parts of which were completed during Éloge’s distended early production – this seemed on the surface at least to promise a “return” to narrative cinema, a lure to relative accessibility. True in part, however, as always with Godard, things are also somewhat more complicated. The film turned out to be both more story-oriented and substantive, challenging, confounding, and controversial in part due to the presence of narrative and character shards mixed with the advanced, palimpsestic montage techniques and thorough “work on the image” that marks the director’s career, reaching a kind of apogee with Histoire(s)

I generally consider Godard’s post-1970s work interesting and certainly impressive in sections. But I also at times find the increasingly endless (often misattributed or inaccurate) quotations and striving for aphoristic profundity that marks especially his 1990s output to frequently have an ultimately superficial effect, the intellectual content of which can be deceptive or illusory.4 The scattered references to canonical books, but also historical details, significant French and European locations, and of course films, can easily have the effect of an elitist address effectively shutting out all but those who have soaked up a similar cultural heritage as the author (thereby often also loose generational and cultural – so, European – history and experience). These ruminations – including occasional invocations of what might be called “spiritual” terrain – via voice-over narration, character monologue, or on-screen text, also often feature apparent denunciations of the modern world that can easily chime just as much, if not more, with long-familiar highbrow and conservative positions as the leftism Godard once seemed to espouse. These elements and challenges are also present in Éloge but, for this viewer, in a usually complex, challenging, generative, substantial, and in part radical form. When it comes to embattled diatribes against “cultural imperialism”, an “anti-American” position against the ravages of international capital (largely controlled by the US, and to a far lesser degree Germany, more recently China) is an established left-wing clarion call, but it also has a rich right-wing European heritage more overtly aligning with nationalist and nostalgic chauvinism for what “culture” used to mean in the traditional sense – a world immune to both the crass commercialism associated with the USA but also working-class infringement and other “foreign” influences often via formerly colonial subject societies and waves of post-war immigration therefrom.5 

Upon the film’s arrival, keen followers of Godard’s work were hungry for what promised to be a “return” to the feature film, yet many soon expressed frustration with the results. In the USA and the UK, the film prompted some impassioned responses from often supportive figures typically prepared to defend Godard against his accusers but now voicing complaints along overtly geopolitical lines, accusing the director of rank French chauvinism pitted against the Anglosphere, especially the USA. With remarkable timing, Éloge de l’amour had its US debut at the New York Film Festival only a month after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, with lower Manhattan’s “ground zero” a mere 20-minute subway ride away, followed by a brief theatrical run a year later. This seems to have resulted in some fair-weather admirers of the filmmaker arguing that his long-running “anti-Americanism” had now gone too far, so as to be not only offensive but also harming the political and artistic fabric of the work. 

I share a degree of frustration with Éloge, but for reasons Adrian Martin6 and some others have voiced regarding what can easily seem Godard’s presumption that viewers possess certain often minute and generational knowledge regarding French history and Paris. The film’s discourse on and, in Colin McCabe’s view, “obsession with and romanticisation of the French Resistance”7 can also be seen as opening the door to a kind of national/ist mythos, downplaying questions about the occupation, Vichy period, and the Resistance that were by 2001 no longer especially taboo.8 Nevertheless, especially in light of when it was made, the film offers a rather remarkable and unique essaying of the question most famously posted by Theodor Adorno: the ability or otherwise for art, here cinema, to engage with – let alone represent – the atrocities of history, fascism, collusion, and the Holocaust.9 More particularly, its meditation on such historical tragedy is at least in part undertaken in an effort to understand the connections between it and the subsequent decades marked by the new post-war imperial power, particularly – as the film will suggest via a notorious diatribe by one of its protagonists – the vampire-like function of Hollywood as allied with Washington in buying up others’ history, memory, and trauma in the name of capital, attempting to fill the void of a country whose inhabitants have no proper identity.

This is all brought about through some of the most substantial and sublime “work on the image” in any Godard film (which is saying something), operating alongside and causing the particular recalcitrance with which his work engages fragmented story elements. The filmmaker’s forever idiosyncratic modernism, adapting for the world of cinema Adorno’s question regarding art’s capacity to render reality, is summed up by Gilberto Perez when he writes:

Godard tells stories discordantly, so that they seem out of place in reality, fictions declaring their artifice. It could be said – he has said as much himself – that he just isn’t very good at telling stories and borrows them from here and there without really believing in them. But out of that deficiency he has made a method of modernist art calling into question the adequacy of fiction to reality.10 

When it comes to the artifice, inadequacy, and ethnical transgressions of narrative fiction in representing post-war geopolitics and history on screen, and the role of Godard’s decidedly “bespoke” audio-visual form in prompting such questions and critiques, this essay will home in on the film’s primary source of critical controversy that I am calling the problem of “America” to suggest Éloge de l’amour is one of the most coherent, informative, radical, and ultimately brilliant works the legendary Swiss-French filmmaker has made since his 1960s heyday.11  

Éloge de l’amour

*  *  *

In one of the film’s early Paris-set scenes, we see the apparent protagonist Edgar trying to explain his idea for a project on “the four stages of love” spanning youth, adulthood, and old age (meeting, physical passion, separation, and reconciliation) to family friend and financial backer, Monsieur Rosenthal, in a well-appointed apartment. Edgar insists: “We need the three ages, you see. Or else, the project’s dead. It becomes a story with Julia Roberts… Hollywood. Not History.” Too depressed to accept a glass of wine, Edgar is then asked by Rosenthal about the actors he’s seen so far, in particular a young woman. He responds: “On top of it, she acted in a TV series. That depresses me.” His assistant on the project interjects from out of frame: “I hear she refused to speak her lines. Wasn’t she fined?… That counts for something these days.” Edgar: “True. I’ll make an effort.” We then learn that she also refused to leave a photo. In addition to demonstrating what I find a great example of Godard’s exquisite dark humour, the exchange reveals a doomed, deeply melancholic romanticism concerning the idea of trying to make anything – “a project” – about reality in the context of the present-day “culture industry” and associated international capital, a project that seeks to nonetheless somehow escape, at least in part, inherited (both from the past and the present) dictates spanning form, ideology, and a pervasive misrepresentation of history driven in large part by the USA and Hollywood. 

Framing the thematic significance of Éloge’s approach to montage at the macro level in the form of a two part structure, with the first hour set in present-day Paris shot on exquisite black-and-white 35mm film, and the second set in Brittany two years earlier shot on colour digital video, Colin McCabe suggests: “Here the montage is between the American present and the French past.”12 This is a logic that viewers variously embrace, reject, or express genuine ambivalence about as the film’s means of essaying the relationship between French (and by extension European) history and the political and representational power of the USA. The film’s second section features a fleshing out – by Godard’s standards at least – of story elements rendered as shards in the first hour. Edgar says to Berthe – an elusive character who will become the film’s most important – upon finding her in Paris: “How did you and your grandparents end up with the Americans?” She asks: “Which Americans”, to which he replies with implied bemusement: “Of course, I mean those of the north”. If viewers are understandably perplexed by such elliptical narrative teasers, with the Brittany section (effectively a lengthy flashback from which we never return) Éloge fills in the blanks, bringing together the early 1940s and the twentieth century’s final years. Here we at least ascertain that the film concerns a former colonial power subsequently coming under the control of a new kind of global empire. The representatives of each are, respectively, honourable Jewish veterans of the French Resistance and modern-day foot-soldiers of rapacious global post-war regime spanning economic, political, military, and movie-industry dominance, here called “Spielberg Associates and Incorporated”. The deck, in other words, seems morally stacked as critics of the film point out, with France presented as the innocent, aged party associated with historic resistance to fascism and the USA via unfeeling suit-wearing functionaries of the new order, travelling the world and buying up its people’s stories while caring not one bit for their cultures or histories.13 

The purpose of the US characters’ presence in the film is to sign a contract to buy the story of Berthe’s grandparents for the roles they played in the Resistance. However, like any decent histoire, this one is complex and ultimately without absolute innocence, while at the same time refusing the familiar would-be apolitical liberalism of suggesting both sides have their faults, denying fundamental power imbalance. The result is a perhaps more complex presentation than often assumed, as Michael Sofair suggests in comments indicating why the film caused consternation among some UK as well as US commentators:

More than rewriting the couple’s past, the Spielberg Associates’ film might be seen as replacing or repressing a French memory of resistance with an American story of the Resistance. Yet … what we learn suggests that the Resistance was already a story, a fiction written into French collective memory, which is only being remade by the Americans. We hear that the Resistance was controlled from London and comprised of monarchists and Catholics, the reactionary element in French history that always retreats to England because that is where it came from.14 

This situating of the French Resistance as already myth, a text, a story more perhaps than actual history – or histoire – is important to highlight, if not as stridently articulated in the film as its infamous “anti-Americanism”.

The fragmented presence in Éloge of narrative elements concerning the French Resistance being turned into a story by commercial cinema – in Hollywood via “Spielberg Associates” (with Godard’s public attacks on Steven Spielberg’s 1993 hit Schindler’s List likely well known to viewers15) but also by way of the recent mainstream French arthouse export hit, Lucie Aubrac (Claude Berri, 1997), unnamed but strongly implied – and indeed in a very different, “anti-Hollywood” sense by Éloge itself (also a commercially distributed feature film), provides the director with rich historical and political material. At the heart of it lies an idiosyncratic, hotly debated but also, as I will suggest, extremely resonant and generative treatment of the “America” problem.

Éloge de l’amour

*  *  *

Even more than ubiquitous elliptical quotations that assume intricate historical, cultural, or textual knowledge, the film’s critique of ‘America’ and to a rather less obvious degree, England, seems to have caused most of the attacks on Éloge – at least among commentators from the Anglosphere’s power centres, including writers traditionally prepared to defend Godard against other familiar charges (including, most notably, anti-Semitism).16 Combining US and UK perspectives, McCabe provides a good, relatively sympathetic yet still offended example. Far from alone among such Anglosphere commentators to see Godard’s “anti-Americanism” as a feature of his cinema since the mid 1960s, and “one of the most serious weaknesses of his later work”17, he describes it as a blindness [that] runs very deep. Éloge de l’amour indulges in the crudest kind of chauvinism, which opposes the honest French to the perfidious Anglo-Saxons. … [T]he wound has turned into a scar.”18 Interestingly situating this often disparaged aspect of Éloge as part of “a renewed attempt at communicating with an audience”, Sofair offers the following less inflamed account:

One of the film’s major themes – the relation between Europe and America – is of considerable political relevance, with a potentially revealing parallel in the way the visceral hostility to America expressed in the film proves to be both a distraction from and sign of the unresolved contradictions of Western history that it exposes as the core of our contemporary predicament.19 

Whether Godard, Berthe’s, or the film’s attack on the USA is virulent or, for many US and some UK critics offensive and/or risible (such is the bewilderment that a serious artist could present and seemingly endorse such views, commonly brushed off as simply inherited and therefore traditional, regressive French chauvinism), taking a global view – rather than an offended Anglosphere-centric one – we should be able to understand this perspective as a genuine, inevitable “symptom” of post-1945 history.20 

While Berthe’s Brittany interrogation of the “Spielberg Associates” representative is the most note-worthy when it comes to the film’s “anti-American” dimension, an earlier scene from the first hour refers to the backstory of France’s relationship to the USA in a way that sets up the complex nature of the relationship, belying accusations that Éloge is one-note, and reminding present-day critics of the USA (justified as they may be in many respects) why previous generations might think differently. Upon listening to a US journalist reading from his work on Sarajevo in a Paris book shop, an older man and a younger woman have the following exchange:

Her: The American accent’s awful.
Him: You wanted America, you got it.
Her: Not me, I didn’t ask for anything.
Him: And your parents, in 1944? And your grandparents, in 1918?
Her: What are you talking about?
Him: Nothing. It’s history.

Overlooking for now Godard’s at times familiar gendering of such dialogue  (whereby an older male figure informs a typically younger, attractive, and seemingly uninformed woman about history and politics), this interlude sets the broader scene of the film’s geopolitical address and assault in an appropriate way. Elsewhere in the same scene any notion of a simple binary opposition is again refused, but now incorporating what will become a trenchant critique of post-1945 US power and behaviour, when Edgar says: “There are good Americans, too,” when describing the journalist giving the book shop reading as a political refugee who left the US during the Reagan era. 

The chief source of claims that Éloge in particular offers prime evidence of Godard’s inherently regressive ‘anti-Americanism’ is the remarkable scene two years earlier at her grandparents’ Brittany house in which Berthe, at the time a law student looking over the contract the old couple are about to sign with “Spielberg Associates” to turn their Resistance story into a Hollywood script, interrupts what appears to be the company’s legal representative as he summarises the agreement. A US State department official, the wonderfully named Sumner Wells Junior (who we see flying into and out of Brittany via helicopter), has already reminded the Bayards in no uncertain terms of a basic truth: “Washington is the real director of the ship and Hollywood only the steward. Trade follows films”. Her face as ever shrouded by long hair as well as Godard’s camerawork, shot from behind while the lawyer paces impatiently in the background, Berthe mounts her interjection after he intones that in addition to Juliette Binoche (“who has just won an Oscar”) playing the lead role, the production will hire a “top American writer” for the screenplay. Carrying out her cross-examination, she repeatedly asks what or who these ‘Americans’ are and why they need to buy up the histoire of others. What is often overlooked in accounts of this sequence is that Berthe’s final point is actually, in context, a rather sympathetic one, suggesting that the search for origins is universal in its pathos.21

One of the common criticisms, regarding both politics and art, of Godard’s ‘anti-Americanism’ involves his stereotyping of the US characters – their attitudes, appearance, behaviour, even names (such as Sumner Wells Junior). This is cited by McCabe as a source of annoyance even for a fan and defender of the director with some level of sympathy for what he is trying to do. “Much of what Godard says about the United States is extraordinarily acute, particularly the key role of cinema in America’s global economic dominance”, McCabe offers, but adds: “the cartoon nature of his American characters soon palls, and the stereotypes become borderline offensive.”22 Yet here is a case where Godard’s particular humour comes to the fore, (not that many Anglosphere commentators seem to recognise, let alone like, the jokes), showing his taste for politically-imbued parody. “Modernist parody,” writes Perez directly of Godard’s work, “holds decorum in negotiable suspension, opens to question what the fit between style and subject should be, and what on our part would be a suitable response.”23 For those outside the US imperium, especially when experiencing its brute military or economic power, or variously inside and critical thereof, the consistently parodic treatment of US characters is one of his cinema’s pleasures. Good art doesn’t always have to be subtle, and at least at the level of politics Godard’s frequently is not. If “anti-Americanism” is ultimately “idiotic” according to McCabe and others, Godard is more than happy to provide some moments of base entertainment for those who value satire and parody when attacking real power, gaining some genuine non-intellectual pleasure in the process. The effect can be nothing short of cathartic. His preparedness to employ such broad parody, slapstick, and comedy more generally is one of the central ways in which Godard’s work is able to partially escape art cinema’s liberal-bourgeois gilded cage.

The biggest source of parody in Éloge, an invention so literal it seems astonishing Godard was not the target of legal action, remains “Spielberg Associates and Incorporated”. In addition to this and Berthe’s diatribe, McCabe cites as further evidence of the filmmaker’s Franco-chauvinist “anti-Americanism” his rejection of the New York Film Critics’ prize in 1995 by providing “a list of nine aspects of American cinema which he had been unable to influence. Top of the list was the failure to ‘prevent Mr Spielberg from reconstructing Auschwitz’.”24 The portrait of this remarkably-named company and its two representatives, plus their helicopter-commuting State department ally, is typical for Godard’s insertion of parodic elements within otherwise deadly serious films, as Donald Reid notes while joining the dots:

That the quintessential voice of American culture, Steven Spielberg, would move from the story of Schindler to that of the Bayards is simply an illustration for Godard of the fact that Americans have to buy the memory of others (a raw material which it processes and sells back as mass culture). And William Styron, white novelist who made the African-American saga of Nat Turner into a novel for a primarily white American audience, will write the screenplay for the Bayards’ story.25

There is, then, an even more resonant aspect to the parodic element at work here, one that by implication draws attention to other Hollywood treatments of history both regarding World War II but also the USA’s own dark history and its post-1945 relationship with France and Europe. “Spielberg’s [Saving] Private Ryan evokes the United States’ leading role in the liberation of France,” Reid goes on to add, “but the American memory has no place for the second liberation of France from the threat of American occupation.”26 This second liberation – of France, or any other country under direct US influence – is of great interest to Godard, but often receives little in the way of sympathetic response, or even serious acknowledgment, in much Anglophone commentary.

That the primary liberator becomes the new occupier shouldn’t be a great surprise. Yet it is this ongoing cultural, political, economic, and even partial military occupation or hegemonic control since 1945 that Godard’s “anti-Americanism” is really about, framed in concurrently parodic and deadly serious ways. That this element of his cinema, present from at least the mid 1960s but gathering serious force in the later work, is received with such apparent anxiety, consternation, or curt dismissal by many Anglosphere voices arguably reveals the precision of the filmmaker’s aim and ongoing relevance of his target.

Éloge de l’amour

*  *  *

Despite her being the figure most responsible for articulating the problem of “America” in the film, Godard’s camera never really shows us Berthe’s face. The near total nocturnal setting of the monochrome Paris-set first hour enables him to ensure her face is kept away from available light, only glimpsed in part, or as a vague outline seen in long shot. In the Brittany-set colour section, shot mainly in daytime, Berthe’s visual shrouding occurs – one brief shot aside (seen below), where we get a comparably clear view of her face but still partially smudged as seen through glass and affected by Godard’s video colour effects – thanks to long hair and turning her head away from the camera. Yet this spectral figure is responsible for the most important, vigorously expressed, and contested lines in the film.

On the one hand, hiding her face can be seen as further romanticising Berthe as the film’s tragic heroine – of the film, Edgar’s doomed project, and perhaps of contemporary history, partial hiddenness only adding to her mystique and allure. A doomed tuberculosis-ridden woman whose eventual suicide copies that of her parents, she nonetheless voices nearly all the memorable lines, a spectral figure at once educated in the law, keen student of history and politics, speaking from the perspective of somebody holding down multiple largely working-class jobs in the Paris scenes, and vigorously articulating the most contested lines in the film. Douglas Morrey describes the thematic significance of such a ploy:

What all this means is that Berthe exists for us essentially as a voice. In the final scene of the first section, Edgar says of Berthe, “I was interested in the tone of her voice.” And indeed, since we almost never see her face, and since she often talks in voice-over, it is as a voice that we will remember Berthe, a voice with earnest, interesting and intelligent things to say about various aspects of life and culture, but particularly visual culture.27 

There are reasons to wonder at Godard’s refusal to have his central figure fully, visually enter Éloge de l’amour.28 The instructive pathos, however, of her partial invisibility – this thematically crucial character enacting an unrelentingly critical gaze upon historical reality, while refusing our own gaze upon her – adds weight to the film’s suggestion or argument that such an address, incisive as it may often be, is hard or even impossible to sustain while living within conditions against which Berthe rails but that appear insurmountable.

Éloge de l’amour


  1. Nicole Brenez, “The Forms of the Question”, in Michael Temple, James S. Williams and Michael Witt (eds.), For Ever Godard (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2004), p. 171.
  2. Serge Daney, “The Godard Paradox”, in Michael Temple, James S. Williams and Michael Witt (eds.), For Ever Godard (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2004), p. 71.
  3. Michèle Halberstadt, “Interview with Jean-Luc Godard”, 3 April 2001, Optimum Releasing (DVD), 2002.
  4. Responding to the first instalments of Histoire(s) du cinéma, Parts 1A & 1B, Adrian Martin writes: “It is easy to overestimate Godard’s status as an intellectual: books for him are titles, covers, disembodied phrases or buzzwords, spines on a shelf (as his obsessive browsing in 1A makes clear). As a historian he is equally open to suspicion; under what he considers the keywords of History – resistance, occupation, exile, and so on – he merrily confuses and conflates anything and everything.” Adrian Martin, “Histoire(s) du cinéma 1A & 1B (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1988): Tales from the Crypt”, http://www.filmcritic.com.au/reviews/h/histoires_cinema_1a.html.
  5. France’s colonial history and atrocities are downplayed in the film in favour of concentrating on its replacement post-1945 power. Following the humiliating French defeat in Vietnam, the USA – after offering to help its ally retain such a significant colony by using nuclear weapons to bring the revolutionary forces to heel following the Việt Minh’s historically unprecedented victory at  Điện Biên Phủ – would gradually but irrevocably carry out its own interference in and eventually apocalyptic assault on Vietnam and immediate neighbours spanning two decades, killing millions of civilians. This historical atrocity, today little mentioned let alone atoned for, is briefly alluded to in Éloge when a maid of Vietnamese origin says to Rosenthal, Edgar’s benefactor: “The Americans are everywhere now, aren’t they sir. Who remembers Vietnam’s resistance?” Of the bloody French role in Indochina, Vietnam’s historically unprecedented victory over its colonial rulers and eventually also the USA (at incredible, ongoing cost), only the latter gets mentioned in Éloge. Even so, Rosenthal’s silent handing of a tip to the maid makes clear the post-colonial and post-Cold War order in which France and “old Europe” may have lost out to the USA but are otherwise still on the winning side of an always loaded global game of history.
  6. Martin, “Éloge de l’amour (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland/France, 2001)”, http://www.filmcritic.com.au/reviews/e/eloge.html. In 2017, Martin published a slightly more favourable second review of the film, available on the same webpage.
  7. Colin McCabe, Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70, London: Bloomsbury, 2003, p. 331.
  8. If Godard had made the film in his §”radical” 1967-1977 decade, there would presumably have been more emphasis on such myth-busting, featuring leftist critiques of both de Gaulle’s Free France and the Parti communiste français (PCF) during the war, in addition to questions concerning the make-up, unity, activities, and purpose of resistance fighters (including stateless Roma).
  9. For my attempts to extract a film studies approach from Adorno’s critiques of cinema, mass media, and what we today refer to as popular culture, but he and Max Horkheimer’s influential work called “the culture industry”, see Hamish Ford, “Broken Glass by the Road: Adorno and a Cinema of Negativity”, in Havi Carel and Greg Tuck (eds.), New Takes in Film-Philosophy (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 65-85; and Post-War Modernist Cinema and Philosophy: Confronting Negativity and Time, (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 1-140. One of the two main feature films analysed in the first half of the latter book is Godard’s Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle (Two or Three Things I Know About Her, 1967). For my focussed discussion of the latter film, see Ford, ‘Two or Three Things I Know About Her’, Senses of Cinema 66 (March 2013), CTEQ Annotations on Film, https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2013/cteq/two-or-three-things-i-know-about-her/
  10. Gilberto Perez, The Eloquent Screen: A Rhetoric of Film (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019), p 169.
  11. This essay is the smaller sibling of a forthcoming peer-reviewed article (publishing outlet and date yet to be confirmed) called “Melancholy Archives and Impossible Love: Éloge de l’amour (Jean-Luc Godard, 2001)”, in which I analyse the film through the motifs of “form”, “gaze”, “histoire”, “l’amour”, and “archives”.
  12. Colin McCabe, Godard: A Portrait of the Artist and 70 (London: Bloomsbury, 2003), p. 326.
  13. This even applies when it comes to the primary US-authored belief system upon which the new order is based, post-1970s neoliberal capitalism – in a prime example of Godard’s style of shorthand black-humour when portraying US characters – as Edgar discovers upon telling one of the Spielberg Associates representatives of his grandfather’s involvement in the design of a car she is driving. “So what?” is her clearly irritated reply. He responds: “Don’t you like history, Mademoiselle?”
  14. Michael Sofair, ‘In Praise of Love (Éloge de l’amour), Film Quarterly Volume 58, Issue 2 (Winter 2004/2005), pp. 39-40.
  15. It is important to note here that while his oft-mentioned criticisms of Schindler’s List are well known, the filmmaker’s interest in the question is in fact longstanding. Speaking in a 1962 Le Figaro Littéraire interview while responding to press criticism of his then-new film Les Carabiniers (which portrays the activities of wartime persecutors), Godard said that the only genuine representation of the camps would involve telling a story from the perpetrator’s point of view so as to capture the everydayness, the human quality of such horror. Cited and translated in Tom Milne (ed.), Godard on Godard (London: Da Capo Press, 1972), p. 198.
  16. For responses from US reviewers along these lines, see Roger Ebert, Ed Gonzalez, A. O. Scott, Anthony Lane, and Kent Jones, “Stuck on Lake Geneva With the Paris Blues Again”, Film Comment Volume 38, Issue 1 (January-February 2002), p. 55.
  17. McCabe, Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70, p. 327.
  18. Ibid., pp. 328, 331. Repeating the familiar maxim that “if anti-Semitism has been well described as the socialism of fools, then anti-Americanism is the radicalism of idiots” (p. 228), McCabe summarises this curious but also very familiar liberal position: “While there can be no doubting the mortal danger of much of American foreign and economic policy, there can also be no doubting that changes in these policies are going to be crucially dependant on this fact being recognised by Americans.” (p. 331). While nobody would dispute that changing such admittedly problematic policies is down to the US population in one form or another, the idea that people outside the USA – especially those experiencing the various effects of Washington’s imperial power – cannot draw attention to such things, let alone offer criticism, can be seen as another discourse-curtailing effect of empire.
  19. Michael Sofair, “In Praise of Love (Éloge de l’amour), Film Quarterly 58:2 (Winter 2004/2005), p. 36.
  20. It can be argued that Éloge’s “anti-Americanism” appears mainly shocking or ridiculous to liberal (let alone conservative) English-speaking and some other Western viewers and commentators whose governments and societies have been incredibly close to the USA since World War II when it comes to politics, economics, military adventurism, and culture. In much of the world – notably areas that have been on the receiving end of Washington’s political pressure and outright assault, usually alongside the pervasive “cultural imperialism” of heavily US-based commercial media – Berthe’s diatribe at the heart of the film’s Brittany section addressed ahead would evoke little consternation, and perhaps instead applause. The very fact of the USA’s unprecedented brand of imperialism is borne out by affronted, chastising critical responses from the Anglosphere’s centres of power.
  21. The sequence can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mp9kMEknTwo. It is prefaced by an excerpt from a Seine conversation sequence in the film’s Paris section between Edgar and Berthe (a still from which can also be seen at the head of this essay) as they look out on the prosaic wreckage of local history decades into the US-lead economic and political order, in which he echoes ideas she articulates at Brittany. The heart of Berthe’s ‘cross-examination’ of the Spielberg Associates legal representative two years earlier (but later for the film’s viewers) goes as follows: Berthe (sternly): “Objection, Your Honour. You say, ‘American writer.’ What ‘Americans’ do you mean? South America?” / Lawyer (clearly irritated): “The United States, of course.” / Berthe: “Of course, but Brazil’s states are united, too. In Brazil they’re called Brazilians.” / Lawyer: “No, I said United States of North America.” / Berthe: “The United Mexican States of N. America, and they’re Mexicans. In Canada they’re called Canadians. Which united states do you mean?” / Lawyer: “I just said: the United States of the North.” / Berthe: “Well, then, an inhabitant of your united states, what’s he called?” (The film then cuts to black leader and white text reading ‘Archives’, followed by a shot showing the lawyer’s assistant and US government State Department representative as they reluctantly listen.) / Berthe: “See? You don’t have a name. This man signed for a country whose inhabitants have no name. No wonder they need other people’s stories, other people’s legends. You’re like us. You’re looking for the origin: parents, siblings, cousins… Nothing original about that. But we seek it inside ourselves. Poor you! With no history, you have to seek it elsewhere, in Vietnam, Sarajevo…”
  22. McCabe, Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70, pp. 327, 331.
  23. Gilberto Perez, The Eloquent Screen: A Rhetoric of Film (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019), p. 167.
  24. McCabe, Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70, p. 327.
  25. Donald Reid, “The Grandchildren of Godard and the Aubracs: Betrayal, Resistance, and the People Without…”, French Cultural Studies 15:1 (2004), p. 80.
  26. Ibid., p. 82.
  27. Douglas Morrey, “History of Resistance/Resistance of History: Godard’s Éloge de l’amour (2001)”, Studies in French Cinema 3:2, p. 127.
  28. Listing off his frustrations with Éloge upon initial encounter, Adrian Martin writes: “And why does he so carefully and delicately hide Berthe’s face for most of the film – if she is so truly, existentially heroic, a ‘woman like Simone Weil or Hannah Arendt’, someone with a name, a place, a story and an identity – while making the close-ups of others resonate with the guilt and anguish of a too-stern gaze?Martin, “Éloge de l’amour”, http://www.filmcritic.com.au/reviews/e/eloge.html.

About The Author

Hamish Ford is a lecturer in Film, Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Newcastle, and a regular contributor to Senses of Cinema.

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