Close Up

2 - 21 March 2018: Close-Up on the Dziga-Vertov Group


“After the events of 1968, Godard rejected narrative illusion for several years, to concentrate instead on a string of films that combine documentary, formal innovation and radical politics.  Jean-Pierre Gorin, twelve years younger than Godard, already had a career as a journalist and critic when the two began collaborating. Together the pair formed the nucleus of a collective they dubbed “Groupe Dziga-Vertov,” after the Russian avant-garde filmmaker who sought to document all aspects of life in the young Soviet Union in a celebration of modernism, futurism and Bolshevism. The films of the Dziga-Vertov Group include a wide-range of experimentation that includes radical anti-narratives and documentaries of pop culture and the Palestinian struggle, and culminates in the Brechtian Tout va bien, starring none other than Jane Fonda. The failure of both critics and defenders of the Dziga-Vertov Group films to see the work as aesthetic – as well as political – interventions has been a source of deep frustration for the radical films’ makers.” – Harvard Film Archive

Celebrating the release of Arrow Academy’s new Blu-Ray box-set, this programme features seven films that serve as examples of Godard and Gorin’s revolutionary project. Long out-of-circulation except in film dupes and bootleg video, this release provides a crucial glimpse of Godard’s radicalisation, and of the aesthetic dialogue between him and Gorin that, in essence, served to invent a modern militant cinema. As Godard told an English journalist of the era, film is not a gun – but “a light which helps you check your gun.”

La Chinoise
Jean-Luc Godard
1967 | 96 min | Colour | Digital
French with English subtitles

Jean-Luc Godard’s ferocious run of ground breaking 1960s commercial features neared a terminus point as the filmmaker turned his gaze onto the nascent left-wing student organisations coalescing on university campuses across France and environs. The resulting film was his searing masterpiece La Chinoise – a mordant satire, pedagogical treatise, political tract, and pop-artwork .– “plus blood” rolled into one. A tour-de-force of the primary-palette images – the " household images," perhaps – of Godard’s early career, La Chinoise serves as both cautionary tale and early sign of fascination with the political currents that would soon lead to the next period of JLG’s life and work. read more

A Film Like Any Other
Jean-Luc Godard
1968 | 100 min | Colour | Digital
French with English subtitles

An analysis of the social upheaval of May 1968 made in the immediate wake of the workers’ and students’ protests. The picture consists of two parts, each with identical image tracks, and differing narration. read more

British Sounds (See You at Mao)
Jean-Luc Godard
1969 | 54 min | Colour | Digital

An examination of the daily routine at a British auto factory assembly line, set against class-conflict and The Communist Manifesto. read more

Wind from the East
Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Pierre Gorin
1970 | 95 min | Colour | Digital
French with English subtitles

A loosely conceived leftist-western that moves through a series of practical and analytical passages (“an organization of shots,” Godard called it) into a finale based around the process of manufacturing homemade weapons. read more

Struggle in Italy
Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Pierre Gorin
1971 | 62 min | Colour | Digital
French with English subtitles

Not necessarily a film about the struggles in Italy – largely shot, in fact, in Godard and Anne Wiazemsky’s home at the time – this is a discursive reflection on a young Italian woman’s shift from political “theory” to political “practice” and, at the same time, a self-questioning of its own practice and theories. read more

Vladimir and Rosa
Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Pierre Gorin
1971 | 103 min | Colour | Digital
French with English subtitles

A searing and satirical comic-reportage on the trial of the Chicago Eight, featuring Juliet Berto and Godard and Gorin themselves. read more

Tout va bien
Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Pierre Gorin
1972 | 95 min | Colour | Digital
French & English with English subtitles

Fonda was at the height of her fame when she signed on to play an American reporter who, along with her washed-up film director husband (Montand), covers a strike at a French sausage factory in Gorin and Godard’s attack on leftist rhetoric, capitalism and consumer culture. Featuring a justly famous two story cut-away set of the factory, Tout va bien depicts the varying degrees of worker radicalism with caustic humour. read more

Letter to Jane: An Investigation About a Still
Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Pierre Gorin
1972 | 52 min | B/W | Digital

Godard and Gorin’s meditation on and dissection of a famous image of their Tout va bien star Jane Fonda, taken during a trip to Hanoi, rendered on the soundtrack by the two filmmakers in hard-boiled English. read more

With thanks to Arrow Films for making this programme possible: