Notre Musique (2004)

Genres - Avant-garde / Experimental  |   Sub-Genres - Essay Film  |   Release Date - Nov 24, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 80 min.  |   Countries - France, Switzerland  |  
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The term "very French" might have been coined to describe Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique. Among those skeptical of the French -- and, with characteristic irony, perhaps even among the French themselves -- a work of art might be described as "very French" if it possesses a certain mixture of abstraction and pretentiousness. Notre Musique has both qualities in spades. Which doesn't mean that a Godard fan or a fan of nonlinear philosophical discourse won't love it; it's just that if you aren't one of those two, you probably won't be on the right wavelength. Calling it "very French" is somewhat misleading in a literal sense, as several languages are spoken in the film, the minimal action takes place in Sarajevo, and the most tangible topic of discussion is the conflict in the Middle East. All the talking points in Notre Musique call for being described in terms of their relative tangibility, as Godard doesn't draw explicit connections between the Big Ideas he's grappling with. But there's no doubt the Bosnian setting is a devastating visual counterpoint to any number of the "isms" on display here. The bombed-out remains of buildings, combined with the sort of ho-hum nature of Sarajevo's ongoing daily life, offer an underlying theme: conflict is an eternal constant, and the survival of people ends up being a function of their ability to incorporate it into their lives, rather than letting it consume them, as happens with one character here. Could Godard have achieved this same message without relying on a ten-minute opening montage of violent images accompanied by intellectual sound bites, perhaps using the extra time for at least a little plot and character development? Yes, but then he wouldn't be Jean-Luc Godard.