At 83, Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard Makes The Leap To 3-D Godard, who has been making films for more than half a century, shared the 2014 Jury Prize at Cannes for his 3-D film, Goodbye To Language. He likes 3-D, he says, because "there aren't any rules."
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At 83, Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard Makes The Leap To 3-D

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At 83, Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard Makes The Leap To 3-D

At 83, Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard Makes The Leap To 3-D

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard made his name in the French New Wave of the 1960s by breaking cinematic rules. Now at the age of 83, he still does things his way. He takes on 3-D in his new film. It's called "Goodbye To Language," and it shared the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The movie opens in this country today, starting in New York and Los Angeles. Here's reporter Pat Dowell.

PAT DOWELL, BYLINE: In "Goodbye To Language," there are some things you might find in any Hollywood movie - a woman and a man arguing.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (Speaking French).

DOWELL: A shoot out.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE")

DOWELL: There's even a dog - the director's own. Roxy wanders the countryside conversing with the lake and the river that want to tell him what humans never hear. There are also things typical of movies by Jean-Luc Godard - quotes from philosophers, artists, novelists as part of the dialogue or recited by a narrator, music where you least expect it and not where you do, a story that's not stitched neatly together and an unusual approach to 3-D. Godard generally avoids interviews, but he did talk for Canon Cameras about what attracted him to 3-D in the first place.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEAN-LUC GODARD: (Through translator) There aren't any rules. It's still a place where there aren't rules. Later, there are a ton of rules so that interests me less. You must do this. You must do that. Don't do this. Do this.

DOWELL: 3-D uses two cameras to make an image appear to have depth, but "Goodbye To Language" goes beyond that says film historian and critic David Bordwell.

DAVID BORDWELL: Normally they're interlocked to produce a smooth image - a 3-D illusion. But what Godard does in a couple of points in the film is pan one of the two cameras he uses but keep the other one fixed on the object. So in fact, you get a splitting of the image - two flat images superimposed on each other in depth. When that first instance of that in the film showed up at Cannes, audiences spontaneously applauded. They had never seen anything like it.

DOWELL: And it's not just for the sake of rule breaking says Bordwell.

BORDWELL: It's a very startling but kind of poetic effect actually, particularly in the context of a scene where it's about people separating from one another.

DOWELL: Bordwell likens Godard to a modern painter, and so does one of the film's stars, Heloise Godet. She recalls asking the filmmaker about her character, a woman in an unhappy relationship.

HELOISE GODET: He gave us a picture saying OK, that's what your character are representing for me. It was a piece of modern art, and it was really abstract. And he said OK, that's your character. It was weird but really inspiring.

DOWELL: Weird but inspiring might describe how even Godard's producers see his projects. Vincent Maraval decided to pursue a career in film when he was 14 after seeing a Godard movie. He still finds Godard's work strangely puzzling and compelling - still the creations of a young innovator.

VINCENT MARAVAL: For every project he's looking for the unknown. He looks for an experience. He doesn't know where he goes, and that's what motivates him, and that's what I call being very young. It's true that he's always ready for adventure.

DOWELL: Godard himself steps into his film, at least through his voice, as an unseen teacher expounding on watercolor painting and questions of existence.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE")

GODARD: (As teacher) (Through translator) Go back to the surface. What's difficult is to fit flatness into depth - the other world.

DOWELL: And this may be just what "Goodbye To Language" is about says film historian David Bordwell.

BORDWELL: I think what he's talking about - and this is one of the reasons the dog Roxy is very prominent in the film - is that he's trying to get people to look at the world in a kind of unspoiled way. There are hints throughout the film that animal consciousness is kind of closer to the world than we are - that language sets up a barrier or filter or screen between us and what's really there. And although the film is full of language - talk, printed text and so on - nevertheless, I think there's a sense that he wants the viewer to scrape away a lot of the ordinary conceptions we have about how we communicate and look at the world afresh.

DOWELL: To make us see is one of the oldest goals of movies and one that has pushed Jean-Luc Godard to keep working for more than half a century. He's already at work on his next film. For NPR News, this is Pat Dowell.

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