The fraternity of metaphors: Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialisme

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Since the 'completion' of Histoire(s) du cinema (1988-1998), Jean-Luc Godard's work has become increasingly mosaic-like in its forms and configurations, and markedly elegiac in its ruminations on history, cinema, art, and thought. While his associative aesthetic and citational method –including his choice of ‘actors’, and the fragmentariness of his ‘soundtracks’ – can combine to create a distinctive cinematic event, the films themselves refuse to cohere around a unifying concern, or yield to a thematic schema. Not surprisingly, Film Socialisme does not offer us the illusion of narrative or structural integrity anymore than it contributes to the quotidian rhetoric of political and moral argument. It is, however, a political film in the sense that it alters something more fundamental than opinions and points of view. It transforms a way of seeing and understanding reality and history, fiction and documentary, images, and images of images. If anything, it belongs to that dissident or ‘dissensual’ category of artwork capable of ‘emancipating the spectator’ by disturbing what Jacques Rancière terms ‘the distribution of the sensible’ in that it generates gaps, openings, and spaces, poses questions, invites associations without positing a fixed position, imposing an interpretation, or allowing itself to invest in the illusion of expressive objectivity and the stability of meaning. The myriad citations and fragments that comprise the film are never intended to culminate into anything cohesive, never mind conclusive. In one sense, they have no source and no context beyond their moment in the film itself, and what we make of that moment. This article studies the degree to which Godard allows these images and sounds to combine and collide, associate and dissolve in this film, arguing that Film Socialisme is both an important intervention in the history of contemporary cinema, and necessary point of reference in any serious discussion of the relations between that cinema and political reality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-18
Number of pages14
JournalKinema: Journal of Film and Audiovisual Media
Issue numberFall
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2010


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