C’est une catastrophe

Jean-Luc Godard’s Une catastrophe

In what is quite a coup for the Viennale, Vienna’s film festival, Jean-Luc Godard came out of semi-retirement to make a trailer for the festival, his first film work since 2006. Entitled Une catastrophe, it runs for just sixty-three seconds, but it is hereby claimed for the silent film community because it makes use of Battleship Potemkin and People on Sunday. The film opens with the over-famous Odessa Steps sequence from Potemkin, accompanied probably for the first time by the sounds of a tennis match.

Then, following a shot of an agonised man with a knife (from what film?) and gaudy colour footage of war, we get a slowed-down, stop-start sequences of two lovers from People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag), Edgar G. Ulmer, Fred Zinnemann and Billy Wilder’s exquisite 1930 drama with a Berlin documentary background. Throw in some fractured titles, snatches of Schumann’s “Scenes from Childhood”, and an eighteenth century poem in Low German, and you have a mightily rich concoction for your sixty-three seconds.

Love, death, guns, music, language, iconography, montage. Histoire(s) du cinéma, indeed.

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