“2 or 3 Things I Know About Her” (1967)

October 15, 2009 at 10:49 pm (Cinema, French New Wave, Reviews & Articles)

August 2009 review by Paul Brenner from the AMC Filmcritic website. This recently re-released film (aka 2 Ou 3 Choses Que Je Sais D’Elle) by Godard was one of the last “conventional” (for Godard) movies he made before going off in a more political direction in the late 60s-early 7os…


Jean-Luc Godard’s 2 Or 3 Things I Know About Her features one of the seminal shots in ’60s cinema — a widescreen close-up shooting down into a coffee cup, the coffee swirling around slowly as if the camera has captured the creation of the universe. It is a simple and contemplative shot, made all the more so by Godard’s whispering voice, quoting Baudelaire, intoning, “More than ever I have to look around me to my fellow creatures, my brother.” Here Godard is calling a halt to his Anna Karina era of referential film homages blanketed in the conversations of the young, sipping their coffees in Parisian cafes and arguing philosophy down the heady streets of the city. Godard is looking into that coffee, sipped by Karina and finding that the world of the image is much stronger and more visceral and shouldn’t be wasted, rather it should be shifted to malicious late-stage capitalism and rampant consumerism. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her marks this shift. From now on, Godard’s films will become film essays and then cine-tracts. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is the dividing line.

The inspiration behind Godard’s film was an article about housewives living in newly constructed apartment houses in the suburbs of Paris, who, to make ends meet, prostitute themselves during the day to pay for their apartment and filled with consumer objects of desire. Marina Vlady is Juliette Janson, one of those housewives, and the film details a day in her life as she cleans dishes, shops for dresses, gets her shiny red car washed, and picks up johns on the street. Godard introduces Vlady as Vlady, the actress, and then Vlady as the character of Juliette. This permits Vlady, in a brilliant high-wire performance, to play the character, play herself commenting on the character, and to engage in Brechtian monologues by addressing the camera.

These are the 2 or 3 things were know about Vlady/Juliette. But “Her” is also Godard’s Paris (now being ripped apart by construction crews) and also the killing capitalist system and, perhaps, the planet earth in the cosmos (of the coffee cup). And through it all is Godard’s metaphor of prostitution. Not only is Juliette prostituting herself but we all are, through our jobs, through the barage of images slapped into our brains, through the world’s psychic rape of our souls. We are all Godard’s “Her.”

Godard remarks at one point in 2 Or 3 Things I Know About Her that “living in modern society is like living in a comic strip” and, with the aid of cinematographer Roaul Coutard, he proves it. Shot with a Technicolor palette of primary colors, the images melt our eyes with gleaming red, whites, and blues, the three colors of the French flag but also of the American flag, the country that is the root of all this evil.

Shot at the height of the Vietnam War, Godard abandons his love of American cinema and replaces it with a contempt and disdain for the violence of America’s War, which is the slow-murmured background of the film. Juliette’s husband Robert (Roger Montsoret) listens to short wave radio broadcasts of Lyndon Johnson pronouncements. Juliette’s little boy has a dream about the reunification of North and South Vietnam. Juliette herself rejects a twosome with an American journalist (he wears a t-shirt with an American flag and the phrase “America Über Alles”) because the bedroom is littered with photos of the war maimed.

Godard closes the film with shots of consumer products mounted on a lawn like the Paris high-rises being constructed. Godard states, “I have to start over from here.” And he does. Next stop Weekend and the Dziga Vertov Film Collective.

Extras on the Criterion DVD include a commentary by film critic Adrian martin, archival television footage, an interview with theater director and ex-Godard friend Antoine Bourseiller, a visual essay on the literary references in the film, and the theatrical trailer.

Paul Brenner

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