Posts Tagged ‘Jean-Luc Goddard’

Dear Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin,

I am writing to you in response to your 52-minute meditation on an image of Jane Fonda entitled Letter to Jane. Please let me first say that the concept of an hour-long discussion using one image as its basis, however didactic and driven by a favored ideology, is to me an attractive notion. I am often mesmerized by the power of a single image — and the one you chose in particular, casting an actress who you yourselves had worked with on Tout Va Bien as an ambassador of sorts to North Vietnam, is certainly one of those images for which there is no dearth of characterization or opinion. Beyond even the concept, I have been and will continue to be a fan of your filmic work prior to and following the film in question.

It is, however, Letter to Jane that I find both aesthetically and morally objectionable. I am insulted by it not only as a film scholar, theorist and filmmaker, but also as a human being who favors kindness and understanding over the forked tongue of the serpent, the biting sting of undue criticism and an overall hateful dissemination of information. Ignorant and perhaps dismissive of her time in Hanoi otherwise, you both seem to take what seemed initially like a poetic meditation, an expounding of ideas on a signal image, thereby revealing something deeply true and turn it upside down, instead offering a capitalist criticism of the photograph’s framing. It may be true that Jane Fonda is the focus of the picture, because she is an internationally known actress in a situation where she may gain another title — that of the militant, as you would say; that of the activist, as I would say. However, your deliberate use of the word ‘militant’ to characterize Fonda is unnecessarily critical and pejorative in its usage when another more neutral word (ie. activist) exists. Nonetheless, use of this word attempts to support what seems your ultimate point, which is that “capitalism fucks things up,” as one of you so eloquently uttered.

All of this is hampered most by the method by which you bring your criticism forth — this, above all else, I find most objectionable. It is the structure by which your criticism is brought forth, which is the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning. Truth, the most meaningful representation, can only be realized through the process of deductive reasoning — to literally deduce a truth from all given constituents. The difference is as follows: with deductive reasoning, a question is posed and nothing is assumed from the start. The person doing the investigating then creates a hypothesis based around the initial question and proceeds to make every attempt possible to disprove their hypothesis. If they are unable to legitimately succeed in disproving their hypothesis, they have proven it to be true. By contrast, inductive reasoning begins with an assumption, usually based on a pre-existing philosophy or ideal on the part of the investigator. Within the sphere of a given philosophy, a hypothesis based on an initial assumption is made. Then, evidence is collected that supports the given hypothesis. However, the opposite (ie. seeking out what may be in opposition) is never done. As a result, by process of inductive reasoning, anything can appear to be true while in fact it may very well be false. And this is what you have done. You have set out to make a certain point from the beginning, not to allow your audience a journey to the center of meaning or truth. Your journey is planned out, pre-arranged.

Do you see the problem with your position, then? It’s not so much what the two of you are saying that irks me (though I do find it generally objectionable), but the how and why of your flawed process of discovery surrounding this image of Jane Fonda that is the central complication of your argument(s).

Finally, an advertisement dating back to 1972 for your co-directed film Tout Va Bien depicts the both of you with fists where your mouths should be. I can think of nothing more appropriate, when looking back, than the silence that would necessarily result from this being a reality; but alas, it is a fiction. And this is why it is a poster for your Tout Va Bien and not your Letter To Jane, where you each elected to remove the narrative construction of the fist, for better or for worse.

And I say worse.


Samuel B. Prime

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