Notre Musique

Last night saw us visiting the delightful Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts to see Jean Luc Godard’s latest: Notre Musique. In retrospect, a 9pm showing of this intense film may not have been the best of ideas, drained as were by the omnipresence of snow. It’s a complex film, structured in three parts (“Hell”, “Purgatory”, “Heaven”) each of which bombards the viewer with concepts and images. The pacing of the film shifts significantly between settings, and after an hour of purgatory, the relaxed pace and lush imagery of heaven is the welcome respite the concept suggests.

The most compelling questions in the film arise from the presence in its midst of the filmmaker himself. Engaged to speak at the writer’s conference in Sarajevo that provides the context for purgatory, Godard verbally expounds the concepts that can be seen reflected in the film’s images and narrative, but at no point did it feel as if the veteran director was offering himself as an omniscient presence; his key, witty, and probably apt suggestion that the victors write history and the losers make documentaries provides a much needed contrast with the bombastic historo-dramas that never seem to leave our multiplex screens. His thoughts remind me of the power of the Zapatista movement to build and engage with mythology, and the enduring inspiration that has made them.

Notre Musique is a difficult film, one whose meanings unfold some time after the viewing and probably with the aid of discussion and reviews such as this one at Paste. It is also a remarkably stimulating film, well worthy of that discussion.

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