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Tout Va Bien (Criterion Collection)
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Tout Va Bien (Cc)
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In retrospect, Tout Va Bien brings several interesting notions to the table. Initially, Godard and Gorin bring a visual representation of French society four years after the May 1968 upheaval, which fought for workers' rights and a more just society. However, through interpersonal disconnection the two filmmakers illustrate how these rights have begun to dwindle into nothingness in society. This happens as the bourgeois employs their entrepreneurship on the people of the society through maximizing their profits. Now, four years later, the bourgeois has trampled the society with rules, which has created an unfair balance between the socioeconomic classes.
Godard and Gorin further evolve their ideas on the silver screen through letting the audience visit an unlawful strike in a meat factory where the employees have captured the head of the company and locked him up in his office. The social and political dynamics of the factory are depicted through a cutaway set where the camera zooms out and the audience can see everything going on in every room of the factory. The cutaway allows the audience to see the greater picture of the situation. This later focuses on individuals who explain how they are harassed by supervisors when they need to go to bathroom.
During the illegal strike She (Jane Fonda) carries on interviewing the employees while being a hostage of the strikers. She and her husband side with the workers, as she plans on airing this material later. However, when she presents the material to her producers they stop her from airing it, which illustrates her naïve view of the bourgeois governed society.
Tout Va Bien is a very angry political film that openly depicts Gorin and Godar's contempt for society, as it neglects political equality and financial fairness. Nonetheless, they also show that they are a part of the great machine that keeps moving without consideration for the little people. These two directors show how they help turn the wheel of the great machine in the opening scene where they write checks for all involved in the film and employ big stars in the film such as Jane Fonda and Yves Montand. Nonetheless, the story goes on displaying an interesting farce of the socioeconomic injustice in society, which seems to squeeze many small people.
Despite what political affiliation a person possesses Tout Va Bien offers some insight into how power can be used and misused. People have different motivations and ambitions in life, and in the light of this, the audience should try to understand one another. The film can help build a bridge between people, as understanding and wisdom might help further the progress of the human race. In the end, Tout Va Bien offers an interesting cinematic experience that will leave a feeling of anger within regardless of political affiliation.
While the movie was made during the final stages of Godard's Dziga Vertov period it actually contains a plot revolving around the relationship of a couple. He (Montand), once a New Wave movie director who now makes comercials for tv; and She (Fonda), an american correspondant in Paris. Both of them get kidnapped for 2 days inside a sausage factory during a strike and we see how their relationship changes due to them becoming aware of the historical context they exist in.
It's weird to see both movie stars being used not for acting skills but for what they represent: 'international vedettes'; as the opening scene makes perfectly clear. To make a film you need money (even if you are JLG) and to get your money back you need stars.
The Dziga Vertov group made one more film before calling it quits ('Letter to Jane') and since that 'essay' has a direct connection with 'Tout va Bien' Criterion wisely decided to include it inside this DVD.
While this may not be the place to start if you haven't seen much of Godard (Breathless, A Woman is a Woman, Contempt or Band of Outsiders would be more like it) if you've followed JLG's path up to Weekend, they you will certainly enjoy this one and all the extras this edition includes.
The film can be seen and understood in many levels, but I'm afraid that today's workers conciousness is far away from that of the French factory ones after May 1968. Still, if you're going to take to your political movie the mega-stars of the period (Jane Fonda!) this is the way to do it. For Americans: Carrefour is the WalMart of France (and many other parts of the world). The same system, the same faults.
The Criterion edition included an excellent analysis (50 min) of a famous photograph of Jane in Vietnam, plus some excerpts of a Godard interview (explaining his position against naturalism in cinema) and a longer interview to Gorin (the co-director). It is an excellent edition as it is, but an introduction to the May 1968 events and/or to Nouvelle Vague would have been a good bonus for those that are not so into the subject, maybe as PDF-text so as not to take many space on the DVD (C'mon, with only 10 Megs you could include a lot).
Like many Godard films, I would like to say that it is a masterpiece, because in some circles it is fashionable to do so - but I cannot call it a masterpiece, it is simply to difficult to fit into that category.
Gorin has suggested that the fellow painting over the picture in blue was unscripted. I.e. it just happened. That sounds unlikely. After all, Godard and Gorin had to be familiar with Yves Klein's Epoca Blue exhibit at the Galleria Appolinaire in January 1957. There Klein displayed blue canvases. Klein's work influenced Manzoni, as well. The work of each has been read as a critique on industrialism and the commodification of art. So, simply put, it would appear that the fellow painting the picture over in blue in Tout Va Bien is a reinscription of the critique of Klein and Manzoni back into the halls of industrialism. I.e. it's nothing more than just saying that even the critique can be co-opted.
What else? A theme develops in the film that Gorin picked up again in his movie on a train club in Del Mar California--the anthropology of play and the anthropology of work. We see play entering in with the soccer ball being tossed in the hall, for example, in Tout Va Bien. Unfortunately, Gorin and Godard did not use any of the conceptual buttressing of Roger Caillois, a French intellectual who did very interesting work on play and sacred space, among other things.
One should think of Caillois now in this discussion for more than one reason. Caillois was one of the first French intellectuals to have a serious relationship with Latin America. Now that Gorin is going to Mexico and Brazil and spouting his Dziga Vertov history, which includes the questionable likening of Godard to Matisse and saying that film is an art that one is born with--i.e. that because one is born with sight, film is a sort of primal art--it would be good to return to the work of Caillois.
And to work of Marshall Sahlins in the early 70s for that matter. Why?
Cultural anthropology almost saw its death at the hands of biological determinism in the early 1970s. Marshall Sahlins saved the field with a brilliant and deceptively simple article on the properties of sight and color. Sahlins established that even a biological property as seemingly simple as eye sight is not determined by biology, but is something of a cultural artifact.
So let's do movie fans a favor. Let's not let Gorin muck up the theory by making biological determinist assertions about the property of eye sight. And let's remember Caillois, Klein, and Manzoni. As for the anthropology of play, we might even turn toward Homo Ludens by Huizinga. If memory serves, Esa Pekka Salonen gave that book a once over. But that is another story for another day.
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