2 or 3 Things I Know About Her
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 87 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 French
MSRP: $ 29.95
Release Date: July 21, 2009
Review Date: July 3, 2009
Like his previous film Made in U.S.A., Jean-Luc Godard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is only peripherally a narrative film. There’s a slight story that doesn’t really amount to much, but it is only one cog in the film’s contrived mechanism. This film is the wet dream of an avowed malcontent. Godard uses the movie as a platform to spout his social and political views on the rotting of the fabric of society circa 1966 as he sees it, and looking at it now over forty years later, it isn’t very interesting as a film. As the filmmaker became more concerned with a political scene he was grossly aggravated by, his films take on an ever more acid tone. They’re not much fun to watch but only maintain interest now in seeing the director’s continuing maturity as an activist in the world arena.
Everyday housewife Juliette Janson (Marina Viady) and her husband garage worker Robert (Roger Montsoret) enjoy a middle class lifestyle in a new suburb of Paris, but their comfort is paid for partially by the tricks Juliette turns during the afternoon as a prostitute. She shops for outfits that suit her respectable lady persona, deals with pimply faced young guys who are sexually inexperienced, and even submits to three ways with her friend Marianne (Anny Duperey), all to put money into the family bank account.
Godard loads the decks against the rampant consumerism he sees as a major deterrent to civilization’s advancement by throwing into his movie a plethora of negative images and words. We see noisy, dirty construction going on all over the city, tearing away the history of generations for the sake of chic modernity. (Godard often turns off the sound during those sequences so we can concentrate on the images even without the noise to further distract us.) He has actors turn and face the camera to spout banalities pounded into their brains from years of radio and television ads. He is the whispering voice on the soundtrack decrying the Vietnam conflict and finding fault with many governmental decisions of the time. All around the frames are shots of products designed for convenience (laundry powder) or comfort (cigarettes). A lingering sequence as Juliette washes dishes shows her kitchen filled with brand names of every description, with an even less subtle focus on such brands as the movie’s final image. It’s Godard's contention that everyone who does anything for money rather than for the intoxication of the work itself is a prostitute, placing luxuries and comforts above the ethics of a pure life. It’s a point of view he believed in wholeheartedly, but it’s pretty naïve and narrow in retrospect.
As the star of the film, Marina Viady does about the best she can with such limited material, obviously realizing that this political tract she finds herself in involves her skills as an actress only vaguely. Roger Montsoret gets even fewer opportunities as the hard-working Robert while Christophe Bourseiller as the young son has some amusingly rambunctious moments (though he can’t resist quick glances at the camera on a couple of occasions).
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented in a widescreen anamorphic transfer. Sharpness and color are way above average and often quite striking with close-ups revealing freckles and pimples and other skin variances with striking clarity. There are a couple of insert shots which are softer and fuzzier than those before, and there are a few pesky small hairs that crop up momentarily along with two tiny but noticeable tears in the print used for the transfer that likewise distract. The white subtitles are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 1.0 audio track demonstrates only average fidelity, but there are no notable instances of hiss, crackle, or flutter present. There is very little music, but a blaring last chord over the end title does possess some distortion.
Godard expert Adrian Martin provides an outstanding audio commentary clearly stating the film’s themes, comparing moments in the film to other Godard movies both past and present, and making an excellent case for the film’s now highly regarded reputation.
There are two archival television interviews. The first finds star Marina Viady on the way to the set explaining the director’s unorthodox process of filmmaking. This lasts 7 ½ minutes. The second is a spirited debate between director Godard and French diplomat Jean St. Geours for 13 ¼ minutes. Both of these 1966 television programs are presented in 4:3.
Theater director Antoine Bourseiller (whose children played the couple’s two children in the movie) describes his five year friendship with the director and its sudden end in a rather touching 15 ¼-minute interview. It’s presented in anamorphic widescreen.
“2 or 3 Things: A Concordance” is a 9 ¾-minute video featurette detailing the many literary and political references that are thrown about during the movie. A very helpful and valuable resource for understanding Godard’s point of view, it’s presented in anamorphic widescreen.
The original theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes in anamorphic widescreen.
The enclosed 19-page booklet contains both black and white and color stills and behind-the-scenes shots as well as a celebratory essay on the movie by film writer Amy Taubin, and the original anonymous letter to the editor that gave Godard the idea for the movie.
3/5 (not an average)
Admired by many but not always a very viewer-friendly movie, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her makes its points in sometimes heavy-handed style but certainly thoroughly and thoughtfully. This Criterion release features a mostly lovely print of the film and some fascinating extras that Godard adherents will certainly find fascinating.