EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF -- At West End Circle.
In the opening scene of the new Godard film, a bellboy comes running after the hero screaming, "Mr. Godard! You're a great person! I love you -- sir!"
If ever an audience was clued in on how to react, this is it. As it rapidly turns out, the act of admiration that the fan of the fictional Godard has in mind is not unlike the metaphorical manner in which the actual Godard is admired by his own fans. It's been some years since Jean-Luc Godard rode the French New Wave to international cinematic acclaim, and the new picture, "Every Man for Himself" ("Sauve Qui Peut/La Vie"; also shown under the English title of "Slow Motion") is being greeted with the usual cries of brilliance.
In it, several bored, unhappy and mean people, "Paul Godard," his girlfriend, his ex-wife, his daughter and a prostitute, her clients and her sister, pursue their selfish interests with an amazing lack of success, considering how much effort they put into it. No matter how elaborately they court pleasure -- such as the clients' setting up sexual scenes requiring complicated play-acting -- no one has even a fleeting moment of enjoyment, sensual or otherwise. Nor does anyone forget himself or herself for a second and lapse into a kindness, even accidentally.
Men's interest in beating and humiliating women is one motif, and their verbal brutalization of thie young daughters, as a substitute for incestuous rape, is another. The one certain thing in this milieu is that anyone who gets into trouble will find his closet relations turning their backs and walking away -- provided there's no way they can use the opportunity to rob the victim first.
The techniques used in the film are randomness (Godard keeps denying having meant anything by anything), shock (except that the solemnity of the sex scenes renders them ludicrous, which is not the same thing as being witty) and the stopped frame (which, when applied to a bicyclist, gives the viewer a sensation of falling off a bicycle).
Jacques Dutronc plays the "Godard" character and Isabelle Huppert the prostitute, who is called "Isabelle." Neither of them moves a facial muscle the entire film.
What does it all mean? Well, in one scene, "Godard" has sullenly agreed to address a class of ardent young filmmakers. "I make films because I don't have the strength to do nothing," he tells them. Ah, but of course.