Jean-Luc Godard

Image by © Christof Schuerpf/Keystone/Corbiss Image by © Christof Schuerpf/Keystone/Corbiss

 

PHRASES: SIX FILMS

 
Germany Nine Zero
 
(an excerpt)
 
 
TOPOGRAPHY OF TERROR

was haben sie gesucht
ideen oder gefühle

I don’t know
about sensations
I would say
it was Conrad
I think
Under Western Eyes
our sensations
these faithful servants
of our passions

winter was coming
my research
into the influence of German Fascism
on young, pre-war
English novelists
was finished
and I too
decided
after Christopher Isherwood
to say my goodbyes
to Berlin
but Zelten asked me
to stay a few more days
his work
wasn’t advancing

truth obligates me to say that he forgot to tell me
that he was in love
with the young woman
that I had met
at the paper
by chance
and seen again
also by chance
three days later
on the Tiergartenbrücke
where they had thrown the body
of Rosa Luxembourg
she had murmured
something
 
 
O PAIN HAVE I DREAMED MY LIFE

lose oneself
or detach oneself
I stayed to listen
it’s my job

lose oneself means
literally
detach oneself
 
 
ONE SOLE HISTORY

lose oneself
sich verlieren
literally means
detach oneself
sich los lösen
and, gently
to escape

I saw them again
three weeks later
in the metro

wir sprechen
und sprechen
von der sprache
das, wovon wir sprechen
die sprache
ist uns stets
schon voraus

do we have the right to translate
sprache
by language
no

how come you say
that music
only exists
in elevators
and supermarkets

weil man die musik
ermordet hat
yes, the Americans
it was an American soldier
one drunken night
who killed Webern
I didn’t know that
 
 
FINIS GERMANIÆ

the United States
has never understood war
they’ve never
taken part
they have
what’s more
taken part
in another conflict
unfolding
at the same time
and on the same fields
of battle
the United States
can’t imagine

any other war
than civil war
it’s always themselves
and their defects
that personify
the enemy nation
that they are fighting
in each war
they call war
a moral crisis
when they were English
they were fighting
with the English
from the moment they became Americans
they have fought
between Americans

the day
when they were sufficiently
Germanized
in their habits
and their culture
they rushed
against the Germans

oh, a factory-church

the first American
who took a prisoner
in 1917
was named Meyer
and his prisoner was too

a somber, serious
stream
not of life
but only of despised
existences
and when one thought
of the reality
that they had
in their own eyes
one’s heart sank
but of all those
who passed
none seemed to me
as touching
in her unconscious
patience
as the young girl
standing
before me
none more difficult
to understand
perhaps
because I thought
of the questions
that I could not
ask her
 
 
THE LONG GOODBYES

I do not want to die
without having seen Europe
happy

without having seen
the two words
of an invincible strength
separated more and more
each day
the word Russia
and the word happiness

meet
on my lips once again

wer bin ich
ich bin einer
der die welt
nicht kennt
aber
ich bin deutsch

and all that might be
blond women
from Leningrad
to New York
I knew them

to be happy
I say this
for those
who are younger
than twenty-five
since they don’t know anything
about happiness
it is
at the borders

not to hear the people
multiply by one hundred or one thousand
like young people
the contents
of their wallets
it is
not to have
in light of someone repatriated
from famished regions
the impression that he had
one day
fought with a child
for his meal
 
 
SOLITUDE OF HISTORY

then
the day when I will have seen
the world once again
robust
held fast
like the two parts of a belt buckle
the word Russia
and the word happiness
I will really be ready to die
 
 
THE PERFECT UNION
OF SEVERAL VOICES ENTIRELY

PREVENTS

THE PROGRESS
OF ONE VOICE

and this as well there is a difference between
narration
and music
a musical piece
entitled
Five Minute Waltz
lasts five minutes
this and
only this
defines
its relationship to time
but a story
whose action
involved
a time space of five minutes
however could
by means of an extraordinary scrupulosity
in filling up
those five minutes
last a thousand times as long
and it could seem
very short
though

in relation to its imaginary
duration
it might be
very long
the orient
has understood this very well
but not the west

TOWARD THE OTHER

hello
Mister Courbet

comrade
the west
please

THE ART OF THE FUGUE

im verlauf
dieser fuge
an der stelle
wo der name
B A C H
kontrapunktisch
gesetz wurde
ist der komponist
gestorben
aber Dimitri
ich arbeite

ты мне сказала завтра
ангел мой
вдали за горизонтом
где роща апельсиновая
сольются наши
губы и сердца

you say:
tomorrow, dear angel
over there
at the edge of the horizon
under the orange tree
filled with oranges
embrace him, idiot
our hearts and lips
will be linked
he says goodbye
miss
sagen sie was
miss
do something
die letzte sonate
von Dimitri opus
hundertsiebenundvierzig
 
 
OWE WAR SINT
VERSWUNDEN ALLIU
MINIU JAR

comrade, the west
please

goodbye
place among places
for the last time
my eye
sees your living grace
extend itself
and spread out
your beautiful pride
 
 
A RUSSIAN SMILE

THE TIME OF CONTEMPT

I didn’t feel comfortable
in that atmosphere
the komintern
had changed
since 1923
and I was no longer
that young man
who had jostled
police barriers
and fought
behind the barricades
gun in hand
Firelei was
in my eyes
more important
than Joseph Stalin
and the revolution

I only had a little work to do

three times per week
I met a courier
from the Gestapo
in Hamburg
he gave me
false information
carefully prepared
about industries
and the armies
of European countries
controlled
by the gpu
this information
was intended
to satisfy the Gestapo
without compromising
Soviet interests

pursuing their own interests
men
make history
they are at the same time
the means and instruments
of something
more elevated
more vast
of which they know nothing
but which they
realize
unconsciously

but
according to Lichtenberg
what is extraordinary
is that in the language
of the German nation
one finds
more than in any other language
 
 
ONE SOLE HISTORY

expressions to express deception
and, most of the time
they have an air of triumph

vielleicht
weil man
die sache
für sehr schwierig hält
 
 
WO
ES WAR
DA
WERDE ICH
SEIN

this time
it was really Dora
if the first dream
represented her turning away
from the man she loved
and the return

toward her father
that is to say her flight
from life
into disease
the second dream
announced
in effect
that she was about to tear herself free
from her father
and had been reclaimed
once more by the realities of life

 
____________________________________________________________________
 
JEAN-LUC GODARD was a pioneer of the French new wave and has had an incalculable effect on modern cinema that refuses to wane. Before directing, Godard was an ethnology student and a critic for Cahiers du cinéma, and his approach to filmmaking reflects his interest in how cinematic form intertwines with social reality. His groundbreaking debut feature, Breathless—his first and last mainstream success—is, of course, essential Godard: its strategy of merging high (Mozart) and low (American crime thrillers) culture has been mimicked by generations of filmmakers. As the sixties progressed, Godard’s output became increasingly radical, both aesthetically (A Woman Is a Woman, Contempt, Band of Outsiders) and politically (Masculin féminin, Pierrot le fou), until by 1968 he had forsworn commercial cinema altogether, forming a leftist filmmaking collective (the Dziga Vertov Group) and making such films as Tout va bien. Today Godard remains our greatest lyricist on historical trauma, religion, and the legacy of cinema.

Phrases: Six Films, a book consisting of the spoken language from six Godard films (Germany Nine Zero, The Kids Play Russian, JLG / JLG, 2 x 50 Years of French Cinema, For Ever Mozart and In Praise of Love) was written between 1991 and 2001 and is being published in Stuart Kendall’s English translation by Contra Mundum Press.
 
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About the Translator:

 
STUART KENDALL is a writer, editor, and translator working at the intersections of poetics, visual culture, and design. His books include The Ends of Art and Design, Georges Bataille, and many edited or translated volumes. Contra Mundum published his Gilgamesh in 2012. He lives in Oakland, California, where he teaches at the California College of the Arts.

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