Settling for Beauty’s Cold Comfort

"A saturation of glorious signs bathing in the light of their absent explanation." This line from Jean-Luc Godard's 1996 meditation on political and aesthetic non-intervention teasingly describes the experience of the director's late-period work—intricately crafted, visually masterful films that leave the interpretive heavy lifting to the viewer. For Ever Mozart is a virtual litany of the director's cinematic signatures: bold primary colors, jagged shards of music, rapid-fire quotations, gunshot sounds, multilingual dialogue, waves breaking on the beach, riffs on previous Godard films, melancholy ruminations on history-bound Europe. The second and longest of the four loosely connected sections follows a group of French actors—including the fictional granddaughter of Albert Camus—on a quixotic quest to stage Alfred de Musset's One Must Not Play at Love in war-torn Sarajevo. Their absurd failure opens up troubling questions about the ethics of artistic engagement that reverberate for the duration—a key moment finds a film crew using its shoot's elegant costumes to cover a pair of corpses. The purposefully shoddy staging of war and atrocity co-exists uneasily with bits of lyrical abstraction, as when a spasm of crude violence ends with the camera lingering on a shot of a dead woman's foot protruding from the dirt. Profoundly pessimistic, For Ever Mozart evinces little faith in design or intelligence, settling in its cryptic final scene for the cold comfort of beauty.

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