CANNES, FRANCE—Jean-Luc Godard’s Éloge de L’Amour screened on the seventh day of Cannes 2001, turning a relatively lackluster and definitely off-kilter festival into a memorable one. Prior to the Godard premiere, the only film worthy of the Palme d’Or was Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Redux, an expanded (by 52 minutes) version of the film that won in 1979. Perhaps Godard’s greatest film, and certainly up there with Two or Three Things I Know About Her and JLG/JLG, Éloge de L’Amour seems more carefully culled and thoroughly considered from beginning to end than anything Godard has done before—as if each shot was not only exactly right but also carried the weight of all those not chosen in its place.
Like all of Godard’s work since the late ’80s, Éloge de L’Amour is about history and memory, specifically the history of the 20th century, which Godard views as bifurcated by World War II and the coming of television. Thus, the film is itself split down the middle: The first half was shot in fine-grain, black-and-white 35mm; the second half was recorded in video, its oversaturated color reminiscent of fauvist painting. Given the furious film-versus-video debate waged at Cannes in recent years, Éloge de L’Amour has a particular relevance. Godard, who once likened the relationship between film and video to that of Cain and Abel, resolves the opposition between the two technologies by pushing each to its radical limit within a single work of art.
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Dennis Lim surveys the first days of Cannes 2001, starting with a splashy kick-off by Moulin Rouge.