Smiling with regret: 1984–90

in Jean-Luc Godard
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This chapter considers why Jean-Luc Godard's late 1980s films have often attracted a negative response, looking at their claustrophobic settings and offputting themes of failure and regret. A consistent complaint develops across these films whereby Godard seems to argue that art, or even civilisation itself, have been consigned to the past. It is this discourse that has led to the characterisation of the director as a grumpy hermit, an image Godard willingly plays up to in his own roles in Soigne ta droite and King Lear. The chapter argues that even if Godard's citational aesthetic is in some senses postmodern, his films maintain a critical stance with regard to the post-industrial cultural economy. It also shows how Godard continues to search for images of resistance to this economic organisation, and finds them in images of the body as well as elemental images of fire and water.

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