Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Zoé Bruneau’s En Attendant Godard

Zoé Bruneau, when she was in her early twenties, would meet Godard for the first time in 2002, for an audition for Notre Musique, which she didn’t get. After working in theater for around ten years, she would meet him again, and after some initial indecisiveness on Godard’s part, would get casted for Adieu au langage. Barely registered in cinephile circles, her book on this period and working on the film, En attendant Godard, clears up many confusions regarding Adieu’s narrative, offers a unique window into Godard’s filmmaking approach, and extends further the pleasures of the film.

It’s a modest book at around 140 pages where Bruneau recounts in a diary form her experiences getting to meet Godard for an audition, getting casted for the film, frustrations never knowing when the next acting sessions will be, eventually filming in Rolle, and all of the way to the announcement that it will premiere in the Official Selection at Cannes. The little book is itself experimental in form as within this intimate diary there are coloured illustrations, maps and personal pictures. And it’s full of intimate reflections that deal just as much with the filmmaking as it does with life, ambitions, relationships and family. The book’s full title is En attendant Godard: Chapitre I and Chapitre II and which with its dual chapter title, appropriately, recalls the coming of age story of La vie d'Adèle by Abdelatif Kechiche.

Even though with Adieu Godard has been a lot more giving, and open to interviews, than the ‘No Comment’ of Film Socialisme Bruneau still offers many new fascinating comments regarding the premise of the film, its making, and changes that occurred while filming.

Bruneau had to send Godard a naked photograph of her after the audition, it was this picture that he walked around with which inspired him to finish writing her role. Godard’s defense of the nudity is, “And The Origin of the World, this painting, it is plainly the sex of the woman, no? The world, this bush, a forest, it is these hairs!” Godard supposedly gave out scripts that recalls its press material but in a large binder which includes dialogue, quotations and pictures. The actors and actresses had to take a train to Switzerland to see Godard and were accommodated there in the same hotel from King Lear. The assistant director Jean-Paul Battaggia played a huge role in the filmmaking as he took care of all of the day-to-day logistics and especially for taking care of Godard whose health is starting to fail him. The actresses were supposed to memorize their lines as well as know them without proper punctuation, then broken up, and then in sign language! This is one of the reasons they were asked to watch the documentary on deaf children, Nicolas Philibert’s Le Pays des Sourds. Godard worked closely with the actors (the scene of Bruneau behind a fence, it is his hand holding it) and gave them room to improvise, even though at other times he was quite firm with what he wanted. Bruneau describes journalist coming to visit the set – for example, Olivier Séguret from Libération – which gives a lighter counter-part to the actual, more serious articles that were written. The films that Godard watched and talked about during production include Alain Guiraudie L'Inconnu Du Lac, Justine Triet’s La Bataille de Solférino, Antonin Peretjatko’s, La fille du 14 juillet, and La Vie d'Adèle. Godard showed Bruneau and Richard Chevallier his Dans le noir du temps, which made Bruneau cry, and which he gave her as gift once they finished filming. As well it is interesting that the Bruneau-Chevallier couple’s encounter with the dog Roxy, which was supposed to be the source of their happiness, never really occurred, because Godard was too anxious of them meeting her. Bruneau on this, “He thinks that the scene isn’t necessary any more and he’s pleased with the idea that their key to happiness will never come.” What one really gets the sense of from En attendant Godard are the imperfections in the final product, and one becomes fascinating with the idea that Battaggia was able to film a making-of of Adieu which is now one of the holy grails.

Bruneau’s first hand descriptions of Godard add to his character:
-           “His voice is calm, but soft and short. The words are meticulously chosen.”
-           “What equally hits you, is how much he lives in the present. Like totally. So much so that he’s in the future.”
-           “His curiosity remains that of seven year old kid, principally in regards technology. Which is certainly why he decided to film in 3D.”
-           “Godard works a lot. Though, it’s not that he works a lot, it’s that he lives he his work. He sees everything.”

En attendant Godard is important as it extends Godard’s work outwards. It deserves to be contextualized alongside the book versions of Histoire(s), Godard’s ECM CDs, and the recent short-film Les Trois Désastres (which is an important to watch to as it dialogues with Adieu). En attendant Godard is less a commodity than it is an idea. Just like Annick Bouleau’s Passage du cinéma, 4992, which equally deserves an important place in the Godardian cannon, Bruneau similarly takes her experience with him to heart and the thought of the writing in the book attests to this. These two books show the strong impact Godard has on his devotees and collaborators. Bruneau’s book can be naïve, honest, personal, frank, youthful, brave – attributes that are hard to come by these days. During the filming Bruneau had both her father (the book is dedicated to Philippe) and grandfather Maurice Nadeau die. En attendant Godard was even published by édition Maurice Nadeau. It is this artistic, personal and challenging legacy that Bruneau is paying an homage to, from Godard to her family, and then outwards. Creating a utopia space of high, artistic, and complex ideals that can only be attained through an intimate and personal reflection.

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