Thursday, July 7, 2011

Jean-Luc Godard's Commercial for Schick

A central figure in France's mid-20th century Nouvelle Vague film movement, Jean-Luc Godard made a commercial for Schick. This would seem a break with Godard's relatively overt anti-capitalist politics, in films such as La Chinoise, wherein French Students under the auspices of Maoism form a revolutionary cell and begin carrying out assassinations.

Nicholas Rombes writes about it over at the Rumpus in his Art Film Roundup:

Schick was owned by ultra-Conservative, capitalist extraordinaire Patrick Frawley. Does this matter, that Godard made a commercial to help sell products for a company whose profits supported political causes antithetical to his own? We are all complicit in these hypocrisies, small and large, as we use and consume objects each day whose sources in the global matrix are often obscure. If Godard made the commercial to help fund his more radical projects (perhaps Tout va bien, the following year?) then do the two projects cancel each other out? Is there some sort of ledger to keep track? Is it okay to denounce the enemy, and then collaborate with the enemy, as long as you can come up with some sort of intellectual rationalization for your actions?

Here at Filmmaker, Zach Wigon writes about Godard and the role of the socially-engaged director. His lede:

Jean-Luc Godard was a guest at the University of Southern California in 1968, discussing his work on a panel with King Vidor, Roger Corman, Peter Bogdanovich and Sam Fuller. This was at the close of a cinematic decade that Godard had owned; now, breaking with his previous work, he was becoming more political and less accessible. One of the discussion’s most telling moments came toward the end, when an audience member asked, “Monsieur Godard, are you more interested in making films or making social commentary?” Godard coolly replied, “I see no difference between the two.”

I think the discussion from Inpursuitofsilence blog has a few interesting points to make on the commercial:

As is Godard’s seductive way, the subject of the mini-scenario is a gorgeous young couple. In this case, a man and woman rising from bed in the morning light, already deep into a noisy spat, which is compounded by loud shifting electroacoustical broadcaster and music tracks. The fight gets noisier and the din gets uglier as they proceed, in tandem, into the bathroom. And then, at a certain point, the man picks up the bottle of aftershave, pops the lid and — abracadabra! — the broadcasts vanish; the fight ends; there’s a second or two of silence, before the woman expresses her appreciation of the scent. She takes the bottle, smells, and the commercial closes with soft, wet kisses.

It’s amusing, effective — and weirdly evocative of where we are now as a culture. If we have the means, we buy our quiet, if not quite in the form of a geni in a bottle of aftershave, in “quiet products” that can shave a handful of decibels off the noise of vacuum cleaners, dishwashers and the like for considerably more money than their rattling, roaring rank and file appliance-cousins cost. We purchase spa sessions and soundproofing technology and other miracles of padding, muffling, filtering and muting — the velvet, noise-cancelling armor that the affluent don to charge the world, or to flee the chase. But what about everyone else? All those people who lack resources (educational as well as financial) to perform their own sonic schick trick?

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