[D-G] Notre Musique

Mark Crosby Crosby_M at rocketmail.com
Fri Dec 17 18:48:29 PST 2004

    NOTRE MUSIQUE        "Go toward the light
                       and shine it on our night"
Philip Kennicott writes that "Jean-Luc Godard's _Notre
Musique_, a film about war and reconciliation, is
deeply Christian, a study in humility and the moral
uncertainty at the core of the Christian message... it
leaves the American style of religious and moral
certainty looking as hollow and bombed out as the
buildings that dot Godard's cityscapes of war... Does
Christian empathy demand that the world cough up
losers" for its entertainment and salvation?
Do Hawthorne berry extracts help the heart when ever
writing from the "high and gloomy chamber of the old
edifice"? "Olga can't respond to the spirit of hope
symbolized by the bridge... On the other hand, Judith
takes pictures ... past and future are one; she isn't
afraid to dream... The director looks at Olga's sad,
beautiful face reflected on the shiny surface of the
disk... Inside were only books"!
And she, impossibly innocent - yet somehow able to
interact? - never dreamed she might arouse such
passion? "No, no, Giovanni ... I dreamed only to love
thee, and be with thee a little time, and so to let
thee pass away". Can science preserve them? Paranoid
Marines shoot anything that moves, stamp wrists in
ultraviolate for admittance to Saint Peter's rave:
"might there not still be a hope of his returning
within the normal limits of ordinary nature"?
Unlikely! "Oh, weak and selfish and unworthy spirit,
that could dream of an earthly union and earthly
happiness as possible, after such deep love had been
so bitterly wronged"! Oh, seeker of Paradise, "was
there not, from the first, more poison in thy nature
than in mine?" Death is the synthesis of heaven and
hell, but love eludes them: "faint with the common
air", wafting "within the influence of an
unintelligible power ... Odors, being a sort of
element combined of the sensual and the spiritual, are
apt to deceive us in this manner... a wild offspring
of both love and horror that had each parent in it,
and burned like one and shivered like the other"..
Shot and reverse shot, imaginary: certainty, reality:
uncertainty, darkness and light, stop and go.. I want
to say, 'too oppositional', but there is a third
something left unsaid, not because there is no answer,
more because it is too fleeting to be said: the sense
of surreality that lasts only briefly after the movie
is over. So, it's never just "the Text and the
Image".. Later, amazed to find that Godard himself
says something similar:
"One concept I share with Anne-Marie Mieville is
making triptychs: a past, a present, a future; one
image, another image and what comes between, what I
call the real image, the third person, as in the
Trinity. And I would call the third person the image,
the image we don't see, that comes from what we’ve
glimpsed of what we will be seeing".
Even more fascinating, in a slant way, is the film
preview of Henry Darger's animated _In the Realms of
the Unreal_, directed by Jessica Yu and produced by
Susan West. Yu's "Director's Notes" emphasizes her
first impression of the "total lack of irony" in
Darger's "combination of perverse subject matter and
innocent presentation". Lytle Shaw describes how
Darger's 15000 page horror story "begins with a
climatic description of the edenic period" when, as
Henry wrote, "There were never cold winters nor
terrific windstorms nor anything to make people
afraid". But, Shaw continues, "such serenity serves
only as a foil for the wild disruptions to follow. And
it is precisely a storm that signals the end of this
golden age. As in the Bible, then, part of the fall is
a fall into weather, into atmosphere as mutable, and
motivated by forces beyond one's control". 

Referential integrity:
[1] Philip Kennicott, "In _Notre Musique_, Going to
Hell and Back":

[2] _Notre Musique_ 'official site':

[3] Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Rappaccini's Daughter":
-- see also the fine student essay by Laura Stallman,
"Survey of Criticism of 'Rappaccini's Daughter' by
Nathaniel Hawthorne":
     mashed with
[4] _Notre Musique_ (79 minutes, at Landmark's E
Street Cinema) is not rated but contains images of
wartime atrocities. There were a total of 6 viewers at
a December 13 matinee (had to run out and 'pass water'
during the Mostar Bridge scenes ;(

[5] Jean-Luc Goddard, _Le Monde_ "Jew of the cinema"
interview by Jacques Mandelbaum and Thomas Sotinel:

[6] See Sara Ayers Henry Darger page,
http://www.saraayers.com/darger.htm for a glimpse of
some of the art. See
for Jessica Yu's Director's Notes. See
for Lytle Shaw's "The Moral Storm: Henry Darger's Book
of Weather Reports".
has links to all of the above and more..

[1] "There isn't so much a single philosophical view
of the world in all of this as a philosophical
attitude grounded on intellectual doubt, moral caution
and a deep philosophical craving to see things torn
asunder somehow brought back together. Grammar divides
us off from the world, cleaving it into I and
everything else; history is a parade of divisions and
destruction; even film, Godard argues, uses basic
techniques that divide up a scene into opposing images
and vantage points, negating the unity of the event it
tries to capture". (Philip Kennicott)

[2]  "Cinema is made with what is called negatives 
          in every language.
     And you draw a positive from this.
     And this specific element of photography 
     is a metaphor which is more than a metaphor, 
          it’s a kind of reality.
     With digital, there’s no more negative; 
          you’ve only got the positive.
     You’ve only got the axis of good 
          and not the axis of bad.
     - Jean-Luc Godard, Cannes Press Conference

[3] Giovanni begins in Purgatory - proud, envious,
irascible, etc, and skips on up to Heaven, slothfully
unawares: and, finally, shamed and reproached by
Beatrice, left burning in Hell: "There is something
truer and more real, than what we can see with the
eyes, and touch with the finger... But now ... he fell
down, grovelling among earthly doubts and ... resolved
to institute some decisive test that should satisfy
him, once for all". OH! such "shallowness of feeling
and insincerity of character... 'at least', thought
he, 'her poison has not yet insinuated itself into my
system. I am no flower to perish in her grasp'!"
(Nathaniel Hawthorne)

[4] That's precisely what came thru most clearly in
_Notre Musique_: the image not shown; the text spoken
(or shown in subtitles ;) but not recalled; the music,
of which I have absolutely no recall. Godard in his
garden, dragging an old-fashioned phone out amongst
the blossoms (no slave to the digital !)

[5] "I wanted to show them [the NOTRE MUSIQUE
characters] all on equal terms, I wanted to be
democratic, with both fiction and documentary, real
actors and false actors and no actors at all, and me
intervening as a guest". (Jean-Luc Godard)

[6] Lytle Shaw concludes: "And it is in this way that
Darger's pathological overtones, his obsessions, begin
to place him in the elevated company of those painters
who failed Western religious painting by allowing the
need for palpable particularity, visualization, and
atmosphere to overcome and obliterate the appropriate
generality more frequently needed for the goals of
moralizing narrative".
My Music?
"Who'll save a poor orphan child, Henry Darger,
lost, growing savage and wild? Henry".
- Natalie Merchant, "Henry Darger", _Motherland_,
"... at once the faithful narrator of an infinitely
segmented and complex Christian allegory, and a secret
god, bursting through the surface of narration
periodically to assert his absolute will" (Lytle).

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