Oh, Woe Is Me (1993)

An experimental audiovisual essay by an increasingly iconoclastic ‘90s Godard that abstractly ruminates about religion, philosophy, love and politics in the only way he can.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Dir. Jean-Luc Godard
1993 | France | Experimental/Essay | 95 mins | 1.37:1 | French
Not rated – likely to be at least M18 for nudity

Cast: Gerard Depardieu, Laurence Masliah, Bernard Verley
Plot: Romance about Simon Donnadieu and his decision to leave his ever-loving wife Rachel.
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
Source: Studiocanal

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Philosophical/Existential
Narrative Style: Essayistic
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: Niche Arthouse

Viewed: DVD
Spoilers: No

If you dig experimental Godard rather than French New Wave Godard, then this might be right down your alley. 

Much more in the vein of 2018’s The Image Book (the only post-‘90s work of his I’ve bothered to see so far) than his more accessible (I use this term cautiously though) ’60s output, Oh, Woe Is Me is an audiovisual essay that ruminates about philosophy, love, politics, and most of all, religion, in the only abstract way he can. 

There’s at least some semblance of plot though (or at least that’s the illusion), where Gerard Depardieu plays a man in love with his wife (or not?).  When he assumedly goes on a business trip, God takes over his body and returns to her, desiring intimacy. 

“Our age is in search of a lost question, weary of all the right answers.”

In true post-New Wave Godard fashion, he provokes and frustrates in equal measure.  In fact, unless you are on his wavelength (increasingly limited as he becomes more iconoclastic through the decades), it’s hard to find the work rewarding. 

However, I am intrigued by how his mind works, and how that might channel into his approach in deconstructing cinema (e.g. form, text, images, sound). 

I am sure hardcore academics will deliberate all that is intelligible about the film, but Oh, Woe Is Me, for all of its attempted meaning-making, is still rather impenetrable. 

But God bless his effortless skill in piecing everything together—one might still take in the ebb and flow of his superb editing and image-making. 

Grade: C+


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