Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company, The (1986)

Godard collaborates with Jean-Pierre Leaud in this rarely-seen TV movie whose reach would have surely escaped its audience as the iconoclastic auteur philosophises the end of cinema, complications of production and the malleability of video aesthetics in his inimitable esoteric style.  

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review #2,444

Dir. Jean-Luc Godard
1986 | France/Switzerland | Drama/Experimental | 92 mins | 1.33:1 | French & Italian
Not rated – likely to be NC16 some mature themes

Cast: Jean-Pierre Leaud, Jean-Pierre Mocky, Marie Valera
Plot: A war of words between director, producer and actress during the production of a cheap television film.
Awards: Official Selection (Berlinale)
Distributor: Capprici

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Esoteric – TV Production; Meta-Cinema
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex – Elliptical/Fragmentary
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: Experimental Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

This is one of the rarest films from Jean-Luc Godard, which I managed to see on MUBI before it left the service.  To be more accurate, it is a TV movie. 

According to MUBI, it was only broadcast once in thirty years.  I’m not really a fan of Godard in his more obtuse, esoteric post-‘60s phase, where it is difficult for me to find pure enjoyment. 

It’s a middling work, sometimes brilliant, at other times frustratingly tedious.  But no matter how impenetrable some of his later films are, they are at least not uninteresting. 

The Rise and Fall of a Small Film Company is interesting as a meta-theoretical exercise in depicting irony as Godard philosophises the end of cinema and the complications of production by shooting for the small screen and employing an aesthetics of limitations through no-frills videography rather than the high art of cinematography. 

“What emerges in the light is the echo of what the night submerges.”

He even makes an extended cameo in a cheeky moment of self-reflexivity, though his cheekiness is more conspicuous in how he treats the malleability of video aesthetics—for instance, his use of jittery pauses is the antithesis of the jump cut he popularised with Breathless (1960). 

The film operates on multiple levels—for instance, it can be seen as a behind-the-scenes documentary of a troubled production; or Godard trying to produce a film on a limited budget and telling audiences that ‘it is what it is’.  Or maybe it’s just both. 

Some of the performances are exaggerated, aggressive even—it’s too kind to call them caricatures, but they reveal the angst and pressures of showbiz. 

It doesn’t matter if you are Godard—with low budgets and even lower motivations, good cinema doesn’t exist on television.  So, what does he do?  He theorises it. 

Grade: B-



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