New York 2023 Review: TRAILER OF A FILM THAT WILL NEVER EXIST: PHONY WARS, Adieu Godard
The short film offers a rare glance into Jean-Luc Godard's process in constructing his essay films.
It's hard to believe that it's been a year since Jean-Luc Godard left us forever in his own volition.
His last moving picture, a 20-minute preview of his contemplation on the state of the world we live in right now, Trailer of a Film That Will Never Exist: Phony Wars, is a testament to his legacy as the most unique film director in cinema history.
Originally wanting to adapt a communist Belgian writer, Charles Plisnier's Faux Passport in 2020, Godard began to create a book of collages based on the book's six chapters. The project stalled because of the Covid pandemic. So, he decided to make a trailer for the project, a snapshot of a film to come, according to Godard's close collaborator Fabrice Argano.
It's a series of his hand-made collages on A5 Canon glossy printing paper with sporadic sound. With no sound for the first five minutes, I was yearning to hear his gravelly voice one last time and was relieved to hear it again when he narrates about Carlotta, a heroine of a short story by Plisnier, which he wanted to adapt.
Godard says that the writer made portraits, and intercuts with Olga Brodsky's face in a scene from his 2004 masterpiece, Notre Musique. It turns out that it's the only 'moving image' we see in this short, preliminary image book for a film that will never be made.
It's also a rare glance into Godard's process in constructing his essay films. The images are hand-made with pens and markers, underlining words and instructions, with photos and paintings glued on. Sound, film, video clips and music are combined and then added, building and/or constructing thoughts for his essay films. It's completely fascinating.
Plisnier turned his back on communism and Stalinism, becoming a Roman Catholic in his later years. Through the sound clips from Notre Musique, you hear the character replying to a Russian soldier, "I don't understand what you are saying, I do not trust that language." I can't help but connect him to the current situation in Ukraine.
Godard was always a keen observer, an oracle, and an ardent critic of the aggressors of the world. He knew which side he was standing on. It would have been great to see what his take on the whole situation with more elaboration.
Because he always charted his own course from the very beginning, Godard had no disciples or imitators. Each of his films were borne out of his unique method and technique, and there's no substitute for his filmmaking.
As the twenty-minute Trailer ends, realizing that this is the final official release of his moving-pictures (even though I know for a fact that there is a wealth of materials he left behind), that this is indeed the end of it, filled me with great sadness. No more Godard. This is it.
Trailer of the Film That Will Never Exist: Phony Wars, plays along with Wang Bing's Man in Black and Pedro Costa's The Daughters of Fire at the New York Film Festival.
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on everything cinema and beyond can be found at www.dustinchang.com