Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie)
(Every Man For Himself)
Godard’s second commercial success comes 25 years after the triumph of Breathless. Every Man for himself is considered the starting film of the next phase in Godard’s prolific career and the distinct detour in style is apparent. With all the qualities of a classic French film intact – marital trouble, empty lives, slow pace and streets of Paris – Godard’s sober venture is a ready hit among the critics.
Exactly as the title suggests, the film follows three individuals who try to redeem their empty lives through their own methods. One takes up prostitution, the other tries to make good films and the third attempts to go to the countryside on her bike. Godard’s preoccupation with prostitution continues as he reflects on prostitution of society, art and oneself. This yearning to break back into the youth may be one of Godard’s own wishes as the film’s composition is enough to raise debates about Godard’s maturity and senescence. The texture of the film reminds us of Godard’s own A Married Woman (1964) and the only fancy Godard style remains the ultra slow motion that pops up fro time to time as if observing truth with religious keenness (Godard uses it in a rather lovable form in his interview with Woody Allen).
The stark contrast with his Dziga Vertov years shows as the organic nature of the film suggests Godard’s serious reconsideration of his objectives. At one point, Paul, clearly the Godard figure in the film, tells us his reason for making films. “’I make films to keep myself busy. If I had the strength, I’d do nothing. It’s because I can’t bear doing nothing that I make films” – evidently a statement from a man who has had a serious setback in his ideological stand. He doesn’t also criticizes himself as he happily reminds us of the infamous Bergman quote about him. He even takes a jab at Truffaut, perhaps as a ramification of their overt friction, and is disgusted at someone making a film out of a David Goodis Novel. And coming to think of it, it is this same man that had paid an hommage to Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player in A Woman is a Woman (1961)!