Ne Change Rien (2009) (Change Nothing)
Pedro Costa


Change NothingPedro Costa’s latest film Change Nothing (2009), at a visceral level, rekindles the experience of watching that stunning cinephile bait of his, O Sangue (1989). Like his debut work, Change Nothing is presented in monochrome (although apparently not shot that way) with a contrast ratio to kill for, in which the white appears whiter and black appears blacker. Consequently, Costa, who shot the film himself in DV, achieves a flat field which results in a number of eye-teasing compositions, such as the one in which actress and singer Jeanne Balibar – the subject and star of the film – seems to have grown a pair of angel wings. More than ever, Costa works with light like a painter who’s been given only a limited quantity of colour would, meticulously sculpting Balibar’s distinct visage out of darkness. This exacting precision required for an artistic endeavour is what Change Nothing is ostensibly ‘about’, as it goes about recording Balibar and co. rehearsing, improvising, recording and live-performing a variety of vocal pieces. (There are also a couple of off-track sequences involving a live choir and a pair of Japanese in a bar). The reference here is, of course, Godard’s Sympathy for the Devil (1968), which interpreted radical politics and art-creation as essentially incomplete ventures requiring audience participation. Costa’s film, however, seems more modest and self-sufficient, as it single-mindedly records Balibar’s relentless dedication to her work (and, implicitly, the director’s towards his as well). It undermines the illusion of a work of art being a smooth, finished product by situating it at the end of a long history of imperfections, goofs and possibilities. Ironically, Costa’s rigorous and ‘perfected’ film perpetuates this very illusion. In a way, then, the 100 minutes that we see is only a minor part of Costa’s project, the majority (the remaining 78 hours!) of which will, unfortunately, go unseen.

Sympathy For The Devil
(One Plus One)

Godard’s most effective meditation of role of the artist in political and social reformation comes in the form of Sympathy for the Devil. Godard was utterly dissatisfied with Sympathy for the Devil because the producer had included the completed song at the end credits which is exactly opposite to Godard’s purpose. Godard shows the gradual path to revolution and intentionally leaves out the orgasmic moment, precisely like in the erotic stories that visit the narration now and then, urging people to get to it by themselves. And naturally, his director’s cut, One Plus One, will have a better edited version of the film.

Sympathy For The Devil (1968)

Sympathy For The Devil (1968)

Once again, Godard utilizes multiple sound and image threads to weave together a mysterious fabric of ideologies. The prominent thread shows The Rolling Stones creating one of their songs from the scratch in a mundane fashion, so typical of Godard. These images are interleaved with verbose sequences taht are overtly revolutionary in character. Using these scenes Godard targets a range of things that include the fascist, racist and misogynistic nature of occidental art, improper methods of activism and dissemination of revolutionary spirit and political power for the black (boy, would he have loved if Obama had been elected then!). He uses his characteristic word games to the full extent devising words like Cinemarxism and Sovietcong.

And the using the Rolling Stones part of the film, Godard quietly raises issues about artist and the society and the futility of language. He contrasts the talky campaign of the extremists with the subtle yet effective nature of artists but never answers if their paths should cross or if artists should indulge themselves at all. Also intriguing is the film’s cinematography as it snakes along the cramped recording room with protracted pan shots. And the final image, a possible homage to Pudovkin’s arresting film Mat (1924), is vintage Godard as he signs off with his distinctive chromatic shifts.