FRANCE/TOUR/DETOUR/TWO/CHILDREN (Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie Miéville, 1977-78)

Videotaped for television, France/tour/detour/deux/enfants was “loosely inspired” by a nineteenth-century children’s book about two brothers. Jean-Luc Godard has said he made it in order to understand children better. He and Anne-Marie Miéville document two nine-year-old schoolmates, Camille Virolleaud and Arnaud Martin. Some of their “spontaneous” behavior, though, conformed to Godard’s scripted intent.
     The setting is contemporary reality: highway traffic moves across “devastated landscape”; photographic images of state oppression. Miéville: “We say ‘war and peace.’ But in truth wars never end and peace never begins.” This is the world that absorbs children by degrees, through environment and education. Godard’s “control” of Camille and Arnaud seeks to expose society’s training of children for service in The Factory, the military-industrial complex—a risky procedure. Freeze frames and slow motion, while ambient sound is continuous, turn street activity and traffic into scenes of disruption and discord.
     Godard’s interviews nudge the children to consider weighty matters, such as existence and mortality. His offscreen voice asks Arnaud what business means—selling and buying, the boy in effect says—while Miéville’s voiceover questions whether her and Godard’s method is capable of getting at “the truth.” Assaulting technology, Miéville suggests that Godard should be asking Arnaud, because he is eating a biscuit, “why the industrialization of agriculture” results in famines—she knows, an impossible question for a nine-year-old. Instead, Godard asks Arnaud whether a connection exists between war and money, whether business is like peace or war. “Peace,” Arnaud says, prompting Godard’s gently prodding education about ownership relating to Arnaud’s concepts of “my room” and “my toys,” and the discord these spur in the form of possessiveness and appropriation. “Have you taken things that aren’t yours?” Godard asks. “Do you steal?” Arnaud: “Yes, of course!”
     A far-ranging, agile, refreshing piece of work.

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