Pierrot le fou’s (1965) disembodied voices of Ferdinand and Marianne, the transient spirit of romance, have become the politicized, revolutionary voices of Vladimir and Rosa, as in Lenin and Luxemburg, in Pravda, by Jean-Luc Godard and the filmmaking cooperative to which he belonged at the time, Groupe Dziga Vertov. Vladimir and Rosa observe and discuss a factory in Prague. They find this Communist workplace, along with the social atmosphere surrounding it, as dehumanizing and oppressive as a Western factory. Indeed, Vladimir and Rosa excoriate as “revisionist” and “bourgeois imperialistic” both the United States and the U.S.S.R., the two reigning Cold War superpowers. Pravda, although playful, reeks of disillusionment, the collapse of Leftist hopes, following France’s May 1968 rebellion, and Godard has since repudiated it as “Marxist-Leninist garbage.”
It misses Godard’s trademark ambivalence; it lacks the humanistic bind that generally complicates Godard’s political agitation. It is directly headed to Mao’s China.
In Czechoslovakia, “people are terribly sad,” “very often listening to American music”; “workers would rather wash their cars than fuck their wives.” Dotted with Western advertising, “the country is very sick,” revolution having not yet arrived; a few times the screen goes wittily black because images are owned by the U.S. or have been sold to West Germany. The mission of Vladimir and Rosa becomes to edit images and sound to show “Communist realities.” Workers are no less manipulated production slaves here than in the West.
One feels a bit bombarded by this film, which provides no French subtitles for Czech speech. Vladimir to Rosa: “If you don’t understand Czech, it doesn’t matter.” Czech workers are denied speech and action by the revisionists in power.
The film’s conclusive set-piece is a long take using a static camera: a factory worker at repetitive work. Devastating.
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