“Detective” analyzes the changed role of humanistic (public) intellectuals in Western societies (a trend that started around the last quarter of the 20th century and, as we can see today, it intensifies in the new century), and how this change has influenced everybody’s behavior and world view. From around the 18th century the Western intellectuals had a leading role in European historical/cultural development. They were people who tried to root spirituality in socio-political realities. They were carriers of democratic sensibility and tried to create a unity between culture and the masses of people, they risked their comforts and sometimes lives for the sake of existential truth. According to “Detective”, it is not true anymore – today intellectuals are transformed into technical specialists hired by the social powers.

Godard represents such culturally mutated intellectuals in the film. One of them – a private investigator with an air of a philosopher and a poet (Laurent Terzieff with his charm of other-worldliness), but his thinking about life is reduced and flattened. His nephew Isidore (Jean-Pierre Leaud in his top performance as a comic actor) is the personification of today’s liberal sensibility (gentle-dry and conformist) and the main focus of Godard’s tragic vision of today’s advanced societies where intellectuals betray their traditional historic-moral mission.

In “Detective” Godard offers his classification of human groups/clans today’s post-industrial societies consist of. One group are those who live by investing money – they are personified by an intelligent and educated married couple (Natalie Baye and Claude Brasseur – both are masters of elaborate characterization, through art of acting, of the states of the human soul. The other group consists of those who multiply money invested into their entrepreneurial adventures – they are personified by sports events businessman (Johnny Halliday who proved to be a very sophisticated actor). But the main clan Godard metaphorically names “mafia” – it is the people who live and make their fortunes on extorting money (Godard’s Mafiosi take from people money with a matter-of-factness of a tax collectors and righteousness of users of taxpayers’ funds for their personal self-enrichment through government contracts).

The film is dedicated to the analysis of relationships between these clans and to the depiction of the private love life of those who belong to them. The emotional and intellectual condition of the young people is characterized by Godard through several personages including “the wise young girl” (Julie Delpy‘s first irresistible performance/ presence) – this point of the film is especially important for the American viewers today to contemplate on, in order to be able to understand better the future of US and Europe.

It is, as if, the social function of the young people in our society is to be used and to amuse the elder people with money, in exchange for living like flowers in the spring air, until the wrong combination of cards will mark the time of their sacrifice which even the decent people among the “adults” will not be able to prevent.

Godard is rehearsing with Nathalie Baye, Claude Brasseur and Johnny Hallyday

Monstrous couple in a luxurious hotel, where people cannot be differentiated from the Mafiosi, intellectuals from detectives and secret agents, love from attempts to love and sex from social self-assertion.

The boxing champ is going through a transition from his profession to becoming the husband of the princess of Bahamas. How far semantics of Godard’s cinematic visuality is from today’s Hollywood’s naturalistic visual effects, how sophisticated it is in comparison with ad-like Hollywood perception of the world!

Godard’s representation of a love triangle between Arielle (in the centre), inspector Neveu (Jean-Pierre Leaud, in front of the mirror), and William Prospero, a detective by call of his heart (Laurent Terzieff) is like a picture of the emotional ruin of their life. We don’t see, in these people too much positive or negative libido (love, hate or jealousy), but a lot of personal suffering (in Arielle and Prospero), and “generous distance” of a “mature person” according to standards of post-modernity.

Posted on February 26, 2013 –   Jean-Luc Godard’s “Detective” (1985) – Transformation of Western Culture into a Detective Story – Couples, Clans, Clashes and Collapses into Blood Spills by Acting-Out Politics