It looks like Godard wanted to help the immortality of the old story by Merimee (vocally framed and reinforced by Bizet’s opera) by saving it from anthropological tautology. Indeed, what is so big deal about an amorous affair and its noisy betrayal? We know thousands of stories like that – love-betrayal-and-revenge – human thinking’s narrow range. And that’s all – the melting of two souls together, intercourses, orgasms and dreams about new intercourses and new orgasms with the same or new partners. Can our spacious specie do better than this? Godard provocatively transferred this bunch of anthropological banality into our epoch, when horrific wars, incredible technical-scientific discoveries, unimaginable works of art and ambitious political revolutions were already created. Can it be, that Carmen and Joseph-Jose are the new faces of humanity?

How does the modern Carmen love, better or worse than the previous one? How does Joseph revenge, bloodier or less bloody than his forerunner? May be, lovers have become smarter and are able to resolve the incongruity of their passions in a more learned and advanced manner? Oh, don’t expect anything like “progress” in human wisdom or education, etc. Development in history is not going from just worse to just better. In short, according to Godard’s “First Name: Carmen”, development took place from meaninglessness to even more meaninglessness, and from messiness in thinking to even more mess in thinking.

It’s not that progress didn’t take place at all. Jose-the soldier is transformed into Joseph-the policeman – not a big difference, but today’s Carmen is certainly more intelligent and not less feminine and she is no less able to love, but… in a civilized and prosperous France of the 80s, she is, somehow, stifled much more than the Carmen of the past, much less able to open herself to the world with a freedom of her amorous passion. Today’s Carmen is suffocated by the calculating strategies of competing and fighting socio-political structures having transformed human beings into its pans-fighters. Today’s Carmen is a “progressive activist” in and against equally corrupted and ideologically bankrupt enterprises. Jose/Joseph, a person with conservative sensibility, didn’t change, but Carmen as a progressive person is changed for the worse. Left (progressive) or right (conservative) orientation in politics today are both inseparable from big money machine and, therefore, from greed and strategic calculation/ manipulation (both oriented only on success over the opponent). And when the opposing political parties use ideological motifs they always (artificially) propagandize them because their chief strategists think only in terms of success and money.

The corporate face of any socio-political organization chokes the very possibilities for it to have any existential sense. Carmen’s participation in any revolutionary operation is meaningless, as Joseph’s participation in the police‘s attempts to protect the bank from robbers outside (banks are robbed through manipulative financial schemes by the bankers themselves). Carmen sacrifices her life for her revolutionary ideals, like the historical Carmen – for her obsession with her future lover – a “courageous” and a “powerful” super-person. Both Carmen and Joseph are psychologically idolatrous. Carmen is as corrupt and meaningless as a progressive activist, as Joseph as corrupt and a meaningless conservative. Joseph understands only one note in the melody of love – betrayal (my possession can in no way leave me). Godard’s Carmen/Joseph souls’ common denominator is not love – their loving each other is as different as intercourse between an elephant and a lioness. Culture could create interpersonal field of meaning of love, but humanistic education in Western plutocracies is in a process of being shattered, and with it a common language of meaning and amour.

Virtuoso way Godard has put all of this into the film is admirable in its cinematic versatility and beauty. But beauty today is that of ugliness. So, as viewers we have to do with both, the sky and earth, with paradise and hell, with meaning and meaninglessness, with amour of nightmare. Only later, with a new century, Godard made a tremendous effort to modify his cinematic style.


Oncle Jeannot (Jean Luc Godard) is in the sanatorium faking mental illness to avoid the poisonous cultural atmosphere in the country


Love between Carmen and Joseph starts as its opposite – as a clash between revolution (which Carmen in her mind personifies) and counterrevolution (as social order and security of life, as Joseph understands it)


Carmen-Joseph’s fight continues as their love – it’s not surprising that physical closeness to Carmen (which fighting provides) made Joseph change tactics


Yes, it looks, that a quickly changing circumstances demanded drastic reorientation – love suddenly started to look like itself, not as its opposite.


But life, rather as usual, again didn’t give love a serious chance. Here we see, how a revolution in order to impress the public is preparing a terroristic “show”. On the left (close to us) we see an ambitious philistine who has in advance paid money to lunch near the prime minister’s table. In the center (of the background) we see our lovers (Carmen – in the white dress and Joseph) sorting out their disagreements. To the right from them we see Jean-Luc himself who was ready to start shooting his film but somehow smells something opposite to filmmaking in the air and wants to leave. And to the right of Godard we see the alternative heroine of the film, Claire keeping rehearsing serious music.


Waiter (to the dying Carmen who already has been shot by Joseph) – Is something wrong, miss?
Carmen – What’s called… on one side, the innocent…
Waiter – I don’t know, miss.
Carmen – Think, stupid!
Waiter – I don’t know, miss.

Posted Sep/23/’17 –   Jean-Luc Godard’s “First Name: Carmen” (1982) – Emancipated Heroine, Guard Of The Status Quo, Psychologically Debilitated Artist And A “Revolutionary” Terrorism by Acting-Out Politics