Genuine – Exceptional Love Cannot Be Realized According To The Standards Of Amour In The 21st Century

Heaven and earth will pass. My words will not pass.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

State is the very antithesis of the image of a loved one, whose sovereign reason negates that of love.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

“Until now I lived in fear” – said Tristan Bernard, when they came to arrest him, – “From now on, I will live in hope”.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

It is not that will man endure or not, but does he have a right to.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

There can be no resistance without memory or universalism.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

Isn’t it strange how history was replaced by technology?
JLG, Eulogy to Love

There is a service entrance and the main entrance. They use the latter for the apartment of the world and leave us the service entrance, Sir.

JLG, Eulogy to Love

You are unemployed – use your time to think.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

-Why to bother saying or writing that “Titanic” is a global success. Talk about its contents. Talk about things but don’t talk around things. Let’s talk on the basis of things. They confuse existence with life. Is that it?
-I am not a philosopher, but in my opinion, yes. Look at a cell. There’s a nucleus of an atom, as well. It’s the basis of existence. Around it is life. They treat life like a whore which they use to improve their existence. The extraordinary to improve the ordinary.
–That’s right.
–One can enjoy existence, not life.
–Exactly.

JLG, Eulogy to Love


-You said, “American writer”. What “Americans” do you mean? South America?
-The United States, of course.
–Of course. But Brazil’s states are united too. In Brazil they’re called Brazillians. –No, I said the United States of North America.
–The United Mexican States are N. America, and they’re Mexicans. In Canada they’re called Canadians. Which United States do you mean?
-I just said: the United States of the North.
–Well, then, the inhabitants of your united states, whatever they called. See? You don’t have a name. This man signed for a country whose inhabitants have no name. No wonder they need other people’s stories, other people’s legends. You are like us. You are looking for the origin: parents, siblings, cousins. Nothing original about that. But we seek it inside ourselves. Poor you! With no history, you have to seek it elsewhere, in Vietnam, Sarajevo. Okay, but you can do it gently, nicely. –Okay, miss.
–Do you know the origin of Okay? One of your generals, during the Civil War, used it in his report: “O killed.”

JLG, Eulogy to Love

Bertha: “When did the gaze collapse?”
Edgar: “Before TV took precedence.”
Bertha: “Took precedence over what? Current Events?”
Edgar: “Over Life.”
Bertha: “Yes. I feel our gaze has become a program under control. Subsidized… The image, monsieur, the only thing capable of denying nothingness, is also the gaze of nothingness on us.”

JLG, Eulogy to Love

Let feelings bring about events, not the contrary.
Robert Bresson, Notes on Cinematography, quoted in Eulogy to Love.

I am thinking about something. When I think about something, in fact, I’m thinking of something else. You can only think about something if you think of something else. For instance, I see a landscape that is new to me, but it’s new to me because I mentally compare it to another landscape, an older one, all that I knew.
JLG, Eulogy to Love

The main characters read from books, think disinterestedly, discuss life without the need to prove anything, make factual truth-oriented points and generalizations, and try to love (Jean-Luc, Edgar, Bertha and Others).

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By the standards of 21st century culture Edgar is a bizarre, even a morbidly eccentric person. We see him attentively looking at an “empty” book – at white pages without any words, pictures or drawings. What is he looking for there?

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Sometimes from white chaste pages ideas come to him like metaphysical flames – not about how to multiply his investments or how to reinvest his money in trickily promising ways, but ideas with the aura of disinterested – implicit knowledge – about life, human beings, the world, the factual truths.

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Here Edgar is trying to explain his concept of middle-age people as psychologically drastically different from the young people as much as from the elderly.

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Edgar represents in the film Godard – not as a projection of Godard’s directorial personality. Edgar is Godard in a sense that he is also a film-director who is trying to avoid the commercial trap. And he is like Godard because he has his own ideas about life (different from Jean-Luc’s) and his own style of pursuing them. May be, it’s possible to say that Edgar is Godard’s imaginary disciple. In this shot we see how Edgar works with an actress during her audition. He is checking not her ability to mesmerize the audience – to grab the viewers’ attention, he is asking her about her personal reaction on the material her character has to contemplate and react on. These personal reactions will be a test not only for the actress but for the viewers of Godard’s film – will we be able to understand and evaluate Edgar’s way of researching into how during audition actors and their characters establish semantic contact with their existential contexts?

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The young talented actors (talented not in the Hollywood sense of being emotionally contagious to the viewers – able to “hypnotize” the audience to fall into irrational fixation on the star) going through their auditions with Edgar, impressively improvise in the direction of the semantic organism of Edgar’s future film. Look at these chaste and disinterestedly thoughtful beautiful faces so different from that of commercial stars looking like the generic majority of the viewers.

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Edgar/Godard’s actors intuitively grasp problems with love between teenagers when persons’ subjective ideas of their love (how they themselves perceive it) intervene with their (un-reflected) feelings of being in love (when their idea of love becomes a part of their love and organizes love from inside against its very organism and pushes it into impossibility).

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Love between teenagers tends to be over-passionate in a narcissistic way, when (narcissistically colored) self-consciousness inside love relationship tries to lead love in the direction suggested by their idea of concrete love affair, not by its emotional organism.

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Young people’s self-images tend to be exaggerated in their importance while being distorted by their (unconscious) narcissism, and their love is innocently perceived as a function of these self-images.

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Specialist in painting competently diagnoses the ethnicity of the prostitute.

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Bertha, the heroine of the film who in her existential style so different from the motion picture heroines is an exceptionally educated and intellectually oriented person who during nights has to clean passenger trains to make a living for herself and her little son.

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Edgar and Bertha’s love is as intelligent as they themselves are. This shot represents the 21st century environment for disinterested thinking. Our heroes cannot talk only about themselves, and even when they do it is a talk about life and existential world and them inside it. As heroes of Alain Resnais’ “Hiroshima, mon amour”, Edgar and Bertha in order to realize their love for each other have to sacrifice their relationship for the sake of their love which is homeless, belongs under bridge.

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But two years before a stern (black and white) color of the world started to dominate human life according to our beloveds, Edgar was already the same, a bit creepy according to the mass-cultural worldview – reading scholarly books without any career orientation, and disinterestedly thinking, fixated on truth of life which is yet supposed to be discovered by him, what people in the 21st century (too busy “surviving, succeeding, self-asserting and entertaining themselves) do less and less.

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Edgar met Bertha two years before, and we cannot appreciate the difficulties inside their love without being sensitive towards how intensely they need each other, how much they are, indeed, made for one another. Today the more two people love each other the more difficult it is for them to realize their love. It is because today love is psychologically polluted like the physical environment is chemically, and love is very fragile to psychological pollution.

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Usually love makes people isolated from the world, separated from it, as if, by a glass wall through which they can feel themselves… in the world even more. In other words, traditionally, love simultaneously separates people from and unites them with the world (separates because it creates borders of privacy, and unites because what is private is defined by common standards and stereotypes). People are socio-morphic and worldly and private love makes them forget that they are innocently conformist.

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Love needs the world to be able to realize itself in it according to the world’s standards, but it doesn’t want to admit it. Regular love pretends that it is an absolute boss while it is nothing without the social reality. Edgar and Bertha’s love is completely different – it is a part not of the social, but an existential world, and their self-reflection about this love is simultaneously reflection about the existential reality. Even their eroticism, as if, doesn’t belong exclusively to them – it is the world’s, they, as if, are not appropriating it. Their love is honest because it’s no narcissistic. There is no place in them for love as self-assertion – for needing love as giving the beloveds a respectable social status.

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Are many people today able to think disinterestedly – to be dedicated to truth as intensely and almost self-sacrificially as Edgar?

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To accept love with all its trivialities, all its egoism of the two, with all its predatory naiveté, you have to accept the world in all its fallenness. But if the beloveds cannot be these naïve beasts of living, they must somehow differentiate themselves from the world, like Bertha is in this still – she prefers truth to a passive, predatory and conformist living. She transforms herself into a blemish on the bright autumnal life instead of being part of this standard, almost artificial brightness.

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Sea of blood of life is an apocalyptic image, but people try to avoid the warning and menacing images which make us worried, unable to enjoy life as it is, and pursue pleasant philistine vanities which are the very flesh and sense of our lives.

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Sea of blood makes clouds bloody (absorbing the evaporating blood), as people’s thinking absorbs their deeds, as people’s memory – their thinking.

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We prefer to perceive ourselves as though our life was separated from the destiny of our environment – as if the will of the elements is somewhere behind the transparent walls of our aquarium where we, inside it are free and autonomous to go on continue to consume the universe. But oceans are flowing through us, and we are fragile to their heartbeats. And if we don’t know the mysticism of unity with nature and non-being as part of this unity it can assert itself on us from outside spiritual experience – directly, traumatizingly, tragically (because we never had the humility not to push nature according to the caprices of our vanity).

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We, humans, do not respect nature, we abuse it to satisfy our childish impulses, and oceans get closer to our consumerist egos. It will be individuals like Edgar, the “saints” of our times, who will take to themselves the first revengeful blows of insulted and neglected nature. It’s already starting to happen – we are already in the 21st century.

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Love is especially fragile to our degrading psychological environment which is like a poisoned and mad ocean swallowing our rudimentary intelligence. Berta cannot be incarnated into the flesh of earthly love.

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The image of a beloved signifying the image of our love is especially vulnerable to the very impossibility to realize intelligent love (which doesn’t pretend that it’s occupying the center of the universe). As Bergman and Antonioni explained to us in their films, the area of love is especially fragile to human barbarity. With our every violent and despotic gesture directed at the destruction of otherness outside and inside us, we destroy our ability to love and ourselves together with it.

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The last footage of the film is Edgar’s driving to the second part of the film – which Godard showed us the first. We see how our human life – that of our civilization, is shattering in fragments of casual impressions, local tasks, petty interests and delirious scientific and technological efforts to manipulate our environment and ourselves. The part of the film given in color represents the very end of the 20th century, while the stern (black and white) part – the new century of our future when realization of personal love as a spiritual experience of love is almost impossible.

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“Eulogy To Love” is Godard’s prediction that the new century, while being indifferent to amour and even encouraging its common and trivial forms, will be antagonistic to spiritually existential love (between humanistically educated and disinterestedly thinking (oriented on implicit truths) people. Following Antonioni’s (“La Notte”, “L’Avventura”, “L’Eclisse”) and Bergman’s (“Anna’s Passion”, “Shame”, “From the Life of Marionettes”) warnings about how life vulgarized by conformist competition and predatory self-assertion makes it almost impossible for the beloveds with intelligent hearts and souls to realize their love, Godard in his film confirms and radicalizes Antonioni and Bergman’s conclusions in culturological perspective.

In “Eulogy…” Godard allows himself to critically debunk what is not debunkable in cinema as an enterprise – the very cinema audience, the consumers of cinematic visuality. He almost disrespectfully challenges them by putting himself against their taste in arts, their limitations in perception of cinematic form and their inability to create rapport with the semantic flows. He puts his film in a position of Resnais’ “Hiroshima mon amour” (where the hero and the heroine are as far from people with reduced internality, as Bertha and Edgar).

Godard’s Edgar and Bertha’s position towards personal love is as “elitist” as developed human personality is always “elitist” – it builds itself in the midst of adversity of common identity. The unique personality is individualistic and for this reason – democratic. It shares itself with other personalities because it is something that can be shared. It is generous because it has what to offer and with pleasure. It is based on human democratic ability to enjoy the very otherness of other people.

Godard’s film is paradigmatically democratic – individualistic and communally oriented discourse that shares with the audience the sophistication of love between Bertha and Edgar. Conversely, common love is not about sharing personalities, it is about mutual identification between the beloveds who are then narcissistically pleased to recognize and love themselves in the partner and who enjoy being reinforced by their enlarged (“by love”) personality of “two halves”. This amorous mutual identification is a psychological gesture of a totalitarian unification – reinforcement of the common over what is unique in each of the beloveds and the typical over what in them could be exceptional. The difference between the regular (and psychologically based on a common denominator) personal love and, on the other hand, the exceptional and democratically oriented amorous relationship is grown from Rousseau’s differentiation between amour propre and amour de soi.

Godard’s “Eulogy…” is a statement against totalitarianization of the democratic psychological individualism. How naively stupid are all those who label Godard as a “socialist” – Godard is much more democratic than ideological “pro-capitalists” who are psychologically identical with the ideological communist believers. The both types are persons of power by any price, these fighters for “communism” or “free market” – communists are typical men of power and righteously enjoy violating the freedom of others while “free marketers” are typical monopolists, people of absolute control over markets. These people are victims of semantic crumbs which their “thinking” is made of, as all totalitarian people whatever will be scribbled on their icon-banners.

Spiritual insider of wild urbanism

Several times amidst the dark (in black-and-white) city we see Godard’s even darker and barely, although unmistakably recognizable, silhouette. What is Godard, with his old-fashioned hat, doing in the late evening on the street benches? He is doing the impossible, meaningless thing – he is trying to make sense – under the shadows of street lamps and ads – through reading a book or just a piece of paper or notes or imagined text. One time somebody snatches the paper out of Godard’s hand, and he rather fiercely tries to get it back. Godard is without even a small digital camera. If he had it in his hands the meaning of his street presence could be that he is trying to understand the city life and its types, let say, like he did in “Breathless” – like the film director. But to read in the night’s light-and-dark means to try to understand life’s destiny like a human being (before being a director or a writer or even a reader). Indeed, Godard reading in the city’s wandering darkness is not reading at all: he is thinking. We see here the definition of intellectual art – before the artist thinks as an artist he thinks as a human being.

Without this differentiation between human intelligence and technical intelligence there is no intellectual art, and then an artist is only a painter or filmmaker or text-maker. Godard in “Eulogy…” represents himself as a human being, a thinking human being (the words “thinker” or “writer” or “artist” already carry technical, applied aspect of creativity). Edgar and Bertha are both like Godard – they are first of all, thinking human beings (before being thinkers or “philosophers” or “gurus” or “experts”). Their thinking is psychologically humanistic (product of their psychological wholeness including their position towards the world and life, not just their technical/professional, functional minds).

What love of two people like this can be, can it be like the one between Jean-Luc and Anna, like between Jean-Luc and Anne, like between Jean-Luc and Anne-Marie, like between Edgar and Bertha or between “him” and “her”, like in Resnais’ “Hiroshima mon amour”, or between Alain and Sabine?

We cannot choose our historical period. But creative power of human (existential) spirituality of humility and stubbornness is stronger than despotic human destructiveness. Then we, humans, must put ourselves as a link between the past and the future, instead of a disappeared present that is eaten up by demonic powers inside our human nature.

Posted on Feb 8 2015 –   In Praise of Love/Éloge de l’amour (2001) By Jean-Luc Godard by Acting-Out Politics