Numéro deux (1975)


(director/writer: Jean-Luc Godard; screenwriter: Anne-Marie Miéville; editor: Jean-Luc Godard; cinematographer: William Lubtchansky; music: Léo Ferré; cast: Sandrine Battistella (Wife), Pierre Oudrey (Husband), Alexandre Rignault (Grandpa), Rachel Stefanopoli (Grandma), Jean-Luc Godard (Himself); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jean-Pierre Rassam/Georges de Beauregard; Facets Video; 1975-France-in French with English subtitles)
“One of the noted filmmaker’s better and more subversive films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Numéro Deux marks the successful collaboration between Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard. It’s an experimental film examining the effects of man-vs-machine and of a French working class family consisting of children and grandparents living together. Its unusual format projects on the big screen TV video images of different proportions and split-screen images that are superimposed on a 35 mm image after being shot in video. Godard’s argument against traditional beliefs, the work ethic, alienation, and his openly controversial stand on erotic behavior running contrary to traditional family value advocates, pushes forward the sexual boundaries and his radical view that the difficult economic times increase the possibility of more self-awareness among the masses. Despite the film’s avant-garde nature, it is surprisingly lucid and one of the noted filmmaker’s better and more subversive films.

The three-generation family is superbly played by non-professionals who argue, make love, frequently wash, and enjoy the music of Léo Ferré. The wife (Sandrine Battistella) acts if she were a prisoner in her own home, while hubby (Pierre Oudrey) is imprisoned at work. The young boy and girl question growing up in a country where the government is hostile toward workers with the girl especially keen on asking mom about sexual matters, while their grandparents try to reconcile that their salad days are over. Godard appears as himself, a cranky questioning intellectual who draws frightening parallels between the landscape and factories–which have become interchangeable in today’s paradoxical political climate. In a provocative and self-assured way Godard questions the social reality of the times and the way it is viewed by those undergoing the most severe changes. He comes to no set conclusions, but opens up a door for further thought on a strange world accepted by most only because it’s unbelievable.

The title might refer to making number two and that so many things in life are shitty. Hubby and wife are often ruminating about taking a dump or taking it up the ass. It is filmed almost entirely in the family’s cramped apartment.