Gérard Depardieu and Laurence Masliah in Hélas pour moi (1993)


(director/writer: Jean-Luc Godard; cinematographer: Caroline Champetier; editor: Jean-Luc Godard; cast: Gérard Depardieu(Simon Donnadieu), Bernard Verley(Abraham Klimt), Laurence Masliah(Rachel Donnadieu); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Benoît Rossel/Christine Gozlan/Christine Hutin; Caesar Film; 1993-France/Switzerland-in French with English subtitles)
It’s an art-house film for those who enjoy puzzling challenges and don’t mind a film that’s not meant to be enjoyed.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

French born director Jean-Luc Godard (“Breathless”/”Pierrot le Fou“/”Weekend”), currently living in Switzerland, bases his spiritual drama on the Greek myth of Alcmene, in which Zeus assumes the shape of Alcmene’s husband, Amphitryon, in order to get physical pleasure from a beautiful woman.It uses that myth to examine modern man’s relationship with God and his faith in the unknown.

Simon Donnadieu (Gérard Depardieu) and his beautiful wife Rachel (Laurence Masliah) are an average couple who reside in a serene Swiss village. They must accept that God takes over the body of Simon to make love to Rachel. This is not the omnipotent God of the Old Testament, but a frail and irrelevant one because of neglect in the contemporary world.

Godard uses that setup to fully reflect on mankind’s faith in regards to eternal love, devotion and other spiritual matters. Publisher Abraham Klimt (Bernard Verley) hears about this odd occurrence, and travels to the couple’s Swiss town to check it out.

The perplexing fragmented Godardian narrative is meant to be obtuse and is filled with continuous declarations that range from ponderous insights into greater truths to tongue-in-cheek whimsical responses. It’s an art-house film for those who enjoy puzzling challenges and don’t mind an elusive film that’s not meant to be enjoyed. I wish I could say I got something more out of it other than being spellbound by Godard’s unique magical way of storytelling and his unrelenting stand for pure cinema. But on second thought, maybe that’s enough. Especially when the meaning doesn’t matter here, what matters is the act of watching something pleasingly obscure take place that could lead to an understanding beyond words or visuals.