Isabelle Huppert, Michel Piccoli, Jerzy Radziwilowicz, and Hanna Schygulla in Passion (1982)


(director/writer/editor: Jean-Luc Godard; cinematographer: Raoul Coutard; cast: Isabelle Huppert (Isabelle), Hanna Schygulla (Hanna), Michel Piccoli (Michel), Jerzy Radziwilowicz (Jerzy); Runtime: 88; Artificial Eye/Sonimage/Sara Films/A2; 1982-Fr.)
“This film has enough intellectual stimulation in it for me not to loathe it.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Godard, the icon of the ’60s generation of avant-garde filmmakers and didactic speaker for the “lost leftist causes,” teams up again with his favorite cameraman, Raoul Coutard, to make another anti-movie movie. I have never warmed up to Godard films; I always found them for the most part pretentious and only mildly diverting. I have not seen a film of his since the ’70s that I particularly cared for. So I looked at Passion, a film about his love of politics, art, and filmmaking, with a slightly jaundiced eye, and I was not disappointed. I still don’t like his style, or his rejection of a linear story for a rambling dialogue that misses more often than it hits the mark.

What I thought he did exceedingly well was have the cinematography for the ‘film within a film’ enhance in a very elegant manner the film’s costumed and mannered scenes, allowing them to shine as colorful spectacles. He also made good use of the actual paintings by incorporating them into the film, using such artist’s works as El Greco, Rembrandt, Rubens, Delacroix, and Ingres.

The story in a nutshell is about a Polish director trying to make a film on a shoestring budget while courting the elusive Isabelle Huppert and the plain-spoken Hannah Schygulla, and fighting with the producers who want the film to have a logical story. In the background, we pick up the side story of the Polish director (Jerzy Radziwilowicz) who is worried about what is going on in Poland because of the Solidarity Movement, and plans to return there as soon as possible.

Godard has made a film about searching for something to love by showing that love is something that is essential to keep you in balance amid the chaos of one’s life and the outside turmoils of war and class struggle. He says that Delacroix started out painting warriors and then went on to paint saints, then to paint lovers, then to paint tigers, and finally all he painted was flowers.

Hannah says, in a moment of deep reflection, “Sometimes I love what I don’t like.” Ummm! An intriguing and provocative thought by Godard, though I am not exactly sure what he means. But it is thoughts like this, that make me keep coming back to see Godard films.

Godard is at his quintessential self, when he says that there are two rules for the cinema:1) Minimum effort 2) Maximum adversity.

For me there is only one basic rule for the cinema, make an intellectually sound, lucid and honest film. This film has enough intellectual stimulation in it for me not to loathe it…just to feel unsatisfied by all its unfulfilled promise.