Jean-Luc Godard

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Joan Mellen

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Wind from the East, one of the latest of Godard's revolutionary epics, fails miserably: first, aesthetically, because Godard cannot find a myth or a situation by which to bring to life its Maoist ideology, a problem he has failed to solve in many of his films. It is conceptually weak and inane as well, failing to make any coherent statement about revolutionary purpose, although the basis of Godard's technique in this film is the accumulation of statements. (p. 65)

Because he relinquishes the aesthetic potential of his medium with its capacity to move at will from one segment of time and place to another, Godard cannot convey the sense of historical struggle. But his choice of an unrelieved placard style, substituting statement for a nuanced development of dramatic conflict exposes as well disturbing features in Godard's new ideology. It is one thing to note that Godard's imagery of primitive idyll as the prelude to class struggle is painfully naive and inadequate given the highly complex social organization Godard hopes to change. But the methods Godard selects as the tools of social change—brutality, terrorism, coercion—are presumably the very abuses of human dignity he finds so appalling in bourgeois society….

An anti-democratic, authoritarian tone pervades both the style of Wind from the East with its preaching narrators and its content as well. The very title gives Godard away. Refusing to use film for the purpose of persuasion, a motive shared by other politically conscious directors from Eisenstein to Rossellini, Godard is forced to demand acceptance for his ideas on the basis of an appeal to his current favorite authority, Mao Tse-Tung. Although the last part of the film raises substantive questions of interest to revolutionaries, Godard allows no debate—despite the fact that a dialectic of ideas could have added conflict and interest to a very static film….

[The end of Wind from the East that calls for terrorism] substitutes the dubious heroics of a clandestine handful and is as elitist as it is self-defeating. Certainly it delays awareness for those not yet won to revolutionary consciousness…. His goal is the levelling of existing societies, confident in his self-delusion that a revolutionary, industrialized society will spring from the wreckage as from the forehead of Zeus….

In its ultimate advocacy of terrorism and murder, Godard's infantile rantings turn out to be dangerous as well as poor filmmaking. For Godard's films may well appeal to those who like him believe that a revolution involves only the "right" views and a ready bomb. Because such a course can lead only to self-deception and defeat, Wind from the East militates against the very revolutionary aim Godard has so zealously and so recently discovered. Shrill, mindless slogan-mongering without argument or reason, combined with childish miming, is the last thing that the politically conscious worker, Godard's implicit hero, would find either appealing or convincing. On the contrary, he would more likely reject Wind from the East for its smug self-indulgence and its lack of any real connection with his life. He, as were we, will be bored. Those who accept Godard as a revolutionary will be inoculated against the revolution. (p. 67)

Joan Mellen, "'Wind from the East'," in Film Comment (copyright © 1971 by Film Comment Publishing Corporation; all rights reserved), Vol. 7, No. 3, Fall, 1971, pp. 65-7.

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