Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader wrote:
Soft and Hard (A Soft Conversation Between Two Friends on a Hard Subject)
Soft and Hard, a highly intimate 48-minute video made by Godard and Anne-Marie Mieville for English television three years later, shows Godard and Mieville at their home in rural Switzerland. In many ways the most intimate and domestic of Godard’s works, it broaches the matter of what distinguishes film from video. Can be viewed in retrospect as necessary preludes to his recently completed magnum opus, the eight-part Histoire(s) du cinema.
Marie Anne Lanavère wrote:
Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville decided to create “Sonimage” (sound + image), an independent production structure, in Grenoble in 1972. They were launching an ambitious life project: that of working, removed from the normal production relationship, in a context where the couples life and work are indistinguishable, and, by doing so, abolishing the way society has separated work and leisure.
This project is the subject of reflection in the essay Soft and Hard (Soft Talk on a Hard Subject between two Friends), shot in video in 1985, and produced by English television. In this autobiographical duet, private space is caught up in the “usine”(factory): we observe the solitude of each in their routine activities (Anne-Marie Miéville doing the ironing, Jean-Luc Godard in bed) and in their work (Anne-Marie Miéville at her editing desk, Jean-Luc Godard in his office). They are aware that the activities they reveal for us contribute to the creation of an image of themselves (Jean-Luc Godard playing tennis in the living room). And they don’t hesitate to present both their solitude and their interactivity, with great clarity. The main issue of Soft and Hard is the adjunction of the two concepts. This is made visible by the conversation in the living-room, filmed by a fixed camera, where the setting is apparently soft, but the conversation is about a hard subject: that of the couple, which is itself composed of two individuals who both want to become subjects.
This conversation reveals a position concerning the image that is totally different from that carried by Hollywood films and television. It’s a conversation between two filmmakers comparing the origins of their passion for the cinema, but it is also an intimate meeting space (between two friends) of personal searching and mutual criticism. The more the conversation goes on, the clearer it becomes that even working together, each person creates his or her project alone. Ten years previously, Numéro deux, (1975) for which Anne-Marie Miéville co-wrote the screenplay, already raised the issues of role division in couples, and even the solitude of each person. Anne-Marie Miéville gives us more couples in crisis in her short films – Le Livre de Marie (1984), then Lou n’a pas dit non (1993). In 1996 she boldly made Nous sommes tous encore ici (We’re all still here), with Jean-Luc Godard playing himself.
Soft and Hard is a pessimistic statement: ” This project to grow, to become subjects. – Where has it gone? – It is hard to say. – It is hard to say.” Nous sommes tous encore ici, which might have been the sequel, became nostalgic. Jean-Luc Godard still continues his personal autobiographical research, in a certain manner, with Histoire(s) du cinéma starting in 1987, then with JLG / JLG (1994) without Anne-Marie Miéville.
But what we retain from Soft and Hard, is the project of living together, with two voices (theirs, one male, one female, overlapping each other), and a common idea of beauty, even though it comes through at a trickle. Soft and Hard remains a lyrical work, in the line of Sauve qui peut la vie, which allows omnipresent nature to give its message, “where the world of creation is laid out like an accident” 1 : scenes of walks along the shores of lake Geneva, or in the country, cloudy skies, filmed as if they had been painted these are the exceptional moments which allow them to escape from the over-civilised world. Frozen frames, the use of literary quotations as voice off, text appearing on screen and waves of violins, these are the elements of a language that the film-maker will use to film his self-portrait JLG / JLG, ten years later. If these processes work well in creating a different rhythm and visual form, their most important contribution is in bringing forth emotion from the person who is willing to take the time to look to think what is being offered for viewing.
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