Having trodden the path towards ever-increasing obscurity in the 1990s, the eternal maverick of French cinema, Jean-Luc Godard made a surprising come-back with Éloge de l’amour, his first major theatrical release outside of France for well over a decade. More sophisticated and mature than Godard’s increasingly abstract and inward-looking works of the 1990s, it is a film which manages to capture the essence of Godard’s cinema (his political concerns, his love of character, his enthusiasm for cinema and literature, to say nothing of his near-pathological contempt for mainstream cinema). At the same time, it is a challenging work, packed with content whilst employing a minimalist approach reminiscent of Robert Bresson (another great director who is often referred to in the film).
The film is divided in two contrasting parts. It begins with an author’s seemingly doomed attempts to realise a ‘project’ (perhaps a film, but we cannot be certain of this). This part of the film is shot beautifully in black-and-white, almost as a sombre elegy to monochrome cinema. This includes some stunning night shots of Paris, immediately evocative of the Nouvelle Vague cinema of the 1960s in which Godard played such a major part. Two thirds of the way into the film, the mood and style change suddenly, as if we have been propelled into a dream. Thanks to the marvels of the latest digital technology, the images suddenly take on an otherworldly form, with overly saturated colour and some occasional visual distortions.