Jean-Luc Godard – King Lear (1987)


Description: Everything returns to normal after Chernobyl. That is, everything but art. Most of the great works are lost, and it is up to people like William Shakespear Junior the Fifth to restore the lost artwork of the human race. He finds strange goings-on at a resort enough to remind him of all the lines of the play, dealing with mob boss Don Learo and his daughter Cordelia, a strange professor named Jean Luc-Godard (sic), who repeatedly xeroxes his hand for no particular reason. He is followed by four humanoid goblins that keep tormenting Cordelia. There is also the gentleman whose girlfriend, Valerie, isn’t always visible. Then the film is sent off to New York for Mr. Alien to edit.

Jean-Luc Godard’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy shows the director at his most irreverent and esoteric. Rather than present the play in a traditional manner, Godard instead thrusts a series of characters into a French seaside hotel and lets them run with their own random thoughts and ideas. The actors include Norman Mailer playing himself, Molly Ringwald as Cordelia, Woody Allen as a confused director, and Godard portraying an off-the-wall professor. The film meanders throughout, offering endless monologues, plastic dinosaurs, famous paintings, and an array odd subjects who struggle with the father-daughter conflict of the classic play. Thrown into the mix is Godard’s now-standard use of jarring inter-titles, including the film’s striking opening credit: “A picture shot in the back.” What all of this means is up to the individual viewer to decide, which may, in fact, be Godard’s point. By distorting and blurring Shakespeare’s original text, he has crafted a mysterious statement about art’s ability to mirror and alter reality. Pulling together a cast of noteworthy faces, including Allen, Mailer, Julie Delpy, and bad-boy director Leos Carax (LOVERS UNDER THE BRIDGE, POLA X), Godard adds another challenging film to his extensive resume.

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