Two or Three Things I Know About Her
|Two or Three Things I Know About Her|
|Directed by||Jean-Luc Godard|
|Distributed by||New Yorker Films|
|17 March 1967 (France)|
Two or Three Things I Know About Her (French: Deux ou Trois choses que je sais d'elle) is a 1967 French New Wave film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, one of three features he completed that year. Like the other two (Week End and La Chinoise), it is considered both socially and stylistically radical. Village Voice critic Amy Taubin considers it one of the greatest achievements in filmmaking.
The film does not tell a story so much as present an essay-like study of Godard's view of contemporary life; Godard wrote that "I wanted to include everything: sports, politics, even groceries. Everything should be put in a film". Godard himself narrates the film in a whispered voice-over that discusses his fears to the audience about the contemporary world, including the Vietnam War. The film often cuts to various still shots of bright consumer products and ongoing construction.
Like many of the director's works, the film does not follow the narrative arc of conventional cinema, with an introduction, conflict and resolution. Instead, it presents 24 hours in the sophisticated but empty life of Juliette Jeanson (Marina Vlady), a seemingly-bourgeois married mother, part of whose life involves prostitution. Juliette begins her day dropping off her screaming child to a man who has a flourishing business doing childcare for call girls. Her generally uneventful daily routine of shopping, housework and child-rearing is interspersed with assignations with clients. All of the film's sexual interplay is banal instead of erotic, and one client, an American wearing a shirt with his country's flag, demands the women he has hired wear airline shopping bags over their heads.
Though there was a script, there are many moments in which the cast breaks the fourth wall, looking into the camera and giving seemingly random monologues about what they think about life and themselves. Vlady and other actors wore earpieces through which the director would ask surprise questions, often catching Vlady off-guard because she was required to give spontaneous answers that were appropriate to her character.
- Marina Vlady as Juliette Jeanson
- Roger Montsoret as Robert Jeanson
- Anny Duperey as Marianne
- Raoul Lévy as John Bogus, the American
- Jean Narboni as Roger
- Juliet Berto as Girl talking to Robert
- Christophe Bourseiller as Christophe Jeanson
- Marie Bourseiller as Solange Jeanson
Godard began production on the film in the summer of 1966. Shortly afterwards, he was approached by his producer Georges de Beauregard to quickly make a film for him due to a financial difficulty after Jacques Rivette's film The Nun was banned by the French government. Godard agreed and began production on Made in USA, his last film with Anna Karina. Godard would shoot Two or Three Things I Know About Her in the morning and Made in USA in the afternoon simultaneously for one month straight.
The film was first inspired by an article in Le Nouvel Observateur about prostitution in the suburbs by Catherine Vimenet. Godard stated that during the film he wanted "to include everything: sports, politics, even groceries" and that the film was "a continuation of the movement begun by Resnais in Muriel: an attempt at description of a phenomenon known in mathematics and sociology as a 'complex'." The film's most famous shot is a lengthy close-up of a cup of coffee. In an essay, Godard stated that "basically what I am doing is making the spectator share the arbitrary nature of my choices, and the quest for general rules which might justify a particular choice." He added "I watch myself filming, and you hear me thinking aloud. In other words, it isn't a film, it's an attempt at a film and presented as such."
Juliette lives in one of many supposedly-luxurious high-rises being erected in the banlieues (suburbs) of Paris. While meant to provide housing to families working in the growing capital during the prosperous post-war years, Godard sees the banlieues as the infrastructure for promoting a value system based on consumerism, a term he equates with prostitution itself: a consumerist society, he explained during a debate on the 25 October 1966 edition of Zoom, demands a work force living in regimented time and space, forced to work jobs they don't like, "a prostitution of the mind."
Around the time he was making the film, Godard appeared on the television program Zoom to debate with government official Jean St. Geours, who predicted that advertising would increase as the basic impulse of the French society at the time was to increase its standard of living. Godard explained that he saw advertisers as the pimps who enslave the women to the point where they give their bodies without compunction, because they've been convinced that what they can buy has more potential to bring happiness than does the loving enjoyment of sex.
Like many of Godard's films from the mid-1960s onward, 2 or 3 Things demonstrates his growing disenchantment with America. This contrasts with his earlier French New Wave (Nouvelle Vague) films like Breathless (1960), which make admiring references to American cinema and actors.[original research?]
A promotional poster for the film offered different meanings for the "her" of the title, each one a French feminine noun:
HER, the cruelty of neo-capitalism
HER, the Paris region
HER, the bathroom that 70% of the French don't have
HER, the terrible law of huge building complexes
HER, the physical side of love
HER, the life of today
HER, the war in Vietnam
HER, the modern call-girl
HER, the death of modern beauty
HER, the circulation of ideas
HER, the gestapo of structures.
- Amy Taubin, "2 or 3 Things I Know About Her: The Whole and Its Parts". 2009. Criterion.com.
- Adrian Martin, commentary track on the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
- Monaco, James. The New Wave. New York: Oxford University Press. 1976. pp. 173.
- Wakeman, John. World Film Directors, Volume 2. The H. W. Wilson Company. 1988. pp. 396.
- Monaco. pp. 178.
- Wakeman. pp. 396.
- Monaco. pp. 179.
- Zoom, 25 October 1966, available on the Criterion Collection DVD edition of the film.
- Monaco. pp. 180.