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King Lear (1987)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard

A descendant of Shakespeare tries to restore his plays in a world rebuilding itself after the Chernobyl catastrophe obliterates most of human civilization.

King Lear (1987)

English Recursion Meets French Semiotics

Lear is about sight and truth, and incidentally about how devilish charms (derived from the audience’s participation and perception) bend sight and truth. So it (and the similarly placed ‘The Tempest’) are naturals for film, especially self-referential films about films and filmmaking.

Self-referential filmmaking is an art that the French believe they invented — and they have a continental tradition of deconstructive semiosis to draw from. So this would seem a natural. Godard is an experimentalist — a theorist — but not a great artist, and it shows here. Because he doesn’t know, or can’t reach, the deep structure of Lear on that matter. For Shakespeare, confusing forces of naming emerge from a capricious aether, drawn forth by the creative process of life.

Modern semioticians hold that this comes from the hidden inner mind, drawn forth by the messy animal processes of life. Godard rattles about with this thin notion, somewhat of a curse for the French, and never touches the deeper notion, which accidentally fell, it seems, on the English. The French have never forgiven them, and here equate the notion (and films about it) to American gangsterism.

Posted in 2001

Ted’s Evaluation — 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.


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