I just watched DÉTECTIVE on a cable TV channel yesterday. I’m glad I will be able to watch it again on Youtube, because I don’t understand anything at all in my first viewing of it.
The reason why I gave it A+++++ in my first viewing is just because it gives me the kind of unique pleasure I often find in Godard’s films. It’s the pleasure of feeling extremely disorientated. When I watch most films by other directors, I feel as if I am watching it on a firm seat or on a fixed point. When I watch most films by Godard, I feel as if I am watching it while I am floating in space. There’s no firm seat, no fixed point, no solid ground I can hold on to or stand on while I watch his films. I don’t know how I should watch each of his films. I don’t know on which things in his films I should focus my mind, etc. This kind of “not knowing” is a real pleasure. And it is a very rare pleasure.
There’s one scene which exemplifies very well the pleasure I find in his films. It’s the scene in which Françoise Chenal (Nathalie Baye) is talking to her husband (Claude Brasseur). I think they talk to each other for about one minute, and that makes me start to feel as if I am watching the scene on solid ground, because I think I can just focus my attention on the dialogue or on what the characters are talking to each other, like in most films.
Then, suddenly, instead of replying to her husband, Françoise just says, “The voice of man. The body of man.” These short phrases jolt me out of my solid ground. They remind me that there’s another aspect of what I am experiencing. There are other things I may be overlooking but in fact I should also pay attention to, etc. There are countless scenes like this in the film.
If I were to arrange a film screening schedule, I would like to screen DÉTECTIVE together with A PLACE AMONG THE LIVING (2003, Raoul Ruiz), LA BELLE CAPTIVE (1983, Alain Robbe-Grillet), FOUR SEASONS (2009, Keren Cytter), and POLITICALLY LAWYER AND NARRATIVE CINEMA (2009, Chaloemkiat Saeyong), because all these five films play with the elements or the conventions of film-noirs/detective stories/murder stories. I particularly like the parody in LA BELLE CAPTIVE. If I remember it correctly, the hero of LA BELLE CAPTIVE finds a woman’s shoe. So he is determined to find the other missing shoe, because it might help him solve the mystery. But in the end he finds “three shoes”, not “a pair of shoes”. And I still don’t know where the excess shoe or the third shoe in this film comes from, but it makes me laugh every time I think of it.
Favorite quote from DÉTECTIVE: ” Have you noticed that there are two kinds of men? Those who have a clean cock, and wash their hands before pissing so as not to dirty it, and those who have a dirty cock, which they touch while pissing and get their hands dirty, which they wash afterwards. “