Coffee-spinning, Vietnam-abhorring, high-rise-building, city-cinematographic, self-prostituting Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967), from Jean-Luc Godard and starring Marina Vlady, is a film of intellect and style, which behaves as might a documentary at times, with characters narrating their actions, along with Godard whispering personal opinions over the the camera.
Where is the beginning? But what beginning? God created heaven and earth. But one should be able to put it better. To say that the limits of language, of my language, are those of the world, of my world, and that in speaking, I limit the world, I end it. And when mysterious, logical death abolishes those limits, there will be no question, no answer, just vagueness.
With perhaps a more than average containment of plot-sense, and an urban sense and sensibility of space, Two or Three Things I Know About Her offers plenty of semantics, a loose story, and an eye for locations and people and scenery and products which show that its makers are instinctively good with the camera. Two or Three Things I Know About Her achieves its own perfection by reiterating really two or three of a handful of themes at any given moment — prostitution, consumerism, construction, alienation, technology, imperial war.
Two or Three Things I Know About Heris more approachable than many Godard films — ALWAYS A BONUS — it is also enjoyable as an agit-prop protest against commercialism and how it capitalism voids the human experience. The women in the film (Paris et le cinéma sont inclus en tant que “femmes”) are so wrapped up in the drive for material purchase that they forget the principles of humanity — adorable values such as love, caring for one's family, intellectual desire, and compassion — not found in the high rises, the shops, and the offices and construction yards of Paris. Godard shows that consumerism robs Paris of its metaphysical compassion and leads intellectual freedom as presented in his many readers photographed, into a prison.
Godard’s lead — Marina Vlady playing Juliette Jeanson — prostitutes herself in the hope that she will be able to buy happiness and escape the high rise Parisian suburb where she lives with her husband and son.
The HER of the title is not Juliette nor Paris, as some theories state, but probably — if we know Godard — the HER is the cinema. We don’t learn much about Juliette or Paris, as they are lost behind daft questions with no answers. Often women appear in the film to merely repeat two or three things about themselves. Commercialism has masked them all however and Two or Three Things I Know About Her suggests lifestyle has become more important than life.
The final shot of Two or Three Things I Know About Her shows household products scattered in a field. We must live together with each other and these objects as they are all living together in the field which, as he states, sadly live on longer than we do. The more primitive we are, the happier we become, but we are to conditioned to use these items, so we must make a compromise on both sides. All is lost. La vie est perdue et l'homme est perdu!
Godard commonly works with the idea of prostitution, as in Vivre sa Vie (1962) and in Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980). Godard of course states — I do not think it is an implication — that with its focus on consumerism society is prostituting itself. This is elaborated on by Godard's filming of product logos and brand names that are intercut and re-framed to create puns that are probably lost on anyone not familiar with the French language. Several shots throughout the picture render the cityscape of Paris also, as the ultimate consumer paradise. The idea of prostitution also extends to the actors in that it makes a comment on acting itself, something completely implied in the opening scene.
The narrative offered by Jean-Luc Godard, whispered to the listener over the film of the dancing trees, the swirling coffee, the high-rise building projects and the women who shop and preen among all of these, provide a distancing effect so that no mistake can be made between story teller and listener. Godard's narration and his unpredictable comments provide Two or Three Things I Know About Her with a feeling that he is watching this picture with us and giving his own commentary as it progresses.
How do you render events? How to say or show that at 4:10 p.m. that afternoon, Juliette and Marianne came to the garage where Juliette's husband works? Right way, wrong way - how can one say exactly what happened? Of course, there is Juliette, her husband, the garage. But are these the words and images to use? Are there no others? Am I talking too loud, looking too close?
Godard is outspoken about the Americanisation of the world and the ideas of the USA as a whole. In the late sixties, advertising became prolific and Godard saw this as an attack on humanity and began vocalizing his disdain for advertising.
Juliette Janson: No one knows what the city of the future will be like. Part of the wealth of meaning it once had will undoubtedly be lost, undoubtedly. Maybe the creative and formative roles of the city will be taken over by other forms of communication, maybe television and radio...
The promotional work produced by Godard sums up much of the film more capably than he was ever able to manage. It listed attributes he ascribed to Juliette Jeanson, and shows them in a completely silent trailer, specifically designed to keep everyone uncomfortable when it was shown in the cinemas:
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
Godard began production on Two or Three Things I Know About Her in the summer of 1966. He was then 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 therefore 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, and carried these two projects out simultaneously for one month.
Objects exist, and if we pay them more attention than we do people, it is because they exist more than those people. Dead objects live on. Living people are often dead already.
The Epic Coffee Stirring Scene from 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her