Le Gai Savoir (1969)

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Released 18-Aug-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Dr Adrian Martin, Monash University
Trailer-Une Femme Mariee, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her
Trailer-You the Living, Martha
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1969
Running Time 88:44 (Case: 95)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (76:11) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jean-Luc Godard
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Juliet Berto
Jean-Pierre Léaud
Jean-Luc Godard
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English Alternate Subtitles
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    If you've seen any of Jean-Luc Godard's late 1960s films you will have an idea of what to expect with Le Gai Savoir (The Joy of Learning). The film is a mixture of narrative and documentary, this time more of the latter than the former with a heavy dose of Marxist/Socialist theory included.

    To the extent that there is a story it concerns a man and a woman (Jean-Pierre Leaud and Juliet Berto as the referentially named Emile Rousseau and Patricia Lumumba respectively) who meet in a darkened space over several late nights and discuss all sorts of concepts, mainly related to how we learn and how we get information. Discussion is perhaps not what is happening, more a scattered recitation of polemics. Interspersed with and overlapping the dialogue are images and sounds, references to the cultural and political turmoil of the time. Vietnam, violence, Mao, Che, Fidel, even Mack Sennett. There are word association games with a child and an old man. Godard himself gives whispered voice to some texts accompanied by heavily distorted sound.

    Godard's middle-period films are an acquired taste. His early films are exercises in homage to earlier films and filmmakers yet at the same time taking fresh and innovative approaches to the problems of storytelling, resulting in a type of film that was uniquely of one filmmaker. Social problems were often addressed as an integral part of the story but were not the main focus. From the mid-1960s he moved more towards a blending of the fictional film with the documentary to produce critiques of or essays on politics and social issues, sometimes with a detached wit and sense of irony that makes you wonder how serious he was. Or perhaps some of the irony was unintentional. For some years from about 1970 onwards he was a committed socialist, working with the Dziga Vertov Group on a series of more serious collaborative films that seem to lack the spirit and sense of playfulness of his best work.

    Le Gai Savoir was made just prior to one of the most dismal years of recent history. In 1968 the idealism of the decade was beginning to wane, the war in Vietnam was escalating, students were rioting, Russian tanks were rolling into Czechoslovakia and figures of social and political hope were being murdered. Godard seems almost to anticipate these happenings in this strongly political film made in late 1967, though it wasn't released for two years. Despite this apparent prescience the film seems firmly rooted in the 1960s, both in style and subject matter, or at least in the manner that the subject matter is argued.

    The way the film is constructed means that it is almost devoid of conventional narrative. If you have seen previous films by the director you would know that around this time he often included sequences where disembodied voices read political or philosophical texts while still and moving images are shown in quick succession that may or may not be obviously related to the text. Previously these sequences appeared at intervals through the films; here it is how most of the film is constructed.

    I can't say I understood much of it. I struggled with La Chinoise and I struggled even more with Le Gai Savoir. The speed with which ideas are presented and the continually swapping of ideas makes the film difficult to digest on a single viewing. I guess that you would probably have to watch it multiple times to start to get a sense of what is going on. I've marked this film down in the ratings as most casual viewers will probably not make it all the way through even once - it took me three sittings to watch the whole film. If you go for this sort of thing then add a star or two to my rating. Full marks to Madman though for releasing the film in Australia with a locally-produced audio commentary.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I believe the original aspect ratio was 1.37:1.

    The video quality is about as good as can be expected. Much of the film is shot in a darkened space with bright lighting directly on the two protagonists. The dark surrounds make the frequent white damage spots all the more obvious. But the image is fairly sharp and clean otherwise. Colour is bright, crisp and realistic.

    The frequent inserts of all kinds of images and footage vary in quality. The static images, usually blow-ups of photographs, are generally fine.

    There are some video artefacts. The opening studio logo sequence suffers from serious edge enhancement but thankfully the feature does not. There is a lot of low level noise in the darkened backgrounds. The left edge of the screen also varies frequently in brightness.

    Optional English subtitles are available in white or yellow, yellow being the default. Actually they should be called American subtitles as that country's spelling conventions are used. All of the dialogue is translated, though I think some of the dialogue may lose something in translation. There are a number of typographical errors and in one case the letter "M" is rendered as "B" so that the translation of a word matches the letter under consideration. There are some misspellings, for example "guerrilla" is spelled "guerilla". There are subtitles for some but not all of the words written on some of the still images.

    The material on the disc requires slightly more than a single layer. The layer break is at 76:11 at a scene change and is barely noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio track for the feature is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    Dialogue is sometimes a little hard to discern because of the sound effects and distortions that have been deliberately included. There are also dropouts that are part of the original audio, being gaps between short excerpts of recorded speech added to the soundtrack. A few clicks can be heard but again these occur when some of the inserted audio stops, so they are most likely present on the original soundtrack of the film.

    I could not detect any issues with the audio. I think it is represented basically as it was intended to be heard, aside from the censorship of some words which Godard pointedly replaces with beeps.

    The music consists almost entirely of a short excerpt from a classical piano piece that I can't quite place. The film has no credits at all so no help is available there.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    A static main menu with audio from the film.

Audio Commentary-Dr Adrian Martin, Monash University

    An excellent extra which enlightened me to a few things about the film, though not enough to change my opinion of it. For example I was not aware that it had originally been made for television but rejected by the station that commissioned it. Martin's fluid commentary places the film in the context of Godard's career, philosophy and personality. He explains some of the references made in the movie as well as some of the ideas underpinning it. This is well worth listening to even if you find the film itself off-putting.

Trailers (8:54)

    The usual anti-piracy diatribe precedes trailers for Une Femme Mariee, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, You the Living and Martha. Oddly, in one player the trailers played automatically when the disc was inserted but did not in another. In the former case they could be skipped anyway.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release from Koch Lorber sounds as though it has the same transfer as the Region 4. The major difference is that the Region 1 lacks any extras apart from a trailer for La Chinoise, so the Region 4 seems to be a clear winner based on the extras alone. The Region 4 is not a standards conversion but I suspect the subtitles have been sourced from the Region 1 release.

Summary

    A difficult piece of cinema to digest and most would think it isn't worth the effort.

    The video quality is good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The major extra is excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, October 12, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW60 SXRD projector with 95" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into BD player. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationReceiver: Sony STRDA5400ES; Power Amplifiers: Elektra Reference, Elektra Theatron
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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