The intentionally vague English subtitles that Jean-Luc Godard prepared for Film Socialisme made the movie something of an interactive game, with audiences having to pool their wits in order to figure it out. I brought the movie to several friends’ apartments over the summer, and each viewing became a lively, funny conversation. Because of the pleasure I took from it, I was surprised by how hostile many of the reviews were. This hostility reminded me of John Lydon’s description of David Bowie’s notoriety in the 1970s: “without saying anything offensive, he somehow managed to offend everybody.”
Like Godard’s other late-period masterpieces Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-98) and In Praise of Love (2001), Film Socialisme set out to contemplate the fate of the modern world through dense, poetic images that are indecipherable by design. But in contrast to those works, the conclusions here are surprisingly optimistic. Beneath the movie’s forbidding surfaces is a rousing celebration of childhood, political idealism, and YouTube—and likely several other things I still haven’t noticed.