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Tout va bien
cast: Jane Fonda, Yves Montand, Vittorio Caprioli, and Jean Pignol

directors: Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin

92 minutes (18) 1972
widescreen ratio 16:9
Arrow DVD Region 2 retail
[released 12 March]

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Jim Steel
The ironically titled Tout va bien is one of Jean-Luc Godard's more introspective essays. It's got wit and style but has a nihilistic heart. He starts the film with the writing of cheques to cover the production costs while cynically discussing the commercial merits of casting international stars. Our two stars form a disintegrating couple; Jane Fonda as an American broadcast journalist who is blocked, and Yves Montand as a disheartened new wave cinematographer who now makes commercials. Montand is not strictly analogous to Godard, but during his to-camera monologue he gives voice to many of Godard's concerns.

Anyway, the couple go to investigate a strike and occupation at the Salumi sausage factory. The workers have held the manager, Vittorio Caprioli, hostage for two days. Their demands are reasonable. Caprioli, hamming it up, gives us the management position ("These days, life is good," basically), the communist shop stewards state their position (they're on the case, so don't rock the boat), and the workers state their own position (they feel that they've been left with no choice). It is a parody of the dialectic principle. The workers also bemoan their lack of articulacy in that they are unable to describe their conditions any differently from the way the union would as footage of the workers processing meat loops around twice. Then we have Fonda and Montand's monologues, which examine the state of society since the 1968 protests. Many people seem to have felt that 1968 was a climax, states Godard, but he feels that it was merely a beginning. If anything, the Gaullist grip is tighter in 1972. The police, now, are an army of occupation.

Godard seems to be struggling to fit in too many concepts. He gives us a state-of-the-nation summary, a historical overview, a feminist address, a critique on filmmaking and an examination of relationships amongst many other things. Add to this the self-referential aspect, and we have a film that cannot be recommended to anyone unfamiliar with Godard's oeuvre. But if you know his work and enjoy it, then there is much to commend it. For example, there is one of his infinite dolly shots, set in a supermarket, towards the end of the film that is a hypnotic, hilarious delight. It's not quite on the scale of the shot in Weekend, but it's not far off it. And there are plenty more surprises in there that this review hasn't even touched on.

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