The New York Times Godard Film in Festival:'Wind From the East' at Alice Tully Hall
By VINCENT CANBY
Published: September 12, 1970
At one point towards the middle of Jean-Luc Godard's "Wind From the East" (Vent D'Est), which was shown at the New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall yesterday evening, an actor dressed like a Civil War soldier in the film-within-the-film, more or less flops on the ground, after which, an off-screen prop man throws red paint on him. Whether or not you find the scene funny, stupid, alienating, beautiful, boring or provocative, it sums up quite perfectly the methodology of the man who now calls himself "the ex-great (bourgeois) filmmaker."
Consequences precede actions and effects give birth to their causes, and all in the name of the sort of Marxist-Leninist truth that is defined pretty much in terms of what is needed as truth to carry the class struggle onwards and upwards.
""Wind From the East" begins with fleeting bits of business from the movie-within-the-movie, a Western, being shot by a group of would-be Third World moviemakers. "My uncle managed the exploitation of aluminum for the Alcoa Company near Dodge City. . . ." says the woman narrator."
Almost immediately it turns into a soundtrack debate of Godardian dialectics, set against images that could be from some kind of crazy Western. This evolves into auto-critique ("What does it mean to ask the question: 'Where are we now?' for a militant moviemaker?") that is followed by a coda, which is nothing less than some pretty pictures of a school girl planting bombs in an open-air market.
""To dare to rebel, for us, here, now," says the woman narrator, "is to fight on two fronts - against the bourgeoisie and against its ally, revisionism."
""Wind From the East" was written by Godard with Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who is seen briefly, during the auto-critique session, wearing a red sweater and a vaguely worried expression. Godard calls it his Marxist Western, which it actually is, but it's an example of a genre to which Godard (at least, so far) is the only contributor.
It is full of outrageous statements (I was particularly intrigued by one to the effect that napalm was being dropped on Palestinian peasants) and the sort of lofty moralizing that would condemn Eisenstein for making "Potemkin" instead of concentrating on the struggles of his own times.
However foolish, arrogant and paranoid Godard may now be, he is not quite yet the ex-great filmmaker he so humbly proclaims. There is a rhythm and a logic to the film itself that has nothing to do with truth and that recalls the rhythm and logic of such great, conventional Godardian films as "Vivre Sa Vie," "La Chinoise" and "Two or Three Things I Know About Her."
Godard's narrators spend an awful lot of time in "Wind From the East" talking about revisionism, about the primary and secondary duties of the revolutionist, about the class struggle (what to do about workers who themselves have become capitalists), but the real drama of the movie is provided by Godard's search for some kind of perfect wedding of sound to image. He doesn't find it, and he may still be looking for it. Indeed, he has considerably altered the sequence of events in the film from the version I saw at Cannes last May.
Godard says his search is prompted by the need to create a new cinema, free from bourgeois repression, which will depict the class struggle, not simply the class misery that is so favored by liberal and revisionist filmmakers. (To Godard, cinema vÂritÂ is beneath contempt.) Whatever his motives, Godard is the ony man today making such manic attempts to create a didactic film form, and the form is often fascinating. The content, however, is almost pure junk.
The Cast WIND FROM THE EAST, directed by Jean-Luc Godard; screenplay (French with English narration) by Mr. Godard and Daniel Cohn-Bendit; director of photography, Mario Vulpiani; produced by Gianni Barcelloni and Ettore Rosbach; released by New Line Cinema. At New York Film Festival, Alice Tully Hall. Running time: 92 minutes. (Not submitted at this time to the Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code and Rating Administration.)
Soldier . . . . . Gian Maria Volonte
Whore . . . . . Anne Wiazemsky