USA / Switzerland, 1987 (MIFF 1988)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
"Are you trying to make a play for my daughter'", asks Lear (Burgess Meredith) of William Shakespeare the 5th, a development exec. with the "Cannon Cultural Division", currently travelling Europe in search of bankable projects and "meaning" in life and art, after a Chernobyl like disaster has destroyed all art and movies. Young Will tries to put Mr Lear and his daughter Cordelia (Molly Ringwald) in a film, but it isn't easy.
For advice, he seeks guidance from 'The Professor' (Godard) a gruff voiced film making loon with a Medusa-like crown of phono cords, stereo jacks and dog-tags (the joker) who does little but lament the passing of the great masters of the cinema.
In his first English language film, a provocative 'approach' to "Lear" Godard demonstrates the infuriatingly engaging style displayed in all his recent work, such as Detective, Hail Mary, and last year's Grandeur et Decadence, all with little relation to Shakespeare's classic, (Godard proudly claims to have never read the play... this will come as no surprise to viewers). But then, as anyone who knows Godard's work will recognise, the distance travelled between conception and realization allows for any manner of interpretation. (The initial idea was for Norman Mailer to play Lear with his daughter Kate as Cordelia, all to Mailer's script The finished film is as much the story of its own bizarre creation as it is Shakespeare's, opening as it does with a phone call from Cannon boss Golan reminding Godard that the film must be completed in time for Cannes, including brief sequences from the 'Mailer' version, and closing with a 'contractual obligation' appearance (?) from Woody Allen as a film editor re-inventing the process)
The whole affair makes for Godard's most instating, entertaining, pun-laden pastiche in years... there's still some fire in the old boy yet.