Despite a misstep or two Criterion has put together one hell of a special edition for this film, which should please both Godard devotees and newcomers alike, especially those that feel rather lost by the film. First is Scťnario de ďSauve quit peut (la vie)Ē, a short video that can be considered a treatment for the feature film. It was put together by Godard to aid in getting funding for the film. Godard never had a script ready so he would need alternatives to attract money and talent, and though this sounds to be the first time heís actually put together a short of this nature for such a thing, another feature on here mentions heís done similar things on paper, using photos and photocopies to explain how he planned the images to appear in the film (he did such a thing for a failed American project on Bugsy Malone starring Robert De Niro and Diane Keaton, though Keaton dropped out because of a lack of a script). And like those paper scenarios Godard simply explains his intent with the film, using photos of the stars he demonstrates how he plans to mix the visuals and the sound, fully displaying the experimental nature of the film, while also recreating (or at least using footage to help in creating) scenes that will appear in the film, all while he talks over it. Itís an incredibly fascinating addition giving a glimpse into Godardís creative process. The film runs about 20-minutes.
Though the next feature doesnít completely make up for the lack of an audio commentary, Colin Mac Cabe provides a decent video essay on the film entitled Sound, Image, and Every Man for Himself. Itís a strong 26-minute piece going over the period between Weekend and Every Man for Himself, where Godard experimented with video, and made a number of politically centered films (kind of documentaries, kind of not) in the Dziga Vertov Group with Jean-Pierre Gorin and others. Mac Cabe looks at the experimentation of the films, particularly in their use of image and sound, finding ways to make the viewer less complacent with the film, and then how Godard would implement these techniques in his first commercial film in a long while. He looks at a number of sequences in the film, while going over the themes and the various characters that appear, and what they possibly represent (or donít). Though I would have loved a commentary I still found this a particularly helpful supplement that aims to enhance oneís understanding of what Godard was trying to accomplish.
Probably my favourite feature, though, is the one I was dreading because I feared it would be so painful: an interview between Dick Cavett and Jean-Luc Godard done to promote the release of Every Man for Himself. I dreaded this one mostly because I feared Godard would be difficult, and with how Cavett is here I guess I wouldnít have been too surprised: though Iíve enjoyed going through the Cavett interviews that Criterion has been digging up for a number of their releases lately, Cavett does seem a little off his game here. He seems very unsure and almost scared to ask certain questions of Godard as itís obvious he (and he basically admits this if not in these exact words) doesnít understand his films, or at least this film. He seems somewhat guarded at times, unsure if he should be asking the question heís about to (maybe out of fear of looking like an idiot to his guest), and refers to the opinions of others on the film and rarely brings up his own thoughts.
Thankfully Godard, who might be nervous himself, is an incredibly good sport here. He never comes off condescending, even when he gets somewhat into politics, and is far more open than Iíve usually seen when he talks about his work: he never goes a fully cryptic route that he tends to, like he does in another feature on this disc (though with good reason) and really tries to explain what he wants to do with this film, even criticizing sequences he doesnít think work and explains why. The interview is divided into two 28-minute episodesóthough it still feels too shortóand the two do manage to cover a lot of ground from Godardís work to television to commercial cinema and so on. I cringed somewhat when Cavett asked Godard about the popularity of Jerry Lewis in Europe but Godard manages to turn what feels like a fairly frivolous question around and gets into a great conversation about the technique and art that goes into film, focusing fairly heavy on the technical side of things. Godard also talks about American films, surprisingly bashing Woody Allenís use of black and white in Manhattan but thrilled to see Martin Scorseseís use of it in the then upcoming Raging Bull (and heís a big Scorsese fan as he mentions his favourite recent American film was Alice Doesnít Live Here Anymore). And despite Cavettís approach to this interview the two have a great chemistry, garnering a few laughs (despite Godardís mostly straight face) and keeping the whole thing engaging. I was pleasantly surprised by this feature and itís probably turned into one of my all-time favourite interviews. (Criterion also includes a 22-second promo for this interview.)
Not great is the next ďinterviewĒ, which is actually a 1980 short film simply called Godard 1980 made by Jon Jost, Donald Ranvaud, and Peter Wollen. Itís a frustrating 17-minute feature that I had to stop a little after the 11-minute mark (though I came back to it eventually, which wasnít worth it). It features two of the filmmakers, Ranvaud and Wollen, asking Godard about Every Man for Himself, particularly what he meant by saying itís his ďsecond first filmĒ, how he got financing, whether the film rejects his other work and whatever other thing pops in their head between awkward moments of silence (which there are a lot of). One of the frustrating parts (or the first of a few parts) is that Godard doesnít really seem to want to be there and seems a bit annoyed by his interviewees and their questions. During the first bit of the interview he seems willing to answer their questions but as it progresses he becomes more vague, purposely cryptic, and it eventually becomes clear heís simply messing with them since itís obvious the two interviewees arenít sure what to make of some his answers thanks to those awkward silences and their confused glances at each other. But the worst aspect of this interview is that it has been edited together in a similar manner as Every Man for Himself: it cuts off to random images while the interview continues, or goes to black, or messes around with camera placement and movement. Itís irritating and pointless and actually what initially drove me to shut the interview off. I canít fault Criterion for including since it is related to the film and shows the Godard fans love, but itís still not worth the time I felt.
The remaining features are all interviews that unfortunately donít live up to the Cavett interview but are far better than Godard 1980. Criterion has first recorded a new interview with the founder of MK2, Martin Karmitz, who also produced the film. Karmitz recalls first meeting Godard on the set of Cleo from 5 to 7 and the working relationship they had from there. He covers Godardís period after Weekend and then how Godard came to him to help in getting Every Man for Himself and then its reception at Cannes (which wasnít very good, though Godardís reaction to the reaction was pretty priceless by the sounds of it). But Karmitz then shares an amusing (though not entirely surprising) anecdote about showing the film to those critics that trashed it again, telling them Godard had made some changes. The interview runs 12-minutes.
Criterion next offers a couple of interviews from the actorsí perspective: Isabelle Huppert talks for 11-minutes about her experience on the film, which was actually fairly good despite some of the scenes she had to do as Godard led her through the scenes, making her feel comfortable. Interestingly she hadnít seen many of Godard films beforehand so she wasnít entirely sure what Godard wanted from the character (he told her he wanted ďthe face of sufferingĒ) but after she saw Vivre sa vie she finally understood. Criterion also includes a 2010 interview with Nathalie Baye, where she focuses more on the shoot itself, made up most of the time with very small crews (sometimes as low as four people) and having to be receptive and patient when working with the filmmaker. Her interview runs about 17-minutes.
Criterion then digs up a 1981 interview with the two DPs for the film: Renato Berta and William Lubtchansky. This 20-minute segment from the German television program Kino 81 proves to be another rather fascinating interview as the two recall their experience in making the film, which you can gather was not all rainbows and sunshine. The two seem a bit irritated, though itís hard to say if itís just about the experience or maybe something. Godard had originally wanted three DPs to work on the film but ended up settling with the two of them, but despite the fact he wanted them he was pretty difficult to work with and seemed generally annoyed by their existence, getting to the point where they would just set up everything and leave to not have to deal with him. They talk about dividing the work and how they would resolve their conflicting styles, basically coming down to whomever was working the camera that day, while also still getting what Godard wanted. Though itís a bit frustrating as thereís a lag in translations (the two speak French and thereís a German voice over translation, which is then translated in English on screen) itís a particularly interesting interview covering some unusual aspects of the production.
The supplements then close with another 2010 interview, this time with composer Gabriel Yared, who talks for over 6-minutes about what it was like to work with Godard and delivering the music he wanted, and then the filmís theatrical trailer. An essay by Amy Taubin then covers some of the same ground as the disc supplements, getting into more detail about Godardís work between this film and Weekend and his experimentations with sound and image, nicely rounding out the release.
Despite the one short film, Godard 80, which I didnít care for at all, Criterion has put together a solid and fairly thorough set of supplements that really do manage to aid one in understanding what Godard was trying to accomplish. Itís probably one of the more satisfying collection of supplements Iíve come across from Criterion in a while. 9/10