In 1968, France is in a state of
In La Chinoise and Tout Va Bien, Jean-Luc Godard artistically creates a political representation of class struggle and uprising. In May of 1968, France is in a state of civil unrest; students and the working class are fed up with the way they are treated. There is an unambiguous divide between the two classes, and Godard uses the art of film to depict this fact. Even though the films take place before and after May 68, they provide representations of the working class/students, as well as their interactions and feelings towards the bourgeoisie. These feelings show the way May 68 affects people before the rioting begins, and the lasting effects it has on the very people who had once strived for a change. La Chinoise shows students in a state of somewhat exaggerated tension, devoted rebellion and dissatisfaction; this gives the audience insight into the feelings of university students before the events of May 1968, and a premonition of what is to come. However, Tout Va Bien displays the aftermath of May 68, showing the protesting and reforms didn’t truly work. La Chinoise came out before the events of May 1968; however, it is a representation of the ideas and feelings of the protestors. The film seems to be an outlet for free thinking; from the beginning it purposefully strives to disarm the viewer, making them skeptical. The film ‘contains within itself its own self-critique: it is social thought and the critique of social thought.’ La Chinoise promotes an idea and a certain way of thinking, but at the same time it disconnects the audience from the film, encouraging them to form their own opinions. For example, one should form their own opinions and think critically about social situations; however, one should always be critical of their opinions and assess the validity of them. In the film during the train scene, Veronique says, ‘For example, closing the universities. I think it’s great.’ Francis Jeanson (a writer and activist) tries to reason with Veronique; he tries to understand why she wants to use violence to prove a point. Veronique doesn’t approach the situation maturely; instead, she talks over Francis and doesn’t listen to the points he is trying to make. When Veronique is asked why she wants the universities to close, she does not have a strong enough foundation to her claim; she thinks she can make a point by terrorising the students. And again, when Francis explains to her that her idea is not the best, she remains stubbornly steadfast in her opinion. Perhaps this is reflective of the times, displaying the human tendency to crave change but at the same time be closed to it. The viewer is meant to question the film, just as the students question the conditions in their universities and the workers question their working conditions.Within La Chinoise there is a ‘Brechtian paradox that the film within a film… must be seen not only as a work of art, but… also an activity engaged in by very real people who may be sincerely committed to the ideas they are acting out in artistic form.’ (Macbean, p. 19) As a viewer, you should take the film literally, but also delve into the political aspects that are hidden within the symbolism. Taking the film at face value, the viewer sees a group of students devoted to the ideas of Mao. During the events of May 68, students have the same political revelation; they are unhappy with their current capitalistic system so they turn to a more socialist approach. Not only is La Chinoise a criticism of social ideals, it’s a journey into personal assessment. Tout Va Bien examines the working class in post-68 France. The title itself is ironic: the May 68 reforms were meant to fix everything, but even four years later, the working class faces the same issues. Just as La Chinoise encourages viewers to think for themselves, Tout Va Bien is ‘reflective… forcing the audience to think politically.’ Four years later, the working class is still being treated unfairly, which is exactly what the participants of the May 68 riots tried to avoid. What does this mean for society? This film is meant to raise this question, and to get the audience thinking about the condition of their current society. During the factory scene of the film, the camera tracks back and forth while the workers chant about their discontent. The camera tracking back and forth seems repetitive and gives the viewer a feeling of incompleteness. Even though the reforms may have fixed the issues to the bare minimum, the greater issue still remains. The camera tracking symbolises the unresolved issues brought forth by May 68. As the protesters used to say, ‘La vote ne change rien, la lutte continue.’ Even then, they knew the reforms were meant to distract them from the true issues, and Tout Va Bien shows that time has not solved their original issues. Cinema is a huge outlet for exploration, and Steven Simmons says ‘…Tout Va Bien is…a film essay of exploration, a tentative search for a political cinema.’ (Simmons, p. 59) The film itself promotes the idea that politics can be confronted in film, and in doing so cinema can explore the way humans change with the times. Cinema engages with May 68 more directly before and after. The viewers get a better understanding of the tension leading up to May 68, and the lasting effect it had on French society. Godard uses both films as a way to prove a point: politics can be in films and skepticism in life is ideal. Before the events, La Chinoise shows the dissatisfaction of university students and their need to follow an ideal that is in line with their goals. This is an important film because Godard gives us a premonition into the actual events of May 68, for example, the universities closing. It is an artistic film yet the realism is striking; it can be seen as a historical representation of the unrest within the working class and universities. In Tout Va Bien, the workers face the same working conditions that made them join the protests in May 68, showing that the reforms did not solve their problems. It is essential to the understanding of May 68 because it is reflective, bringing forth the idea that the revolution must go further. During a significant event, there are certain aspects of it that can be lost to the chaos; it is not until after the event that some information is released or the story becomes more developed. The same is true before a certain event: the issues that lead up to something significant can tell you more about why it is happening then during the actual event itself. For example, if an audience watches the middle of a movie and only the middle, they would find themselves very lost. Although the middle can hold all the action and most of the information, the viewers will be lost without an introduction and a conclusion. La Chinoise and Tout Va Bien are like the cinematic introduction and conclusion to the events of May 68, adding to the overall understanding and reflection of the events as a whole.