In the Realm of the Senses (1965)
Directed by Nagisa Oshima
Numéro duex (1975)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
“My hand is a machine that directs another machine. Maybe it’s the opposite.” Two films, two couples seeking solace in caves to re-assert their grip on the course of their lives. Tucked away in safe havens, they use the machinery available to them (sex organs, cameras, discourse) to explain, but also avoid the march of history. Political movements march by, flesh ages in front of our eyes, and bodies in the dark cling to the things they can temporarily control. Godard’s hand on the monitor projecting his own face into the outer dark. Tatsuya Fuji’s hands on Eiko Matsuda’s body in the warm, red glow of their private room. The films’ production circumstances represent poles that never touch, like the images on Godard’s monitor banks. Godard ran from French money to rediscover himself (the name Numéro deux comes from the film’s position as the first film after his rebirth—a sort of twisted sequel to Breathless that shows his dreamers settled and scared, like the rest of Marxist Europe) and Oshima grabbed French money hand over fist to use the bourgeois trappings of the operatic prestige film and point it inwards.
“Why not twice upon a time?” Both film chase negative images of revolution, sexuality, happiness. Godard films his monitors, watches the crude digital letters with his ideas change shape. He can conjure concepts from the ether, his magic faded now to suggestion. A little girl talks about her eventual brush with menstruation as her parents bathe her and have sex in front of her. A woman chases two children around a small room, trying to grab hold of the boy’s genitals, as if to shock her back to her senses. Both films take out a fury at sexual freedom no longer carrying the totemic weight of a utopian socialist future on children, while the stars and directors age out of the litheness that allowed them to say everything that was on their mind in images. Now freedom is an idea, no more tangible than Godard’s false text. They walked through the fire of the 60s and now cling to nothing, throwing themselves into whatever looks like it might be sanctuary, in order to mail missives back to the cinema going society they think may still be interested in the future. Change never arrived, so they force it on their images, on the tired bodies and faces of those still willing to be pressed into service of equality and exploration. These deeply wrong works stabs at the unrest that birthed their creators’ anger. Like Nicholas Ray, the rebel who cleared the room for them to speak, they rely on color and a plethora of images, on too much, to keep their grip on the past and wonder about the future. Their grammar was right on the money, the ideas were let go like a handful of sand we’re still trying to collect. Scout Tafoya (In the Realm of the Senses March 11, 7pm & March 16, 9:15pm; Numéro deux March 11, 9:30pm & March 16, 7pm at BAM’s “Oshima X Godard”)