Friday, November 26, 2010

Sauve qui peut

An internal combustion engine turns fuel into energy that powers things like pistons. There is a wonderful scene in Jean-Luc Godard’s Every Man for Himself (Sauve qui peut), recently revived at Film Forum, which makes an engine out of bodies. Two prostitutes have been hired to service a wealthy businessman and his assistant. One prostitute, played by Isabelle Huppert, stands in front of the businessman. Every time his assistant licks her ass, she has to apply lipstick to the businessman’s lips. Meanwhile, every time the businessman steps on the other prostitute’s breasts, she has to blow the assistant. The actors mechanically emit sounds that enhance the machine-like effect. On one level, prostitution in the movie is a metaphor for the relationship between men and women—in one scene Huppert’s pimp beats her up and makes her say “no one can remain independent.” But on another the level, interdependence becomes a metaphor for mechanization, the division of labor and, inevitably, the alienation of man from the product of his labor, which, in the case of the scene in question, is physical love. One of Godard’s points is that love is no longer freed from the context of industrial society and the means and modes by which things are produced. The prostitute is not an exceptional creature, but rather an illustration of the commoditization that affects everyone. At one point Huppert meets up with Nathalie Bye, her counterpart in the film, who is attempting to break off her relationship with a filmmaker named Paul Godard. Huppert’s prostitute sells her body in order to buy the dwelling of a woman who has previously sold her soul. The quid pro quo is reminiscent of the earlier sex scene and the equation is also curiously similar: man + woman = 0.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.