Watch Meetin’ WA: Jean-Luc Godard Films Woody Allen in 1986 Short Film

It seems that a lim­it­ed num­ber of per­son­al­i­ty types best suit the job of cin­e­mat­ic auteur. A few exam­ples: there’s the reclu­sive per­fec­tion­ist (Kubrick, Mal­ick), the mys­tic poet (Bres­son, Tarkovsky, also Mal­ick), the quirky man­child (Wes Ander­son, Michel Gondry), the brat­ty stu­dent of hip (Godard, Tar­enti­no), the hyper-lit­er­ate, neu­rot­ic Man­hat­tan­ite, jazz-play­ing Jew­ish come­di­an…. Okay, fine, it’s an imper­fect sys­tem. Only one direc­tor fits that last one, but he deserves his own cat­e­go­ry. And when Jean-Luc Godard decid­ed to make a film about an inter­view with Woody Allen in 1986, he seemed to agree. But in real­i­ty, the short piece above is a hybrid; the film begins with Godard’s poet­ic, rumi­na­tive voice-over in French, and as a view of Cen­tral Park comes into focus (from a win­dow in the Plaza, it appears), Gershwin’s “Rhap­sody in Blue” begins to play. The title– Meetin’ WA—is a Godard­ism, appro­pri­at­ing corny Amer­i­can speech pat­terns with its faux-folksy dropped “g.”

But there are plen­ty of Allenisms as well, like the jazz inter­ludes and silent-film title cards announc­ing each top­ic. Ulti­mate­ly, Godard swipes these tropes as fod­der for his own styl­is­tic eccen­tric­i­ties (jar­ring, off­beat cuts, self-ref­er­en­tial­i­ty) as the two dis­cuss styl­is­tic dis­tinc­tions, even as their styles meet, awk­ward­ly, on the screen. For exam­ple, Allen says of the title cards that Godard uses them as a cin­e­mat­ic device, while he thinks of them as lit­er­ary devices. This seems to mark a very impor­tant dif­fer­ence between the two direc­tors: Godard is a rapa­cious read­er and rede­ploy­er of the lan­guage of film, while Allen’s films are more nov­el­is­tic, pri­or­i­tiz­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal real­ism and ver­bal humor over manip­u­la­tion of the image.

The inter­view is pri­mar­i­ly in Eng­lish, save cer­tain moments when Godard needs to revert to French to get a point across (he has a trans­la­tor). For lovers of these two direc­tors, or of film in gen­er­al, their con­ver­sa­tion will fas­ci­nate. But it seems fair to say that with­out Godard’s edi­to­r­i­al inter­ven­tions (or inter­rup­tions, as the case may be), it wouldn’t look like much. Allen most­ly sits slumped on a drab hotel couch while the cam­era trains on him from behind Godard’s shoul­der, so that the lat­ter isn’t vis­i­ble at all. Then about halfway through, we cut away: while their con­ver­sa­tion con­tin­ues, we watch a scene of Godard sit­ting on the floor of a bright blue room, sift­ing through a box of VHS tapes and slam­ming them on a table in seem­ing dis­gust. This scene marks a cen­tral point of their discussion—what to make of the loss of cin­e­ma qua cin­e­ma as TV and video took over.

Now, as screens get even small­er, bud­gets big­ger, and atten­tion spans con­sid­er­ably more reduced, the movies must work hard­er to retain a view­ing audi­ence, and the sit­u­a­tion for artists like these two is even more pre­car­i­ous. In a sweep­ing dra­mat­ic ges­ture, Godard has recent­ly pro­claimed “the death of cin­e­ma”—a very Euro­pean thing to do, it seems, like Barthes’ death of the author or Orte­ga y Gasset’s death of the nov­el. Allen sol­diers on, recent­ly mak­ing what many have called his best film in decades, which may also be his most self-con­scious­ly literary—a film that warns against the dan­gers of nos­tal­gia even as it looks back obses­sive­ly to Allen’s beloved jazz age. Maybe this meet­ing of Godard and Allen rep­re­sents a time-cap­sule curio we look back on, from the oth­er side, after the death of the auteur.

You will find Meetin’ WA list­ed in our col­lec­tion of 500 Free Movies Online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jean-Luc Godard’s After-Shave Com­mer­cial for Schick (1971)

Ing­mar Bergman’s Soap Com­mer­cials Wash Away the Exis­ten­tial Despair

Fellini’s Fan­tas­tic TV Com­mer­cials

 Josh Jones is a writer and schol­ar cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing a dis­ser­ta­tion on land­scape, lit­er­a­ture, and labor.

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