Starring: Maruschka Detmers, Jacques Bonnaffé
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
Prénom Carmen is an awful film that should have never been made. That’s a terrible statement considering that there’s a somewhat decent story and the director, Jean-Luc Godard, is a filmmaking legend. The problem is that this pile of muck comes from the mind of Godard and shows how miserable a person he is. Not only is the film a perverted mess, but it doubles-down on Godard’s tropes that make for a convoluted movie that is neither artful nor decent.
Carmen (Detmers) and her gang rob a bank. During the action, she escapes with Joseph, one of the bank’s guards. Joseph (Bonnaffé) is infatuated with her, but she plays him like a fiddle; much like she does with many of the people in her life. She convinces her Uncle Jeannot (Godard) to not only lend her his apartment, but to also film a movie about them. Joseph slowly starts to come around to realize that Carmen is trouble and doesn’t care about him but feels compelled to continue to help Carmen in a desperate attempt to win her love.
The fact that Godard plays himself in the movie and is lusting after a family member who is a third of his age is ultra creepy. Combine that with the fact that Detmers is seen in various states of undress throughout the movie and her boyfriend sexually assaults her towards the end of her movie prevents this piece of “art” from being watchable. It’s crude, perverted, and crass. It’s amazing to me how Godard or anyone can think this could be considered artful.
Godard also takes the film techniques that he’s known for and really shoves it down the viewer’s throat. The quick, random cuts are there at a feverous pace that makes you feel the film is completely random. Godard is notorious for this technique and has used it successfully to create focus on the story and dialogue, but it misses the mark terribly here. There are times where the cuts seem out of order and that the film is jumping back and forth unintentionally. Godard also tries to make use of sound (or lack of it) to help illustrate the tale, but it sometimes comes across as white noise that is more distracting than illuminating. It’s sometimes feels as if the soundtrack isn’t even part of the same movie. Godard has always walked a fine line between being creative and being too eccentric. This one not only crosses into the latter territory but jumps in without reservation.
To be fair to the actors, they do an incredible job trying to tell the story of their respective characters. Detmers as the femme fatale that strings everyone along and Bonnaffé as the lovesick rebel without a clue make for an interesting duo. They have an interesting chemistry that makes some of the weirder parts of the movie believable. They try their best even when the dialogue is not that great, or the scenes carry out like a badly produced middle school play.
Prénom Carmen is a wretched film that’s only purpose should be to serve as a reminder that revered filmmakers aren’t fallible and can be major creeps. Jean-Luc Godard should be ashamed of this movie and himself. There is nothing entertaining, sexy, or compelling about this film. It’s provocative for all the wrong reasons.