The Audible Life of the Image


  • David Wills University at Albany



"Since at least 1980 Godard’s cinema has been explicitly looking for (its) music, as if for its outside. In Sauve qui peut (la vie) Paul Godard hears, and asks about it, coming through the hotel room wall, and it follows him down to the lobby, but remains “off,” like Marguerite Duras’s voice, in spite of his questions, until the final sequence. At that moment, at the end of the section entitled “Music,” the protagonist is at the same time struck by a car and struck by the entrance of the music into the diegetic present of the film, as the camera pans past an orchestra playing on the sidewalk while Paul fades off under the quizzical gaze of his daughter. By 2004, with Notre musique, it would seem to have taken over the whole text, for the film was announced as being about the collaboration between Godard and German record label ECM. In the context of that film it is difficult to determine both what that music is and who we are, although this discussion will try to advance a hypothesis in that regard. In fact, my main contention will be that music in Godard’s films functions as something like the absent image(s), not those it has lost but rather its cinema to come, what remains to be discovered and live within it, the survival of it. Not a cinema that cannot be seen, rather the image that can perhaps only be heard; and not the romantic or psychedelic dream of a synaesthetic apotheosis either, rather the technological coincidence of sonimage that has also been the precise direction of Godard’s cinematic research for more than thirty years. For the argument I will be making here is inscribed within my own investigation of what I call “technological life,” the means by which, in “prosthetic” symbiosis, or “dorsal” umbrality, a form lives beyond the simplistic opposition of animate and inanimate, or against the reductive presuppositions of autokinetic ipseity..."