This review was written before the death of Jean-Luc Godard. We did not consider it necessary to modify it after the announcement of his death.
It seems at first an absurd project, this exchange of messages between an old Persian aristocrat exiled in a palace in the English countryside and the most famous Helvetian hermit in world cinema.
In his mansion which looks like a setting out of The beauty and the Beast, Ebrahim Golestan now a centenarian, who was a major figure in production in Iran at the time of the Shah and signed several important films of this period, acceded to the solicitation of his young compatriot, also exiled in Europe, Mitra Farahanito dialogue with Jean-Luc Godard.
Which, singular as it may seem (one doubts he had ever heard of Gulistan before), replies: “Why not?” And immediately does what he knows how to do so well: he invents a protocol framing their weekly email exchange, and associates it with a play on words, the title of which keeps track. It will last seven years.
The camera is often in the English castle, more rarely in the small Swiss house. Godard sends riddles, images, aphorisms. Golestan comments, digresses, takes care of his health, plays at arguing with his wife, evokes memories.
It is neither a dialogue nor a double portrait, even less a comparison. So what?
The disorder of the I
Let’s say, as an approximation about a vigorously unclassifiable proposition: a strange game in which each of the three filmmakers, the one to whom we owe Fifi screams with joythe author of The Brick and the Mirror who in 1964 was one of the beginnings of the new Iranian cinema, and the signatory of the recent The picture book invents the rules that suit him, traces his path thanks to what the other two show and hide, thanks to what they and she say and keep quiet.
Ebrahim Golestan, artist and castellan by divine right, quick to cultivate his character. | Charlotte Films
Confusing at first glance, See you Friday, Robinson unfolds little by little in a playful and melancholy way, a meditation in three voices, each in its own register, where the director of course has a few snatches of the last word – but where it appears that this is frankly not the question.
The “question”, the mysterious and playful game where multiple shadows lurk, including those of old age and the death of these two nonagenarian gentlemen who were kind enough to play this part with the young woman, is precisely on the side of, or of the speech.
This language to which, still not out of breath, JLG undertook to say goodbye eight years ago. It was just as he was beginning to chat remotely with Robinson Golestan.
Jean-Luc Godard, researcher of shadows and lights. | Charlotte Films
But we don’t get rid of language so easily. In the film, it is there, multiple and full of resonances, the language of images and the languages of memory, the language of bodies and the languages of idioms, the language of music and the languages of myths, the language of editing and the language of sound variations. The signs are always with us, whether we like it or not.
And now the Gothic palace in Surrey, the little house in Rolle (the one we glimpsed in Agnès Varda’s latest film) and the innumerable internet circuits become the components of a baroque edifice, an edifice of which Mitra Farahani is the mischievous and sensitive architect, while also being one of its occupants.
Golestan Palace in England, haunted by the memory of films and the desire for quests always to be resumed. | CarlottaCast
The director thus brings out a house-film in the form of a museum of vanished dreams, a ghost train barracks and a palace of mirrors, to have fun and worry, and to reflect and be surprised.
One + One = 3, or many more
Whoever sets foot there, and eyes and ears, will soon be transformed into a witness to a somewhat strange experiment by taking part in a kind of quest, a safari calibrated by a distant great-grandniece of James Joyce to which the words would be only one component of the labyrinth.
From one corner of Europe to the other, two solo sailors send signals to each other according to different codes. Golestan cultivates the flowers of his immense culture, Godard sips the omnipresence of his relationship to a bereavement (of youth? of love? of the revolution? of the cinema?) which he has made for some forty years the philosopher’s stone of its sensitive, hypnotic alchemy.
In one, with the other, Mitra Farahani composes, assembles, captures echoes. The night is coming. The smile remains.
Jean-Michel Frodon’s film reviews are to be found in the show “Cultural Affinities” by Tewfik Hakem, Sundays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on France Culture.
See you Friday, Robinson
by Mitra Farahani
with Ebrahim Golestan, Jean-Luc Godard
Released September 14
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“See you Friday, Robinson,” a young breeze and two long waves
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