Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication

Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication ★★★★

6x2 was the first TV series produced and directed by Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard and was part of their company's (Sonimage) focus on TV/Cinema - and finding new ways to work with the medium.

The concept is quite unique - as the 12 episodes are divided in 6 sets - 1 essay and 1 interview - creating a greater whole. The style is almost all-encompassing, with the essays varying from near performance art - to direct commentary - to plays on words. The interviews, at first, have a more clear style - allowing the subject to simply speak - for approximately an hour - and the effect created is incredible - later there is an increase in subjects in the interview section and essayesque elements work their way in.

I think this is an incredible work, and certainly one I would recommend to everyone who enjoys Godard's collaborations with Miéville and his later solo essay work. You can easily see comparisons of this and The Image Book for instance. Anyhow, onto the episodes themselves.

1A Ya Personne / No One's There

Ya personne is an incredibly fascinating first episode, as everything is stripped down to its very core. We are looking into a room, seemingly from a door - as person after person enter the office - and a man - seemingly Godard - explains that they are a company that develops films from TV. Each person is unemployed. Some have come through the job office, others have seen an advertisement - and the interviewer (it is seemingly - at first - an interview for a position - though most are not qualified). However, what at first seems like a purely formatic exercise - slowly turns more profound, as the unemployed people start talking about their lives, what they want to do - and reveal more and more of themselves. The interviewer asked increasingly odd questions, pushing the people in terms of how to react - and the results are great.

It later becomes clear that the people are not actually there for a position - put to participate in this program. It is an hour of work, they will simply come, sit down, talk and get their check. This opens up a conversation of what work even is - and looks into whether people really only want to do a specialized profession - or something more well-rounded. THe idea of unemployment and power is a red line throughout - as is cinematic tension - here created simply from faces, stories and simple movements/sounds, such as moving an ashtrey, putting out a cigarette, etc. It essentially incorporates the same tools as Numero deux, but in a more stripped-down environment, looking into the lives of more people and possibly revealing something closer to truth. 8.5/10.

1B Louison

1B is utterly remarkable, as it manages to make something cinematically interesting, that, well - shouldn't. We are faced with a 48 minute interview, almost all in 1 shot - though there are a few cut-aways - where we simply listen to a farmer speak. Or rather: he is given the occasional question - and sometime fairly bizarre ones - such as being asked to show with his hands the movements of his work: though rather than being patronizing, I think we manage to see an incredibly altern interview subject engage in and explore his own work and reality - in personal, professional, physical, economic and social realms. I was quite frankly spellbound, glued to the screen - as the interview - the talking head (though here, talking body) is (almost) all we see - only interrupted/added to by the occasional words on the screen - highlighting a theme or echoing a phrase. It is remarkable just how seeing a face, a fellow human being, and being immersed in his free-flowing reaction.

In terms of contrast it is interesting that the interview subject chosen is a farmer - contrasting the unemployed workers in being his own employer - and this relationship, both to the workers, to himself and to the economic system is explored in great and revealing detail. 8.5/10.

2A Leçon de chooses / Object Lesson

2A instantly shows the scope of the series as far more than stripped down tectics of long shots. Reversing everything we see close-ups - but no faces. Two men are having a conversation over a small table, enjoying coffee and cigarettes - and the close up is of the little table and their hands. This is where the cinematic drama lays - meanwhile the context and topic are far more abstract, contextual and playful - feeling closer to the work Godard did before, like for instance The Joy of Learning. The men are just talking, showing pictures, discussing what they see - but where 1 man sees the norm - the other re-contextualizes it - with a degree of humour and possibly sarcasm - but also with a degree of poetic licence and an argument.

For instance - where one sees a child - the other sees a prisoner of war - of civil war - and explains it with the school system, with fences, gates and bars - and of society at large. Where one sees a bed, the other sees an editing table. It feels less hard hitting and true than the previous episodes - it feels more like play - but it is thoroughly enjoyable. 8/10.

2B Jean-Luc

"Cinema is the only place we are allowed to make spelling mistakes"

As the style of 2A is quite similar to Jean-Luc Godard's form of comedy and astraction/recompartmentalization - it is very fitting that the second interview subject is him - here perched - partially covered by a reporter (we often see half his face) as they sit opposite a table - just as the two men in 2A - but here we do not see the table, nor their hands. It is a reverse focus - and it is a beautiful stylistic/formatic contradiction/complimentation of 2A. It is a perfectly enjoyable conversation, diving into takes on criticism itself, the media, the idea of simply talking for an hour - and the concept of these interviews in themselves. It is not as direct as the previous conversation with the farmer, and it doesn't seem to get to the same truth - though Godard's musings are always entertaining enough on their own. Lighter fare, but still a great watch. 8/10.

3A Photos et / Phono & Company

Opening on a still photograph of an execution, and carrying the scene on for about 15 minutes - as the context, purpose and use is discussed with the photographer who took it - 3A is by far he most powerful and emotive so far. The tension within the photography, which is left for lasting effect, is built up more and more when contrasted with information of the exposure, shutter speed - and contrasting it with how long the event itself lasted - the reception since - the effect wanted. Simultaneously immersive and distancing - and this exercise in looking at context and impact continues.

We see content - of all forms - contrasted with ads. We are looking at how a serious image exploring pain or pressing political circumstances - truly stands up when you turn the page and see models, general consumerism, etc. and we look at the ways of the media itself. It is pleasantly amusing - enjoying the chaos and showing the trenches of reporters recording a political speech - focusing in on their recorders as the crowd boos. It is, however, also a hard-hitting essay - asking the question of how much content is actually editorial - how much is ads - and just how messaging of importance is meant to reach out and make any kind of difference. 9/10.

3B Marcel

The contrast to the professionals, documenting the world around them for money, is "little Marcel", an aging hobby filmmaker - who spends his time shooting and editing films - often on nature. We see him crouched at his editing bench - which is perfectly matched by his work as a watchmaker/goldsmith - both meticulous work requiring him to sit, look and perform specific motions.

The duality - of looking at not just the contrast to the professional media - but the relationship between work and hobby makes Marcel an incredibly powerful episode.

We are quickly taken in by his earnestness and almost youthful excitement/innocence about what he does. He cuts, he explains for instance, if something is blurry (not for context, etc.). We are learning about what he sees, what he loves, why he sees his work this way - and we are getting a clear image of both amateur filmmaking - the contrast between work/hobby and Marcel himself - who is such a lovely and charismatic interview subject. 8.5/10.

4A Pas d'histoire / No Story

No Story opens, remarkably, with an interview about the how stories are made, and the process of creating it from start to finish. It is simple, but engaging - set up just as one of the interviews and is quite spellbinding. We keep cutting back to our storyteller - but after the intro the focus ties in threads from the previous essays and continues the examination of just how stories are told - and the message we get. Especially images are examined, and how we view the people, objects and space between them. Intellectually stimulating, fun and playful all at once. 8.5/10

4B Nanas

Nana inter-connects a set of women and their stories, from a young girl - to grandmothers. Interestingly, this episode does not only feel a little basic - it calls itself out for being basic and not getting into the depths of the people. Some of the interviews are all the same striking - some stark, other playful - and while it does feel like one of the lightest episodes of the series - the ending does carry a degree of power in how it reassesses itself. 7.5/10.

5A Nous trois / Us Three

This is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and riveting experiments Miéville and Godard ever did - and it is therefor quite sad that I just don't think it quite worked.

Shot entirely without sound (with the exception of a 5-minute closer) the film shows a man imprisoned writing two letters (to two different people) - depicting it as him sitting opposite to the person he is talking to. The lines he is writing is being written directly on the screen - slowly, and only a few words at a time - while the man and a woman share what seems to be an intimate moment. However: they are never shown together. We get the feeling they are sitting opposite on a table - but they are photographed separately. Split-screen is often used, moving the images over each other - interlocking various footage, etc. but the energy stays the same - intimate smiles and gestures - no sound - text.

It is a stunning way to make a viewing experience - but it does overstay its welcome. It could have been a brilliant short - or perhaps been brought further to life with music or more visual experiments that changed up the rhythm. It really felt it was missing a piece of the puzzle, which is sad, because again: I have never seen anything like this done before - and it is incredible. The final 5-minute closer grounds it in an idea of letters - but the change in style did seem a little off as well. It is a very good episode, but I would say its cinematic importance far outweighs the visceral experience. 7/10.

5B René(e)s

René(e)s strikes an interesting contrast and connection to Us Three - sitting down for an interview with "René", a mathematician, answering questions on maths and physics. One of the things Godard is most interested in learning (he is again the interviewer) is the process of two becoming one, how reactions in the world actually works - etc. and: more than any other interview - as René explains various mathematical/physical realities, and his views - semi-connected footage from the rest of the series is worked in. It feels far more like an essay episode. René himself is perfectly pleasant and alert, with a nice way of answering the questions and clarifying and mythifying his field of expertise - while also being quite humble. 8/10.

6A Avant et après / Before and After

The final essay - the A episode - opens with an exciting flip on the format. I may not have mentioned this - but every episode opens and ends with someone putting a video cassette into a player and taking it out again - doing the necessary prep to start and finish (i.e. flipping buttons, etc.) as the opening and end credits role. It is a simple and powerful opening/ending contextualizing what we are watching as content being created for TV and shown to you. What makes this episode interesting is that after the intro we cut to a man with headphones on - the feeling is that this is the man who has been playing each episode for us. We don't see the machine - the screen is cut in the same way as 2A and 2B - i.e. table/hands vs. faces - and it feels natural.¨

He then starts to explain what they have done - the episodes, the order - the process - the mistakes - referencing to "we" - the people who made the show (this is the male actor from Us Three - I'm not sure of the rest of his involvement). What is great here - beyond the fun play on the episodes, and whimsical elements, is that actually grounds the episode in context. We even get people's reaction to the early programs - such as thinking they were mocking the subjects in No One's There, and that Louison was "speaking the truth" - and wondering why this was. We also get the idea of why A and B was put together - looking back at A1 and A2 - because in one scenario there is too little work - in the second there is too much. It is really exhilarating to both understand the context - that we missed by not seeing this on TV and being in the culture that discussed them as new/relevant - and get an insight into their thought processes.

This is also a moment in the series that really elevates it as a whole - making the limited visual scope a part of the narrative - how the signals are sent and transmitted - how it is reconverted, etc. It makes the limitations a great part of the overall experience in itself.

I would have loved more actual assessment and explanation of the actual ideas - as it is an essay upon itself - and it had even more room to unify the series - but this is undoubtedly one of the best episodes - as well as a key to the show as a whole. 8.5/10.

6B Jacqueline et Ludovic

Ending the show on a surprisingly mellow note, Jacqueline et Ludovic glides into black and white - and stays there - cutting between two separate interviews - of no direct relation to each other. There are links - both are missing human relationships - both are isolated - and both have had their own large personal issues. Ludovic gets mental health treatment, while Jaqueline goes on pilgrimages to Rome to speak to the pope in order to find a husband. Her stories get wild and large, his stories get small and quiet - but both carry a sense of melancholy.

They are both strong interviews with power - but something does feel a little missing. At present, I don't quite see this as a fitting final episode - and this is made a little worse by the fact that Before and After only really mentions its title - but leaves us hanging as to what it may mean. Perhaps this episode will open itself up more on a later watch and it will actually be an incredible finish - but for now, I think it is one of the weaker - though still thoroughly strong, with a lot of power. 7.5/10.