Fascinating, flawed, infuriating, muddled, occasionally mind-numbingly boring and as impossible to turn away from as a road accident, the 1972 Jean-Luc Godard/Jean-Pierre Gorin collaboration Tout Va Bien (Everything Is Fine) is like a lot of things in film—and like nothing else. If I’d seen the film when it came out in 1972, I’m certain my 17-18-year-old self would have found it deeply profound—at least to the degree that I’d suspect it was my inalienable right to cause dissent at a supermarket. Coming to the film for the first time now, I’m more than a little suspicious that Messrs. Godard and Gorin hadn’t the first clue what they were doing, but decided to go ahead and do it anyway. That’s both the curse of the movie and the major point of interest.
The thrust of the film seems to be Godard’s own dissatisfaction with the aftermath of the 1968 riots in France—his sense that nothing panned out in the way he’d hoped. More, it reflects some kind of contempt for his own earlier filmmaking as part of the New Wave, which is pretty clearly established by making Yves Montand a former—and maybe future—filmmaker from that era who comes to believe that commercials are more honorable and so switches to making them. Godard has become distrustful of his own political activism—and by extension that of his stars, Montand and Jane Fonda—but he seems equally disenchanted by the working class. I think the film was intended as a rallying cry to the students of 1972, but if so, it really didn’t work. Stylistically, it’s often fascinating. Godard’s use of a multi-level, multi-room shaved set with all its bold colors may be the only actual instance where the French actually adopted something from Jerry Lewis (The Ladies’ Man). At the same time, his interminable lateral tracking shots seem to prefigure something of the style of Peter Greenaway. Will you like it? Probably not, but you won’t forget it.