Chasing Godard : When Cinema turns to reality
By Farah ALHashem
The clock just rotated to 3 am, it was cerulean dawn, I was tossing myself on the bed left and right, I could not sleep. I didn’t. I failed.
My eyes were wide open, thinking about this trip that I postponed for the 20th time, however, I have promised myself that when I live in Paris, I shall do it, I shall take a train trip and chase Godard.
Yes, Jean-Luc Godard the greatest filmmaker and one of the pioneers of the French new wave. His films contain a plethora of emotions that splurge on you and you fall in love immediately. I never studied French, as a matter of fact, I grew up watching Seinfeld and the wheel of fortune.
Who knew that by age 30 I would end up in Paris? I thought about this trip because I was afraid of meeting the role model, the great thinker, there was a great part of me that wished I never meet him but there was another part of me that would regret not trying anyway. So, I took the 8:15 train to Switzerland from Gare du Lyon.
I tracked the smell of coffee, after three sips of my Grande Mocha, it hit me. I am going to meet Jean-Luc Godard.
Chasing him was like a dream, I was awakened from it at every bump in the train or elbow kicking by fellow travelers. I visualized what will I say to him once I see him. The fact that my life has been transformed by his films, or the fact that I am searching for a younger version of him in all my Tinder horrific dates, or that I speak like Anna Karina with a cigarette in my mouth whenever the waiter in Paris asks me about my desires or the fact that I make my films passionately knowing that one day I’d personally hug him and say
I don’t know where he lives, I don’t even know his phone number, I arrived at the small village of Rolle hoping to run into him whilst his coffee/croissant break. I wondered about his reactions ? will he smile and appreciate my step? or will he call the police to arrest “the stalker”?
When I stepped out of the train, I was fretting with the idea of rejection.
I dragged my small black suitcase behind me and looked for a hotel near the station. There was a single large blue bench at the main street facing the station. It was empty.
I was walking toward a city that I only read about on Wikipedia, I didn’t know where I was headed but ended up in a hotel called, “ Hostellerie du Chateau” when I arrived there. It was 1 pm in the afternoon, no one was the reception to welcome me, just a piece of paper with my name on it. I gapped the keys and followed the signs leading to my room on the second floor. I passed by Vincent van Gogh's replicas scattered on the walls. I finally closed the door behind me in Room 12.
The room was smaller than I expected, the window was half open, I sat on the bed, and took off my clothes, everything but my bra and underwear, I stared at the roof for a couple of minutes and remained silent.
It started to hit me. I am insane.
I needed a validation that what was I doing Is not certifiably insane, so I called my mother, she told that fear is my friend and that I was merely doing what I always wanted and I should not worry and even if I don’t see Godard, the experience itself will be memorable.
When I walked down the street, everyone was looking at me, wondering to themselves who am I and what am I doing here? The streets are narrow and their ends split at long pathway which leads to the lake, the lake that we saw in Godard’s film “ Goodbye to Language”
I wanted to ask about Godard but how could I possibly ask about him without sounding a bit “stalkerish” I introduced myself to a woman named Claudine who owns a real estate office in the heart of the village. I told her that I am a film student and looking to meet Godard to take his permission to use his films in my research and that I am doing research on him. I was kind of telling her the truth since I was planning to study in Paris but at that specific moment, I was only a student at Alliance Français so luckily, I managed to introduce myself in French.
But because I am uncontrollably honest, I told her that I am in love with his work and he is a role model and would like to see him, she smiled, took a pause then told me to follow her.
I followed her, and walked 20 to 30 steps north and then she stopped and pointed her right finger at a small house with white wooden fences and said,
That’s Godard, you can simply knock the door.
I walked toward the fence, the house seemed bleak and unruffled by exterior noise. I sat under a tree and waited for someone to show up, I tried to knock the door but no one was there. So, I decided to leave a letter in Box. I used my eyeliner to write a small note, I placed it inside the box and walked back toward the main street, a man followed me and shouted
Did you see Godard yet?
I looked behind me and there he was, a 60 something man in a red shirt, looking rather tired, he was trying to help me. He could see that I was upset so he offered to take me to Godard’s production company across the street.
I cried but I hid my tears. I was told at the production company when they opened the door, that Godard has not visited the office for a few months and he was sick and had a heart problem and he refuses to see anyone.
How can I convince these people that I am different than anybody else, that I am not one of these film buffs who hate Godard just for the hate or those directors who enjoy mocking Godard like Michel Hazanavicius but they secretly are obsessed with him?
I left a letter in broken French at the hotel clerk and he promised me to deliver it to Godard’s personal assistant and agent, I was given a Swiss number that I still have and saved on my phone as “ Godard’s number” however it remains unavailable or busy.
I have seen Godard or at least a part of him, I met him in different ways, I had an espresso at Café Moret, a classic baguette from the town’s Boulangerie. I have sat on that bench in front of the lake, I slept and walked around in a village that memorized Godard’ footsteps.
I heard many rumors that Godard was a terrible and rude person, however, I refused to place judgement on a person that I have never met, but again, I have willingly express my greatest love and respect to a man who motivated me to look at life, and loves differently.
I didn’t get to see his face in person, I returned with an experience knowing that my letter reached him and that’s a great comfort for this lifetime.