Each month, in partnership with LaCinetek, Le Figaro offers a nugget of the seventh art. In September, find this false thriller filmed between Contempt and Pierrot le fou, which features Anna Karina, Claude Brasseur and Sami Frey in a burlesque and melancholy trio.
LaCinetek brings them together in his selection of the month, entitled Let’s Dance Now !, but Keeping to himself does not have much to do with All That Jazz, by Bob Fosse. Jean-Luc Godard’s film, released in 1964, is not a musical. It does include a cult dance scene. In a café in Vincennes, Anna Karina, Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur dance a madison. Frey and Brasseur are a little sluggish and diligent despite the two weeks of rehearsal. Karina, she moves and snaps her fingers gracefully. “Odile wonders if the boys have noticed her two breasts moving under her sweater”, said Godard’s hissing voice over. The scene is a parenthesis in an intrigue which is only a series of digressions. “It’s a dance for the camera, for the spectators, to have fun”, the filmmaker will say. The same could be said of Keeping to himself. It’s a movie to have fun.
Discover here LaCinetek’s September selection dedicated to the theme: “Let’s dance now!” in the cinema
Godard is inspired by a novel from the Série Noire advised by François Truffaut, Pigeon flies, by American author Dolores Hitchens. He keeps the plot: two broke thugs seduce a woman to steal a large sum of money from his aunt’s house where she lodges him. But, true to his habit, Godard takes all liberties and adapts the book in his own way. He already has his next film in mind, Pierrot le fou, and wants to quickly follow the previous one, Contempt. “Contempt was in color, in scope, in Italy, with a star, American money …, explains the filmmaker. The best way for me to change direction was to give myself constraints. I couldn’t help it. I said to myself : ”I’m going to make Bande à part a little Z series film like some American films that I like, ” like Fuller’s films, well, on this principle. “
If Godard wanted to shoot quickly at the end of 1963, it was also because Anna Karina was going through a serious depression. Their relationship is bad, he wants to change her mind. The actress made two suicide attempts in October and November 1963. She was interned for six weeks in a mental hospital in the western suburbs where she recovered after six weeks. “When Jean-Luc came to get me to Keeping to himself, I saw everything turn, the noise around us, boulevard Saint-Germain, terrified me, tells Karina to Antoine de Baecque in Godard, biography essential. I was coming out of several weeks of calm, and there, what he announced to me, the traffic, the city, was a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I don’t know if he didn’t love me enough or if he loved me too much. But when a shoot was announced, he loved me very much again. That day, however, I felt like he loved me like a puppet. He was the genius, and I the puppet. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. ”
The shooting is peaceful and fast. In addition to the large house on the banks of the Marne, between Joinville and Saint-Maurice, the decor of Keeping to himself is Paris. Odile, Arthur and Franz spin on the banks of the Seine in a convertible Simca sport. Godard improvises the sequences and dialogues, often written the day before for the next day. The madison in the café or the express visit of the Louvre museum. “I admired his sense of quick decisions, tells Claude Brasseur in Le Figaro in 2014. The technique had evolved a lot since my beginnings; with Carné for example: huge cameras, dazzling arcs of light, etc. La Nouvelle Vague is a lively and light way of turning. Thus, Jean-Luc improvised the scene of the race in the Louvre, because he had read that very morning in the newspaper that an American flattered himself that he had seen the whole museum in an hour. ” VWe are going to do better, ” he told us. We had the authorizations during the day, and we shot! Jean-Luc, I’m sure, has always preferred filming to his films… ”
Keeping to himself is not really a comedy but it is a musical film even when the music (Michel Legrand’s jazzy soundtrack) stops. Godard plays with scores and silences. He likes the changes of rhythm, the sounds, the buzz of the city, the voices. That of Anna Karina, in particular, who sings a cappella in the metro.
Keeping to himself does not unleash the crowds when it comes out. It leaves most critics indifferent. But, over time, it has become a film admired by a number of cinephiles, which one does not necessarily find among Godardians. So Quentin Tarantino names his production company A Bande Apart in homage to this burlesque and melancholic thriller, free and lively.