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Keep Your Right Up(1987)
The Idiot receives his mission: to travel to Earth and make another film to the best of his abilities. A group of musicians work hard in attempt to find the perfect harmony. A man in search of Utopia wonders if he is on the wrong planet. A party of travellers are trying to work out where they are going...
For more about Keep Your Right Up and the Keep Your Right Up Blu-ray release, see Keep Your Right Up Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jean-Luc Godard, Jane Birkin, Dominique Lavanant, Pauline Lafont, Isabelle Sadoyan, Eva Darlan
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
» See full cast & crew
Keep Your Right Up Blu-ray Review
Thinking outside the box(ing).
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 22, 2013
Note: Olive Films is embarking on a branded effort to release Godard films on Blu-ray. My introductory comments on these releases will remain the same, in order to provide context. For those interested in a discussion of the individual films, simply jump to the text below the first screenshot.
Jean-Luc Godard is one of the most legendary names of twentieth century film, and one with an astoundingly long and varied oeuvre, so it's perhaps a little shocking that so few of his directorial efforts have made it to Blu-ray. A cursory review of domestic releases reveals a relatively meager set of films (we're speaking number here, not quality): Breathless, Vivre Sa Vie, Contempt, Band of Outsiders, Pierrot le fou, Weekend and Film Socialisme. With the exception of Film Socialisme, one of Godard's more recent efforts, the bulk of the titles listed above come from Godard's heyday in the sixties, when the famed auteur was a leading force in the Nouvelle Vague movement, otherwise known as the New Wave, a deconstructionist faction of filmmakers who sought to defy conventional logic and accepted tropes in writing, directing and performance. This approach is probably nowhere better exemplified than in Godard's own Breathless, a film which continues to provoke heated debate more than a half century after its release. As bracing as Godard's sixties' opuses are, there are just as many pleasures—albeit awfully peculiar pleasures at times—to be had in this protean creator's output after that whirlwind decade.
Most of us have had the dream—perhaps better described as the nightmare—where we're suddenly thrust into a situation where we're supposed to achieve something but find ourselves spectacularly ill prepared to do so. Probably the most common of these types of dreams takes us back to our school days, when we dream there's a test we have to take that we supposedly should have known about but had somehow forgotten to study for. Professionals in all walks of life have career-specific dreams: doctors find themselves in a surgery situation without knowing who the patient is or what operation needs to be achieved, musicians find themselves on a stage looking at a score they don't recognize, actors similarly find themselves on a stage in a play they haven't memorized—the list goes on and on. What would a filmmaker's version of this subconscious trope tend to be? Perhaps that they are required to deliver a film—as in shoot it, assemble it and hand over a completed version—in an insanely short amount of time. That, in essence, is the foundation upon which Godard builds Keep Your Right Up, one of the writer-director's typically "meta" approaches which is discursive and opaque (to say the least), but which presents several beautiful Godardian touches along the way.
Film scholars have decimated untold forests coming up with enough paper to try to analyze what various Godard films "mean", perhaps ironically missing one of Godard's frequent theses, that "meaning" is in and of itself in fact meaningless. Godard often plays with the rational mind like a frisky cat toying with a hapless mouse before biting off its head, and that proclivity is once again on full display in Keep Your Right Up. We have a series of intersecting stories which might seem on their face to have little to do with each other, and in fact they may not. Godard infuses the film with a virtual nonstop battery of literary allusions. For example, the rather Hulot-esque "hero" filmmaker, played by Godard himself, is referred to alternately as The Idiot or The Prince, evidently culled from Dostoevsky's The Idiot. It's probably no mere coincidence that the Dostoevsky opus deals with a man who leaves a Swiss sanitarium to return to the madness of the "real" world, only to wreak havoc. Godard retreated to his private Swiss "sanitarium" decades ago and has ventured out less and less frequently as he has aged.
While Keep Your Right Up seems to intentionally defy logic most of the time, evading making traditional "sense" at virtually every turn, that doesn't mean that the film is so inexplicable as to be unenjoyable. In fact, Godard's often piquant sense of humor is firmly on display. The Idiot (even that is funny, if you think about it—this character is, after all, Godard in both intention and actuality) repeatedly comes into contact with people who are attracted to his film— cannisters. "Oooh, it's so shiny", exclaims one elegant woman leaning out of a car. This is a perfect summary of Godard's social criticism whereby he attempts to elucidate the modern world's emphasis on surface beauties rather than actual content. In one of the other main elements, a band tries to come up with something, utilizing a cut and paste, sequenced approach that is perhaps Godard's none too subtle jab at a pre-fab society.
Speaking of jabs, Godard's title is obviously a reference to boxing. That may be the auteur's "in your face" response to critics who have long accused Godard of intentionally obfuscating just for the pure, juvenile pleasure of confusing his audience. That may in fact be at least part of what motivates Godard, but the film's title, while ostensibly advice aimed toward The Idiot, also serves as a salient reminder that audiences should keep their guard up lest they—or least their rational minds—get knocked out.
Keep Your Right Up Blu-ray, Video Quality
Keep Your Right Up is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Olive Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.34:1 (it's perhaps instructive to note that in the 1980s Godard was continuing to use so-called Academy Ratio, more or less, yet another thumb to the nose aimed at the "Establishment"). The elements here are in very good condition. The film is never incredibly sharp by modern day standards, but that is no doubt due mostly to the lenses Godard preferred as well as the film stock which was utilized. Colors are nicely saturated, though some may feel things have a very slightly faded look (Keep Your Right Up only appeared very briefly at theaters in the United States, and then years after its French release, so I have never seen this film exhibited theatrically). At just a little less than 90 minutes and with no supplementary material, Keep Your Right Up fits more than comfortably on a BD-25, and no compression artifacts of any kind were noticed, and as always, Olive does not seem to have fiddled digitally with the release.
Note: While the bulk of the film is subtitled, there is a final placard that is not translated. That placard reads (in English):
This film has not yet, for technical reasons, been presented to the Commission for the Control of Cinematographic Films; the audience is invited, at its projection, to check if it is allowed for everyone.One assumes this is another example of Godard's often opaque sense of humor. Does this refer to the film we're watching or the film within the film (which at this point is almost a film within a film within a film)? Such are the questions that regularly accompany any given Godard outing.
Keep Your Right Up Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Keep Your Right Up features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track in French (with forced English subtitles). The film may not have a surplus of dialogue, but it actually has quite a bit of sound, whether that be the nascent musings of the band or repeated foley effects when Godard aims his camera at the sky or, later, a train. The mono soundtrack can sound just slightly busy at times in the noisiest scenes, but this lossless rendering has no damage and presents everything with excellent fidelity. Listeners (and viewers) beware: when things fade to black and go silent at a bit after the 1:21:00 mark, stay tuned—the film has several more minutes to go.
Keep Your Right Up Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on this Blu-ray disc.
Keep Your Right Up Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Keep Your Right Up is a typically obtuse latter day Godard offering. It does not reveal its secrets willingly, but it has a surface sheen ("it's so shiny") that hypnotizes and carries the film through its often inexplicable wanderings. I really don't have a clue what Godard's ultimate aims in this film might be. I could hazard a good guess or two, but your guesses might be completely different—and just as valid. And that, I believe, is exactly what Godard is trying to say. It's not just beauty that's in the eye of the beholder—it's meaning. I'll be unpacking the meaning of Keep Your Right Up for a good long while to come, and it's a joy to have this nice looking and sounding Blu-ray to return to over and over again. Highly recommended.
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