Tout Va Bien begins with a closeup of a man signing checks. The camera frames the amount of the check -- we see that they're drawn on the account of a film production company. The man, the director, signs the check, quickly followed by another check and another and another. After a minute or so, a female voice: "If you get stars, people will give you money." The checks keep coming, faster. Then, superimposed on the frame: JANE FONDA. Then, YVES MONTAND. In the next scene, Fonda and Montand are a couple in love, walking along the beach, yada yada; in the next sequence they're quarreling bitterly; next, the female voice interrupts again. This is no good, she says, that is too conventional, you have to show how society makes them as they are. You have to show the context.
most of the rest of Tout Va Bien is context. The story of the
man and the woman is interrupted, punctured, by a wildcat strike in a
sausage factory. Fonda plays an American journalist who's trying to report
on French politics and culture; Montand plays a washed-up film director;
but they're caught in the strike before we know much about them. And they're
literally caught, trapped in the factory office with the manager, who's
besieged by angry young workers. The union said it was supposed to be
a brief work stoppage, but it "got out of hand," with workers
trashing the offices and terrorizing the managers.
What of Montand and Fonda? Montand tells his story directly to the camera. He used to be a New Wave screenwriter, but found he "couldn't do it any more. It's hard to make political films." (!) "It was more honest to make commercials." The commercials he makes are brilliantly inane and slutty, tiny infuriating masterpieces; it's immediately obvious why he's depressed, and why Fonda's grown to detest him. As for Fonda's journalist, she's profoundly blocked, unable to make sense of the culture and politics she's been sent to interpret, speaking false start after false start into her tape recorder. Finally she concedes, in exhaustion: "I am an American correspondent in France who no longer corresponds to anything."
the 1960s, Godard disdained cinematic form, yet Tout Va Bien
is elegant and shapely despite itself. The scattershot jokes and subversion
of his earlier films, and the anger and chaos of films like Weekend,
begin to coalesce here. Godard's tone and meaning are usually indefinite,
"between" settled attitudes; Tout Va Bien hovers between
comic play (the jokes are marvelous) and despair. The critical consensus
is that Tout Va Bien is one of Godard's lesser films. I think
it's one of his best.
©2008 Les Phillips