Only those very hip to Jean-Luc Godard will easily translate the obscure ramblings of his latest work, “Oh, Woe Is Me.” Despite the presence of Gerard Depardieu, this aptly titled pic is unlikely to perform any better that Godard’s 1990 Alain Delon starrer, “New Wave.”
Film is inspired by lofty sources: The Greek legend of Alcmene and Amphitryon , about a god who wants to experience human desire, pleasure and pain, and a text by Italian poet Leopardi about the anguish of man’s journey through life.
It will be left to theoreticians, or those on the director’s increasingly obscure wavelength, to decipher any kind of narrative. Depardieu plays a godlike character who drifts into a village by a Swiss lake with a floppy hat, raincoat, English newspaper and bemused expression.
He also seems to have an alter ego, with a rasping voice similar to the computer in Godard’s 1965 sci-fi classic, “Alphaville.”
Pic is a series of unresolved encounters between various characters, with overlapping dialogue, solemnly amusing inter-titles and occasionally soaring music. Those wandering aimlessly include students, a teacher, a couple of pastors, a doctor and the wife/mistress of the Depardieu character.
Scenes unfold in or near the lake, or at a station where passing trains drown out the dialogue, consisting of banalities, aphorisms and the occasional profundity. There are puns (many difficult to translate into English), political comments and refs to the current Bosnian crisis.
All this is elegantly photographed and recorded but lacks the incisive wit and visual daring of Godard’s pioneering early work. “Woe” won’t win any new converts.