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June 19, 2014

I think they’ll be furious. They gave money for a film on and this is a film about. It hasn’t yet reached the surface. It’s still at the bottom of things. You and I are too old and cinema will die soon, very young, without giving everything it could. We must get quickly to the bottom of things. It’s an emergency. The police often stopped us when we were shooting. The other day, we were stopped on the highway. He said we could only stop here for emergencies. We said it was an emergency. The light wouldn’t last for long. He didn’t care. It was against law and order.

Lettre à Freddy Buache by Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1982, 11 mins. IMDb. Watch it on Vimeo.

Here’s an approximate French transcription of Godard’s original voice over:

Je pense qu’il seront furieux parce qu’ils diront: “On avait commandé, on avait donné de l’argent pour un film sur, et ça c’est un film de” Il n’arrive pas encore à la sur-face. Il est encore au fond, au fond des choses. Et toi et moi on est trop vieux et le cinéma va mourir bientôt, très jeune, sans avoir donné tout ce qu’il a pu donner. Alors il faut aller vite au fond des choses. Il y a urgence. Souvent la police est venue nous arrêter quand on tournait l’autre jour. On s’était arrêté sur le côté de l’autoroute, et puis ils nous ont dit: “Vous n’avez pas le droit, sauf en cas d’urgence.” On leur a dit: “Il y a urgence: il y a la la lumière, elle va durer dix secondes, donc il y a urgence.” Ils n’ont rien voulu savoir, c’était pas dans l’ordre des choses.

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Jean-Luc Nancy recounts Godard’s anecdote in the third part of the interview he did on April 2012 with the French website La vie manifeste: “La communauté, le mythe, la politique. Rencontre avec Jean-Luc Nancy” (@ appr. 01:07:00). A moment before, he tells another anecdote, this time about Cézanne (which he’s borrowing from Joachim Gasquet). The French painter, en route in a coach, maybe to paint the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, suddenly exclaims to his coachman: “Look! Look! It’s unbelievable! This light!”.

Jean-Luc Nancy uses both anecdotes to illustrate what he calls “adoration” (see Adoration. The Deconstruction of Christianity II, Fordham, [2010] 2012). The word is borrowed from the religious vocabulary, but it also has a strong relationship with the paradigm of love. Adoration, explains Nancy, is beyond what can be appropriated by love in the formula “I love you”. Whereas the formula suggests one is still able to harvest some personal pleasure for himself or herself (“I love you and I enjoy the pleasure of loving you”), adoration tells of a different kind of transport. “I adore you” is about being totally taken by an experience. The “I” is lost in the infinite movement towards the other (be it someone or a landscape: it is possible to adore both).

Adoration –adoratio– could be understood as a form of communication where nothing is communicated as such, except communicability itself: “the address that barely contains anything beyond itself”, writes Nancy (2012: 18). That is the possibility of the experience in which or through which existence itself is taking place. Cézanne’s exclamation and Godard’s emergency have not to do with this or that specific lighting, nor with a general idea of lighting. They are both expression of their openness to experience –whatever experience that may be– and their own becoming through it: i.e. the fact precisely that their existence is not quite “their” own. Godard’s cinematographic emergency is about the importance of this opening to the possibility of being: the being that is taking place as the experience of any kind of sight. Maybe that is what Nancy meant when he said that artists know the true meaning of adoration. From this perspective, adoration could have something to do with the community of “whatever singularities” proposed by Agamben:

Thus, whatever singularity (the Lovable) is never the intelligence of some thing, of this or that quality or essence, but only the intelligence of an intelligibility. The movement Plato describes as erotic anamnesis is the movement that transports the object not toward another thing or another place, but toward its own taking-place–toward the Idea. (tr. Michael Hardt, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Fourth printing [1993] 2003, p. 2, emphasis in the original).

For more on Nancy’s concept of adoration, France Culture hosts a 77-min audio recording (in French) of a seminar which took place at the Collège international de philosophie on March 11, 2011. Were present Gisèle Berkman, Safaa Fathy, Pierre-Philippe Jandin and Jean-Luc Nancy: « L’Adoration » de Jean-Luc Nancy.

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‘Lettre à Freddy Buache’ by Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1982.
‘Lettre à Freddy Buache’ by Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1982.

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See all posts about Jean-Luc Godard.

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