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Helas Pour Moi is disturbing and thought-provoking

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Gerard Depardieu woos Rachel Donnadieu in Helas Pour Mois, a film by Jean-Luc Godard.

Helas Pour Moi

Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard.

Starring Gerard Depardieu and Laurence Masliah.

Museum of Fine Arts.

By Evelyn Kao
Staff Reporter

Prospective viewers of the French film Helas Pour Moi should go in prepared for the unexpected, for it is not the typical action flick. Nor is it the typical love story or horror movie. The title Helas Pour Moi (which roughly translates to woe is me) is no indication of what is to come, but it is a fitting title, for it leaves this viewer with that feeling. It is impossible to leave this dizzying film feeling indifferent or ambivalent.

On the exterior, this film is the modern retelling of the Greek myth of Heracles' birth, when Zeus takes the form of a mortal to have sex with his faithful wife. This film however explores the deeper implications of such an event.

Here, a very cruel and very human God descends to earth to experience real love. Here the creator must seek the answers from his creations. He and his henchman target a woman, Rachel Donnadieu (played by Laurence Masliah), for she is truly a strong woman, one who is in love with her husband, Simon (Gerard Depardieu). They seek her out to find the answers to true human desire and affection.

It is a film that explores many questions: What is romanticism? What does it mean to love someone? What does it mean to suffer?

Director Jean-Luc Godard attempts to "write" an essay with his film. It is at once a dissertation into the aforementioned questions and an illustration. In his attempt to answer the questions of human life he displays remarkable ingenuity.

Helas Pour Moi employs a melee of discordant, clashing noises and bits of music from Bach, Beethoven, and other classical composers to disorient and envelop the viewer with the horror and magnitude of the event. Synthesized disruptive voices provide a surrealistic feeling to the film. The choppiness of scenes and flashing sentences and narratives complete the signature Godard style.

Fans of Godard will not be disappointed. Helas Pour Moi has received rave reviews from distinguished critics. For most, the confusion of the different messages will prove to be somewhat overwhelming and will be almost completely incomprehensible.

One may be flooded by the amount of information and by the ideas that are being explored. It is not to be viewed by the lazy. Those unaccustomed to the French language, culture, literature, and philosophy may have difficulties deciphering the message behind Godard's work, for the brief interchanges between characters and plot are often interrupted by the flashing messages and subtitles. It is not an easy task separating the truth from hallucination. It is an extremely dense movie.

Helas Pour Moi is not meant to be viewed lightly - it's not a typical American movie. It is not really an enjoyable film, but more a disturbing, thought provoking one.