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High 'Praise' for Godard's latest film

'In Praise of Love' probes the shortfalls of mass-market entertainment with wit, beauty, and insight

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There are many remarkable things about "In Praise of Love," the new movie by Jean-Luc Godard, but the most remarkable of all is that it is about to open in American theaters everywhere.

While Godard has been a central figure in world cinema for more than 40 years, he has always been a rule-breaking maverick known more for influencing other filmmakers than for winning at the box office.

His latest work is such a creative and intellectual triumph, however, that not even the movie world's chronic commercialism could relegate it entirely to short-lived glimpses on the festival circuit. A courageous company called Manhattan Pictures is convinced that significant numbers of viewers enjoy rising to an artistic challenge now and then. If that proposition is correct, everyone who cares about movies will benefit.

The main character of "In Praise of Love" is a director named Bruno, who has embarked on an ambitious project.

He wants to make a film about four stages of love – acquaintanceship, growing passion, quarreling and separation, reconciliation and stability – from the perspectives of young, middle-aged, and elderly couples. For a leading role, he considers casting an enigmatic woman he knows from bygone years – until a sad event interferes with his plan.

That's the first hour of Godard's film. The last portion, shot in breathtakingly colored video, takes place two years earlier. The grandparents of the elusive woman, once resistance fighters against the Nazis, are mulling an American movie studio's offer for the rights to their life story. This gives Godard an opening for pointed satire of Spielberg-style filmmaking and Hollywood's colonization of world culture.

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