After a decade in the wilds of avant-garde and early video experimentation, Jean-Luc Godard returned to commercial cinema with this work of social commentary, star-driven and narrative while remaining defiantly intellectual and visually cutting-edge. 'Every Man for Himself,' featuring a script by Jean-Claude Carrière and Anne-Marie Miéville, looks at the sexual and professional lives of three people—a television producer (Jacques Dutronc), his ex-girlfriend (Nathalie Baye), and a prostitute (Isabelle Huppert)—to create a meditative story about work, relationships, and the notion of freedom. Made twenty years into his career, the film was, according to Godard, a second debut.
If you're a fan of film, a cinephile, or took film classes in school, you probably did an entire section on the iconic director Jean-Luc Godard. You might have heard your film buff friends or professors tell you why Godard is one of the best filmmakers to ever grace the big screen. And if you've seen any of his films, you would have to agree, which is why Criterion loves releasing his films under the brand.
His 1980 film, titled 'Every Man For Himself' was nominated for the Palme d'Or Award at Cannes that year and was almost nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars that same year. Prior to 1980, Godard's films were very experimental in nature and mostly done and a very small budget with small name actors. Godard himself has said that 'Every Man For Himself' was like being reborn, as this was considered his return to mainstream filmmaking with a decent sized budget and well-known actors.
While this film had those new aspects, Godard continued to revert back to his experimental ways with the use of movement and music, particularly using slow motion to elevate certain scenes. What Godard tries to convey and tell us with 'Every Man For Himself' is that no matter the choices you make in life or the paths you decide to go down, you usually end up looking after yourself only. Godard even said that a better title for this film would be 'Save Your Ass'. 'Every Man For Himself' plays out like three separate one-act plays that centers on a certain character in each act. We all know that Godard has influenced tons of directors, one of them being Quentin Tarantino, so it shouldn't be a surprise that each character here and story line cross paths at some point in the film, much like the characters did in 'Pulp Fiction'.
We meet Paul Godard, who is a filmmaker who has been having a long affair with a woman named Denise. This ultimately led to his divorce from his ex-wife. Since Paul is a moody son-of-a-gun, and doesn't want to put in the time emotional effort to make Denise happy, she decides she needs move out and live in the country. But Denise also struggles with leaving the unhappy life in the city that she knows in order to make a change for the better. Meanwhile, Paul tries to appease her, but at a distance, as he seems to sabotage himself and relationships, because he wants to be alone.
This is conveyed by his very unorthodox conversations and thoughts towards young girls, which is fairly creepy. Paul ends up meeting a prostitute named Isabelle, where after their session, she continues her evening of work with several other clients, who are not above abusing her. But she doesn't seem to mind her line of work or life. Even when her sister comes to town to look for help and money, Isabelle persuades her to become an escort instead of helping out. And while Isabelle looks over the girls under her tutelage and the clients that abuse them, she never breaks, but instead basks in her life choices. Godard perfectly weaves each of these characters into literally running into each other, where each person is forced to make a life decision and get on a better path.
As we see Paul, who seems to be his own worst enemy try and be the better father and ex-husband he should be, it's just inevitable for dire consequences to catch up with him. It's quite a brilliant style for Godard too, as he uses the slow motion technique to upgrade these choices we make that influence the rest of our lives. 'Every Man For Himself' might not have the indie look or raw feel as his earlier films, but Godard sure made a great film that makes us look at our own lives and think if we've made the right choices.
'Every Man For Himself' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. There are a couple of minor hiccups, but overall, Criterion has done an outstanding job with this video presentation. According to the booklet inside the Blu-ray, this new HD digital transfer is from the 35mm original camera negative and was supervised in Paris, France. The detail of the image is striking with excellent closeups, revealing every wrinkle, individual hair, and makeup blemish. Even the wide shots look bold and crystal clear.
Colors are well balanced and saturated throughout and simply pop off screen. The reds stand out in particular. Skin tones are natural and the black levels are deep and inky. The main flaw I found here was the grain, which at times can be inconsistent. Some places are heavier than others, and when Criterion tried to lower or clean up the grain, the image went soft. It's not a major complaint, but it's certainly noticeable for the true cinephiles. There are no issues with banding, aliasing, or any big problems with dirt or scratches. Criterion has given this film a nice and natural look, true to its original picture, leaving this video presentation with high marks.
This release comes with a French 1.0 mono audio mix and it sound wonderful, despite it not having a fully immersive 5.1 track. According to the Criterion booklet inside the Blu-ray, this mono track was remastered at 24-bit from the original 35mm sound negative, where all instances of hiss, pops, cracks, and shrills were manually removed. For being a 1.0 mono mix, this does have a good soundscape that is well balanced and easy to follow along with the great English subtitles that Criterion has provided.
Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow and the sound effects are realistic and full. The score by Gabriel Yared adds to each moment of emotion, and never intentionally cuts out any sound effect or piece of dialogue, although, you might hear the score chime in louder than usual sometimes. The LFE is great and the dynamic range is wide. Criterion stayed true to the original source here, and it sounds great.
Scenario de 'Sauve qui peut (la vie)' (HD, 21 Mins.) - Back in 1979, one year before the release of this film, Jean-Luc Godard made this short video and sent it to the Centre National du Cinema to secure financing for the movie. He discusses the main overall story themes and arc along with the characters.
Video Essay by Colin MacCabe (HD, 26 Mins.) - Film historian Colin MacCabe delivers this video essay where he discusses Godard's work style, films, and focuses on the characters of this particular movie. He also points out several references and cameos in the film.
'Godard 1980' (HD, 18 Mins.) - This is a short film where Godard himself talks about the good and bad qualities of 'Every Man for Himself'. He also discusses the social and political issues in the film and well as the music and movement of the characters.
'The Dick Cavett Show' Appearances (HD, 60 Mins.) - Here are two episodes of 'The Dick Cavett Show' where Jean-Luc Godard was a guest and discussed his film 'Every Man for Himself'. He talks about the film being released stateside as well as how his films and style have changed over the years. There is also a promo for the show included.
New and Archival Interviews (HD, 68 Mins.) - There are five separate interviews here. Two are new interviews, where the other three are older. The two new interviews were made in 2014 and feature the founder of the French film company MK2, Marin Karmitz, who discusses his relationship with Godard. The other new interview is with actress Isabelle Huppert, who talks about working with the director and her time filming 'Every Man for Himself'. The other older interviews are with actress Nathalie Baye, composer Gabriel Yared, and cinematographers Renato Berta and William Lubtchansky. Each interview dives into working with Godard as a whole, specifically on this film. All are worth watching.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - The original trailer for the film.
Criterion Booklet - Here we have a color booklet that features the cast and crew information, as well as info on the new transfer and an essay by Amy Taubin.
Jean-Luc Godard's 'Every Man For Himself' is a masterpiece. Whether you're new to Godard's body of work or have seen all of his films, you'll want to add this film to your Criterion shelf. The video and audio presentations are both great and the extras are phenomenal and all worth watching. The movie itself will spark debates between your friends and open up a world of Godard you never knew existed. Criterion has knocked this release out of the park and comes highly recommended!