American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
What strange confusion besets Jean-Luc Godard? He stumbles through the wreckage of this film like a baffled Lear, seeking to exercise power that is no longer his. "In Praise of Love" plays like an attempt to reconstruct an ideal film that might once have existed in his mind, but is there no more.
Yes, I praised the film in an article from the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, but have now seen it again, and no longer agree with those words. Seeing Godard's usual trademarks and preoccupations, I called it "a bittersweet summation of one of the key careers in modern cinema," and so it is, but I no longer think it is a successful one.
Godard was the colossus of the French New Wave. His films helped invent modern cinema. They were bold, unconventional, convincing. To see "Breathless," "My Life to Live" or "Weekend" is to be struck by a powerful and original mind. In the late 1960s he entered his Maoist period, making a group of films ("Wind from the East," "Vladimir and Rosa," "Pravda") that were ideologically silly but still stylistically intriguing; those films (I learn from Milos Stehlik of Facets Cinematheque, who has tried to find them) have apparently been suppressed by their maker.
Then, after a near-fatal traffic accident, came the Godard who turned away from the theatrical cinema and made impenetrable videos. In recent years have come films both successful ("Hail, Mary") and not, and now a film like "In Praise of Love," which in style and tone looks like he is trying to return to his early films but has lost the way.