In one of the season's most unusual CD releases, ECM New Series has just issued a two-disc set of the soundtrack from "Nouvelle Vague," one of Jean-Luc Godard's most unconventional movies. The discs include not only the film's music but all its dialogue and sound effects.
"Nouvelle Vague," or "New Wave," features French star Alain Delon in the mysterious story of a man named Roger Lennox, who moves into a luxurious French estate after its owner almost runs him over with her car. Later he appears to die in a boating mishap, but a fellow who exactly resembles him shows up and wrestles for control of the family's wealth. Is he a twin? a look-alike? the real Roger alive again? or was he ever killed? The answer is never completely clear, but it's fascinating to ponder the many clues Godard throws out along the way.
Although the movie is endlessly enigmatic, many critics have hailed it as one of Godard's most visually beautiful works. Also remarkable is its dialogue, largely composed of quotations and other snippets arranged into a kind of verbal collage. The music represents a similarly wide range of sources, from Paul Hindemith and Arnold Schnberg to Meredith Monk and Patti Smith.
Even listeners who don't speak French can enjoy the CD release, since Godard presents many of the film's words less for their meaning than for their texture and rhythm, like the music that accompanies them. ECM's package includes a set of colorful stills from the picture and, in another creative gesture, an essay by Claire Bartoli, a blind writer who loves moviegoing because the sounds of cinema offer so much stimulation to her mind's eye. Her refusal to accept limitations on beauty and enjoyment brims with Godard's own spirit.