The French transcription and English translation of a new short film by Jean-Luc Godard, made in response to a Swiss prize.
Craig Keller

MESSAGE DE SALUTATIONS: PRIX SUISSE / REMERCIEMENTS / MORT OU VIF by Jean-Luc Godard (world premiere 13.03.2015)

[MESSAGE OF GREETINGS: PRIX SUISSE / MY THANKS / DEAD OR ALIVE] by Jean-Luc Godard (world premiere March 13th, 2015)

On Friday, March 13th, 2015, in Geneva, Switzerland, Jean-Luc Godard was awarded the  2015 “Prix d’honneur du cinéma suisse” with its corresponding allotment of 30,000 Swiss francs (at present = €28189,46 EUR or $29,909.52 USD), on the basis of being a “visionary filmmaker,” “a virtuoso of film-editing,”  whose “avant-garde” works have done much to inspire the young. A remarkable laurel, given that Godard is, at 84, the greatest filmmaker in the history of the cinema since Renoir, and I can’t name another Swiss director besides Anne-Marie Miéville. Of course he didn’t attend, citing, for the ump-teenth time in so-many years, health reasons; regular right-hand-man / DP / one-man technical wizard / JLG-ambassador Fabrice Aragno appeared in Godard's stead to accept the award.

Of course, the health reasons cited were only so evident as the 5-minute film* that Godard stars in, worked on, edited, crafted might in the end suggest: and this opens another debate for another time, especially given the high physical comedy exhibited by the would-be frail author of Soigne ta droite and the gorgeous thank-you note sent to the National Society of Film Critics (in the USA) for awarding Adieu au langage the greatest film of 2014.

The new film, which may or may not possess a title that starts with “MESSAGE DE SALUTATIONS” (although this exists as the embedded work’s header at the “Schweizer Filmpreis” website), and may or may not, from there, assume as its (sub)title (although if so, amply so): “PRIX SUISSE / REMERCIEMENTS / MORT OU VIF,” or: “PRIX SUISSE / MY THANKS / DEAD OR ALIVE” — is here embedded, and its sound-track, all in French, transcribed, and accompanied by an English-language translation.

One extended footnote before the French-language, and English-language-translation, transcriptions are posted: The French-language transcription was undertaken 12 hours before this writing by the great French critic (and major, as they say, “Godardian”) Arthur Mas, who at this point in time stresses to me that his hearing of “Fernandel” may or may not be precise. Aside from that, Arthur told me the following, which is very useful and interesting: In the section near the end regarding the four confédérés—and here is perhaps where Godard’s text delves most directly into Swiss (and canton-Vaudian) history—this is some small context that might be helpful to the non-Franco-Swiss viewer:

"Godard is doing a « jeu de mots » ['word-play'] when speaking of the 'toute jeune Eve,' which can also be heard as 'Genève' (Geneva). He is actually listing the four Swiss districts and historic personalities he feels linked to as a true 'confédéré': Jura (with Humbert-Droz), Genève ('Jeune Eve', with Michel Servet), le Pays de Vaud (with Abraham Davel), and Nidwald (with Winkelried). — But it is quite tricky to translate.”

Bonne streaming.

[French-language transcription by Arthur Mas / English-language translation by Craig Keller. PDF with parallel text translation available to download here.]

*(Side-note for further pursuit from someone [but not just anyone] else: Can we be done, if not for 2015, then by 2016, with the pedantic OCD-impulse one-upmanship of dyed-in-the-wool “materialist”/“formalist" critics describing works shot digitally as “video,” when most filmmakers at this point understand the term “film” has perhaps, as happens in language, expanded?)


vous vous souvenez ?

Ballabio !

Ballabio !

entre Denges et Denezy

un soldat rentre au pays

a marché 

a beaucoup marché

on le félicite à l’arrivée 

on donne des écus dorés

il se dépêche de partager

chiens perdus sans collier

chats rejetés 

oiseaux blessés

et d’autres encore

venez victimes disait Fernandel 

mais la partie n’est pas gagnée

il faut encore remercier

il est très étrange de donner un prix

 du cinéma suisse,

puisqu’il n’y a pas de cinéma suisse, 

oh il y a des films suisses, il y a des

 films bulgares aussi,

des films finlandais, des films 


mais le cinéma c’est autre chose. 

les grecs avaient quatre éléments,

la physique moderne pareil,

les quatre murs de la maison du


la gravité, les forces faibles,

et les forces fortes, 

les forces électro-magnétiques,

quatre murs en Occident pour 

 soutenir encore un peu

le XXIème siècle

mais pas de toit,

pas de toi et moi, et des peuples 

 entiers sans

protection de l’imaginaire

alors qu’il y a cent ans

les quatre grandes cinématographies,

la russe, l’allemande,

la française et l’américaine,

assuraient la foi des nations en 


le temps passe, le temps passe,

et les USA, à force

de Guerre Froide avec Staline,

les américains découvrent qu’à force

 de quantité,

on peut faire s’en aller la qualité,

on dit Hollywood n’est-ce pas,

et on respire à l’abri

des guerres civiles

pardonnez-moi, mais 

il y a encore autre chose :

comment est-ce qu’un

Conseil fédéral peut

légiférer au nom 

d’une Confédération ?

oui, sans doute que le monde va mal

 n’est-ce pas, alors je préfère penser


tous ces écus dorés viendront

de l’héritage d’anciens confédérés, 

quatre suffiront là aussi,

celui du Jura et d’Humbert-Droz,

celui d’une toute jeune Ève

dont Michel Servet fit circuler 

 le sang, 

et encore,

le sang du major Abraham Davel,

et j’ajoute le pauvre Winkelried,

on dit qu’il faut se faire une raison

alors je rentre à la maison

avec Les Cendres de Gramsci

un poème de Pasolini

ça parle de l’humble corruption


do you remember?



between Denges and Denezy

a soldier goes back to his country

has walked

has walked a great deal

he’s congratulated upon his arrival

is given gilded emblems

he’s eager to share

stray dogs without collars

cats turned out

injured birds

and others still

come, victims, said Fernandel

but victory is not in hand

thanks must be given again

it’s odd to give out an award for

 Swiss cinema

since there is no Swiss cinema,

oh there are Swiss films, there are

 Bulgarian films too,

Finnish films, African


but cinema is something else.

the Greeks had four elements,

modern physics the same:

the four walls of the house of the


gravity, the weak forces,

and the strong forces,

the electromagnetic forces:

four walls in the West for keeping

 propped up, somewhat,

the XXIst century

but no roof overhead,

no you and me, and entire populations


the protection of the imaginary

whereas a hundred years ago

the four great cinematographies –

the Russian, the German,

the French, and the American –

assured nations’ faith in


time passes, time passes,

and the USA – as a result

of the Cold War with Stalin –

the Americans discover that as a

 result of quantity,

you can get away from quality,

they speak Hollywood, don’t they,

and they take their breath under cover

of civil wars

excuse me, but

there’s something else still:

how is it that a

Federal Council can

legislate in the name

of a Confederation?

yes, no doubt the world’s going to hell,

 isn’t it – therefore, I prefer to think


all these gilded emblems will come

from the inheritance of past confédérés;

four will suffice here, too:

that of Jura and Humbert-Droz,

that of a very young Eve

whose blood Michael Servetus spread

 all over,

and what’s more,

Major Abraham Davel’s blood,

and I’ll add poor Winkelried,

they say there must be a reason

and so I’m going home

with The Ashes of Gramsci

a poem by Pasolini

it speaks of humble corruption

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