It's not as easy to make a film as you might think. First you need stars playing the characters: how about a man (Yves Montand) and a woman (Jane Fonda)? Let them be in love - no, let them be falling out of love, and arguing. That kind of dramatic tension can carry a story, but they need a plot and background to act out in front of. How about a factory? A factory where the workers are rebelling against their bosses so that they are now on strike? Sounds good to me! And add in a strong dose of politics for good measure. Oh, and someone to pay for it all. It's sure to be a hit with the public!
Except it wasn't, but legend has it that a now-disillusioned Jean-Luc Godard, star director of the New Wave, intended it as his first truly commercial film after four years of highbrow lecturing of his audience. Not that there were many who saw the difference here, and although Tout va Bien was acclaimed by the hardcore fans of the man, it made little impact with the casual viewer, even though it would have, at first glance, have plenty to say about the manner in which French society had progressed (or otherwise) in the past half-decade.
Montand and Fonda play a husband and wife, Jacques the filmmaker who has given up his ideals to make television commercials, and Suzanne who is clinging onto hers as an American journalist who feels her former radicalism is slipping away from her along with whatever attracted her to Jacques in the first place. They had met during the student riots of 1968, and the events of that year cast a long shadow over the film, as if Godard is wistfully recalling a point in time where it seemed as if the dreaded bourgeoisie were about to be overthrown at last.
That kind of short-term nostalgia highlights the fact that Godard feels someone has been let down in French society. But could it be that he has let himself down? At least he will be satisfying fans of diatribes with Tout va Bien, as here the chit-chat takes over with a vengeance with many of the cast getting to address not only each other but the camera, and by extension us in the audience, with various opnions and takes on the state of politics in France now that the revolution that seemed so possible back in 1968 has now been utterly vanquished.
But not through an armed response from the government, as some of the police state imagery utilised here might indicate, it's more through an apathy about getting up and doing something about perceived injustices; Godard is now cynical about the energies of the people being put towards improving their lot in the face of oppression. It would seem most of them simply weren't bothered enough. While it's possible you will find the pontificating increasingly tedious, there are things in this worth sticking around for, not least a matter of fact Jane Fonda talking about a picture of a woman's hand holding a man's penis to illustrate her dissatisfaction with her screen husband. But it's the last ten minutes that make up for any boredom, with a superb tracking shot moving back and forth over a supermarket checkout that gradually descends into an anti-consumerist riot of shoppers and baton-wielding police. Was this what Godard really thirsted for? Music by Paul Beuscher.