Television director Paul Godard (Jacques Dutronc) is not having the best of days, stuck in his hotel room with his latest subject, an opera singer, and waiting for her to get ready as she trills at the top of her voice her latest work, thereby driving Paul up the wall. Once he is outside and has his dealings with her sorted out, he goes to his car in the car park whereupon one of the staff approaches him and asks him if he could do him a favour: seeing as how the hotel worker is actually in love with him, could Paul please bugger him, it would mean the world to the man after all, though as the director tries to drive away he is the recipient of a big, wet kiss from his ardent admirer. Things have certainly changed...
Which appeared to be the way the director of Slow Motion, or Sauve qui peut (la vie) if you were French, was thinking about the current situation as his former life as a nineteen-sixties radical had developed into a nineteen-seventies experimenter that fewer and fewer audiences were interested in, and now the eighties had dawned there were to all intents and purposes none too many outlets for an artist with his concerns. Now it was all "every man for himself" (which was the other title for this) and to that end Jean-Luc Godard scraped together what financing he could from various sources and attempted to demonstrate he was still relevant. The result was his most commercial effort for a good ten years.
That said, with the experimental not left behind completely (cut up editing, frame by frame motion, the sound of a Marguerite Duras movie plonked over various scenes, and so on) it was never going to pack them in at the then-growing phenomenon of multiplexes, and you could be forgiven for watching the three main characters, who are perfunctorily connected as far as the plot went, and being none the wiser at the end than at the beginning about what Godard was getting at. Although there was a sense to it of deadpan comedy with all the straightfaced absurdity that might entail, it was noticeably sincere about its lament for the loss of purpose other than to get ahead over the other guy (or girl) that was making itself plain as this decade began, a fairly astute observation considering the era is known for its rampant greed.
Or at least that's the way it was looked back upon as informed by cynics like Godard, but the world of commerce was not one which lent itself to sunny depictions of healthy spending and charity, and so it was when the film gets around to the third chapter of its presentation. Before that we have watched the increasingly lost and jaded Paul suffer various indignities as he sees about his job and his daughter whose birthday it is - he hasn't bought her a gift, which could either be a political statement or he simply cannot be bothered with her anymore. Then there's his ex Denise Rimbaud (Nathalie Baye) who has it in mind that a life in the country is the way to go, away from the rat race, except even that is packed with disappointments and downright weirdoes - when she tries to get a job at a dairy the worker there suggests a method of staving off the monotony by letting the cows lick her in intimate areas, and proceeds to demonstrate.
Activity such as that is more likely to be experienced by the third character, Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), a mild-mannered call girl who brings the theme of the movie to a point, that being now business has taken over everything, merely by becoming an employee you might as well be a prostitute. When she tries a spot of private enterprise to make more money for herself, the local pimps pounce and demand their share, spanking her in a car park to teach her a lesson (it could have been worse, but maybe this is one of Godard's hard to read jokes). We follow Isabelle from straightforward sex to the sort that the pimps want her to exploit for them, play acting a businessman's incestuous games he would like to indulge in with his wife and daughter, and the disgust that we're presumably intended to feel is supposed to translate into a general dissatisfaction with the manner in which society has allowed us be debased in our drive to succeed in a world run by those who would profit by taking complete advantage of us. Other interpretations were available, naturally. Music by Gabriel Yared.