Carmen is a member of a terrorist gang who falls in love with a young police officer guarding a bank that she and her cohorts try to rob. She leads him on while dragging the two of them closer to their ultimate doom. Jean-Luc Godard intercuts the film with shots of a string quartet practicing Beethoven, and his main protagonist, Carmen, is played by Maruschka Detmers creating a stunning effect in many scenes of extended nudity.
First Name: Carmen (French: Prénom Carmen) is a 1983 film by Jean-Luc Godard. It is very loosely based on Bizet’s opera Carmen. The film stars Odent, Pierre-Alain Chapuis, Bertrand Liebert and Alain Bastien-Thiry. It won the Golden Lion at the 1983 Venice Film Festival and had 395,462 Admissions in France.
About the Story
Carmen, in a voice over paired with shots of the city and the sea, introduces herself as “the girl who should not be called Carmen.” Somewhere a string quartet is rehearsing the late string quartets of Beethoven. The eccentric Jeannot (played by Godard himself) is living in a sanitarium where the doctor threatens to throw him out if he doesn’t start to show signs of real illness. Carmen comes to visit him, and it is revealed he is a washed up filmmaker and her lecherous uncle.
After getting her Uncle Jeannot to loan her his seaside apartment, Carmen and some others attempt to rob a bank. During the mayhem of the robbery, Carmen comes face to face with Joseph, a comically inept bank guard, and the two immediately fall in love. The string quartet continues to rehearse, inflecting the scenes of the robbery, and vice versa. The narrative link is that one of the members of the quartet is Claire, who is established earlier in the film as a potential love interest for Joseph.
Carmen and Joseph retreat to Uncle Jeannot’s apartment, where Carmen recalls childhood incestuous encounters. Carmen tells Joseph, quoting from Carmen Jones, “if I love you, that’s the end of you.” Joseph is arrested and put on trial, while Carmen escapes with Fred, the leader of her gang. In flashback, Carmen reveals to Joseph that the robbery was intended to fund a larger project, the kidnapping of “a big manufacturer,” or his daughter, with a fake film directed by Uncle Jeannot meant to provide cover, a scheme that John Dillinger supposedly once perpetrated. Joseph is acquitted with the help of an impassioned public defender and Claire’s moral support.
Meanwhile, Fred persuades Uncle Jeannot to direct the gang’s film. After receiving a rose from her during the trial, Joseph reunites with Carmen at a hotel where the gang is staying. He plans to renew their relationship and to participate in the kidnapping, but Carmen seems increasingly uninterested in him and the gang ostracizes Joseph. Things go from bad to worse for Joseph as Carmen toys with a young hotel attendant, Fred directs Carmen to tell Joseph it’s over, and Joseph forces Carmen into an abject sexual encounter in the shower where he masturbates on her.
Prenom: Carmen (1983)
Directed by: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Maruschka Detmers, Jacques Bonnaffé, Myriem Roussel, Christophe Odent, Pierre-Alain Chapuis, Bertrand Liebert, Alain Bastien-Thiry
Screenplay by: Anne-Marie Miéville
Cinematography by: Raoul Coutard, Jean-Bernard Menoud
Film Editing by: Fabienne Alvarez-Giro, Suzanne Lang-Willar
Costume Design by: Renée Renard
Makeup Department: Laurence Azouvy, Catherine Crassac
Distributed by: Parafrance Films
Release Date: September 16, 1983