Thursday, August 23, 2012

Paradoxical Paradigm

Last night
on the radio
I heard a
news broadcast
on KYW
about a
crazy woman
in Camden
who went
even more crazy
and killed her
two year old son
with a knife before
hacking him to pieces and
then cutting off his head
and placing the severed head
in her freezer
(for safe keeping?)

Sure enough
the next morning
the headline in the
local newspaper screams
the terrible news:
Woman decapitates son,
kills self
This poor 2 year old boy
never had a chance

I know
I know
(as Forest Gump
might say)
crazy is as
crazy does
but that just
does not
cut it this time
(no pun intended)

You see
I suffer from
what is termed
Vicarious Trauma
a technical term
for a condition
very similar to

As a front line
child welfare
social worker for
the past 30 years                                                                      
I have had to suppress
my own personal feelings
in order to
bear witness
to some of  the most
horrendous crimes ever
perpetrated against
innocent children
in a so-called
civilized society

Whenever I hear or
read about another
blood curdling crime
that is committed
against a child
I instantly
get flashbacks of every
child abuse case
that I have ever had
to investigate
during the course of
my child welfare
child protective services

The memories just come
flooding back
triggered by the day’s
recent events

I am not bragging
or looking for pity
I am complaining

I am complaining
I am protesting
the depressing fact
that children in the USA
are still having to
be subjected
to some of  the most
heinous crimes of
abuse and neglect
at the hands
of the very people
who are supposed to
love and protect them
the most

I have voiced these
same complaints
many times before
in various forms and
in many different forums
but my pleadings
always seem
to fall on deaf ears!

When was the last time
that you heard a
Presidential candidate
speak out about the plight
of the 500,000 children
who languish in foster care
from coast to coast
year in and year out
for decade after decade?

In the year of 2012
in the 21st century
why must
forty percent of all
American children
continue to live in poverty?

These are innocent children who
cannot get enough
food to eat
These are children who are
ill housed                  
ill clothed
ill fed
and ill treated
every waking hour of
their lives

I say God bless
all of the first responders
who do try to intervene
in the lives of
abused and neglected children
by risking their own lives
to rush in where angels fear to tread
those who try so valiantly
to save these
smallest of souls
from all the torments of Hell!

After thirty plus years as a
front line social worker
working on behalf of
abused and neglected children
I am more than a little
shell shocked!
I am more than a little
burned out!

As I approach my retirement years
I exhibit all the symptoms of
PTSD and Vicarious Trauma
which have become
a very serious
occupational hazard
for all front line social workers who
have dedicated their careers
and their very lives to
save and
your children and mine from
every kind of conceivable
torture to
body and
that these unfortunate
babies find themselves
having to endure
through absolutely
no fault of their own!

As a consequence
me and thousands of other
social workers  and
first responders
like me
find ourselves
in far too many cases
unable to sleep
or suffering from nightmares
cold sweats and
mental and physical illnesses
of every type and across
every spectrum
that stem directly from
the stresses and vicarious trauma
that we have had to endure
in the course of trying to
aid and protect the most
vulnerable of the most vulnerable!

It is all well and good
to laud us as the
unsung heroes of our

But like the thousands of
war veterans who have
returned to the USA
with torn bodies and
damaged minds
our front line social workers
dedicated civil servants
and devoted first responders
need less
(much less!)
of society’s
empty gestures
and hollow proclamations
(or the tinsel baubles of
medals and parades
as well meaning
as these gestures may be)

What is needed
is a good deal more
(much more!)
of society’s
compassionate treatment
for those of us who
have already
given so much!

Philadelphia, Pa 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Who Am I?

Who am I
these days?
Who are you?
I guess I am still
playing Ginsberg
to your Kerouac
after all these years

Is that a bad thing?
it all depends

When will it
be my turn
to be Jack?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Riding Along In My Automobile

Riding along in my automobile
My baby beside me at the wheel
I stole a kiss at the turn of a mile
my curiosity running wild
crusin’ and playin’ the radio
with no particular place to go –
Lyrics by Chuck Berry

One of the things
on this earth
that I love best of all
is taking my
Beetle Bug VW Betsy
out for a little spin
down the grand ol’ highway
that runs up and down
the East Coast
Route 1
either as far south
or as far north as
I can drive
on a single tank of gas

Betsy loves this old road
which was built before
the more modern
Interstate 95
The trouble with the
Interstate is that
you don’t get to see
nothing but Interstate

If you are proud of where
you happen to live
in these parts
and you want to show off
some of the prettier sights
then you would take scenic
Route 1 and
you would
put down the top
and let the wind
muss up you hair
all the while
breathin in that
good ol’ country air
callin out to the cows
and the horses
as they graze and
chew their cud

You will see the
manicured farms
and the big red barns
and the tall silos filled with
wheat and barley and corn

Pennsylvania has
some of the best
farmland on earth
It is the home of the Amish
and they have been farmers
for generations

Correct me if I am wrong but
I do believe that the Amish have
never planted a crop that has
ever failed to produce
in abundance by the
Grace of God and
with the heavy sweat
of their brows

As you can probably tell
I am more than a little in awe
of the Amish of Lancaster County
Despite their refusal to be modern
they have created some of the most
prosperous farms in America
and we all have benefited from
the bounty that they have
been able to yield from the
good rich earth of Pennsylvania

However a new threat has come
by the name of Fracking
which is a very bad technique for
freeing up reserves of natural gas
by blasting water under such high pressure
that the rocks that holds the gas hostage
are literally exploded under the pressure
The problem is that Fracking
pollutes the fresh water aquifers
that we all depend on for
the fresh water that we drink and
for growing our crops
The greed of the gas companies that
employ this technique seems to
trump the need to conserve and protect
the natural environment that
has produced so much good for a
great many people who depend on
agriculture to earn a living
Fracking along with
mountaintop removal coal mining
are the two greatest threats
to our traditional way of life

Once again
as with the recent
banking crisis of 2008
our peace and prosperity
is being threatened
because of unregulated
corporate greed

If this situation
continues unchecked
for very much longer
there will be
no mountaintops
to marvel at come Autumn
and nothing to see along
Route 1 except
the scarred
denuded landscape and
gas pipe farms
for as far as the eye
can see

We the people
of Pennsylvania
are all up in arms
over this threat
and that includes
the Amish and
the Quakers
(and droves of others
who also want to join
the fight)

I only mention this last part
because when it comes to
fighting the satanic forces of
corporate greed
it doesn’t hurt to know that
when push comes to shove
that we’ve at least got
God and righteousness
on our side!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

How To Eat The Rich

Season to taste

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

I've Tried To Run But I Can No Longer Hide

I’ve tried running
I’ve tried hiding
I’ve tried twisting
and turning
slip sliding
side winding
shim shaming
flim flaming
shilly shallying
side stepping
hot footin
slippin out the back door
talkin a blue streak
speakin out of both
sides of my mouth
talkin with a forked tongue
pissin in the wind
playing possum
playing dead
rolling over in bed
hiding under the bed
pulling the covers
over my head
pulling the wool
over my own eyes
passive aggression
self gratification
every possible explanation

I’ve tried every con
every scam
every dodge
known to man
every ploy
under the sun
only to learn that
I can try to keep
running all that I want
but no matter what
subterfuge I might use
there’s just no way
I can continue to hide

Sooner or later
the truth will
hunt you down
and chase you
up a tree
and that
my friends
(despite all that
I have tried
to do and done)
is precisely what
has happened
to me!

Amazing grace
how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
but now am found
I was blind
but now I see!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

The World Is A Flat Onion

Back in the day
when I was a
high school senior
I was given the lead role
in the senior play

Getting this role
was considered to be
an honor
I was okay with it
though I was
not that thrilled
with having to shoulder
all of the responsibility
for the ultimate success
or failure of the show
(especially in front of
my family and

I played the part of
Toby Kwimper in a
play called
Pioneer Go Home!
that was based
on a satirical novel by
Richard P.Powell

The book was also
adapted into
its play format
by Herman Raucher
and then adapted
to a movie version called
Follow That Dream!
starring Elvis Presley

I actually was able
to identify
with the part of Toby
whose family leaves
New Jersey in search
of the American Dream
in a fictional state called
Columbiana that closely
resembles the state of Florida

The Kwimper family
ends up homeless
squatting by the
side of a highway
where a bridge is
being built thereby
outraging local officials
who want the
squatters removed
by any means necessary

This is a long introduction
to bring up a minor part of the
plot where Toby
recites a mock poem entitled
The World Is A Flat Onion
(which was meant to be
a mocking satire
of the Beatniks
especially taking aim at
the so-called Beat generation and
the writings of
Jack Kerouac and
Allen Ginsberg in particular!)

For me reciting the poem
during the play was one
of the highlights of the show

I have never forgotten the words
of the poem
that go like this:
The world is a flat onion
with a bug on either side
no end and no beginning
 just a crawling occupant
to remind us all
that there is someone else
besides ourselves
in this selfish universe!

For whatever reason
these are the only lines from
the play that I can still remember
all these many years later

I often find myself
reciting the words
(soto voce to myself
as a kind of
personal mantra)
especially in times of trouble
as a reminder of better times
when the spot light
was  locked on me
and I was for a brief
moment in time
the prince of center stage
still in the prime
of my youth
and at a time
when I was chock full
of good health
when I still had my moxy
when I was still
at the height of all of my
creative powers and
just chock a block full
of just plain spunk!

Reciting the poem
kind of helps me to
stay balanced

Reciting the words
also helps me to
keep my creative
juices flowing
during the more
difficult times
when I find myself
prone to
drying out and
shriveling up
and in danger of
being blown away
with each and every
passing wind

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How To Make Hay

Back in the day
When I was a student
In the fifth grade at
John Marshall
Elementary School
In East Hampton, L.I.
I had a good friend
by the name of
Robert Tillinghast
who came from a
long and noble line of
family farmers

(Not me
I came from a
not so long and
hardly noble
line of landless
Romanian peasants
who came to America
mistakenly thinking
that the streets
were lined with
But be that
as it may)

As a class project
each of us had
to be responsible
for growing a
potted plant
(This was intended to
teach us all
the meaning of

In any event
my poor potted plant
was not doing very well
and since I did not
have a so-called
green thumb
I was at a loss
as to what to do to
revive my potted friend’s
health and vitality

I mentioned my plight
to Tillinghast
who gave the plant
a once over
with his seasoned
farmers eyes

Give the plant some
cow manure
he said without hesitation
Cow manure?
The words were unfamiliar
to my city slicker ears
Yep he said
a little crushed
Cow manure
that will do the trick
He even offered
to bring me some
grade A cow dung
from his farm
if I wished

That’d be right friendly of you
I said talking as country
as I could muster
but no need to go
out of your way

No trouble a’ tall
he said
Happy to do it!

True to his word
The very next day
Bob brought
a Dixie cup
worth of
cow dung
to feed to my
ailing plant

Sure enough
a few days later
my potted plant
had perked up
considerably and
seemed to have
a whole new
lease on life
and I received an
A for my
potted plant project

After graduation from
high school
Bob continued to work
on his family’s farm
(as he happily did
until his dying day)

I went off to college
the first graduate
to do so from
East Hampton High!)
to major in
French Lit
and though
I have published
plays and poems
I have never
Bob Tillinghast
and his little
Dixie cup of
cow manure!

And on those
rarified days
when inspiration
escapes my sight
I think back on
Bob T’s
sage advice

There’s nothing like
a little manure
to get things
flowing right!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Memory Of Doris Elaine

With all thy getting
get thee
a heart of wisdom
Proverbs 4:7

Doris Elaine
was one classy dame
whose passing
came far too early
I loved her for
wide brimmed hats
her jaunty air
and all of her unique
that made her seem
so girly

We studied in
Torah class together
and she sometimes
called me
her oracle
But now that she's gone
her chair remains empty
and all of
my memories of her
are now
quite historical

Doris Elaine
was one classy dame
and we will
all miss her dearly
I will always miss her
sense of humor
and her way
of expressing herself
so clearly

Rabbi says
that she was
as ready for death
as anyone
ever can be
He said she gave
the grim reaper
no quarter as
she shasayed off
this mortal coil
with class and style
and her own special
brand of synergy

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Neither Jew Nor Gentile

There is neither Jew nor Gentile
There is neither slave nor free
There is no male and female
For you are all one in 
Christ Jesus
Galatians 3:28

The cattle car
Lurches to a sudden stop
Sunlight pours in
Through the cracks
In the box car’s planking
Packed in
Like sardines
So closely packed
That none
Can sit
Despite hours of
With no water
No food
No place to toilet
Save standing in place
Some have even died
On their feet
Too closely packed
To fall down

We can hear the Germans
Shouting orders and
We can hear the incessant
Of their
German Shepherd dogs
(A most remarkable and loyal breed)

The doors are unlocked
And flung open
And all is sunlight
And dirt
And dust
And we are blinded
By the light

The children are screaming
And who can blame them
For this is no place for children
This is Hell
We all know instinctively
That we have all been sent
To German Hell!

Raus!! Raus!!
Bark the SS guards
All dressed in black
With their death head insignias
Prominently displayed on their hats
Lest we mistake them
For angels of mercy
But we do not mistake them
For we know them only too well
We know who they really are

They have only
One job to do
They are here
To kill as many Jews
As they can
In as short a time
As they can
So we do not mistake them
For angels of mercy

The cars are rapidly emptied
The guard’s cattle prods
Make sure of that
All is chaos and
All is despair
All hope is gone
Last stop
End of the line

Men to the right!
Women and children to the left!
It is called
All baggage
Are to be
Left behind

Some of those
Who are still
Able bodied
Might be
Temporarily spared
Only to be starved and
Worked to death
While the sick and the lame
Are sent directly
To the waiting gas chambers
And to the ever burning ovens

Families are separated
The terrified children
Cling to their mothers
For safety
Except that
There is no safety
To be had

The lines stretch
For as far
As the eye can see

Reads the sign on the iron gate

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

When we were
School chums
Back in the day
As 13 year olds
Mark Twain
Junior High
Was our whole universe
And when we were
Mere whippersnappers
Still wet behind the ears
Little shits
Little snot noses
Snickering at everything
Wise cracking about everything
Telling dirty jokes
Pulling childish pranks
Chasing every girl in a skirt
Telling each other
Mostly bullshit stories
About our sexual prowess and
Conquests and
Exaggerating everything
Would be wise guys
With our hair
Slicked back
And greased to a shine
And combed
In the style of the day
Sides combed straight back
Pompadours puffed high
And pulled forward
So that our hair
Covered our eyes like
Brando and
Elvis and
Frankie Avalon and
Fabian and
Dion and
Bobby Vinton
(They were called
Teenage idols back then!)

Like the teenage heartthrobs
That we idolized
We would wear our
Blue jeans skin tight
With pointed shoes and
Solid colored
T shirts
With the sleeves
Rolled up
Just so
In imitation of
The older boys who
Carried packs of cigarettes
Strategically placed
Over their bulging
Tattooed biceps

We never dreamed
That we would ever
Grow old
Or that we would one day
Become just like
The old foggies
Who we used to laugh at
And make fun of
The old farts
With their walkers and canes
Their bent bodies and
Wrinkled faces
Smelling like camphor balls
The women wearing their
Dark brown stockings
Rolled up at the ankles
The men with their
Piss stained pants
Yellow teeth and
Yellow finger nails
Shuffling along the boardwalk
Sitting on the wooden benches
Feeding the pigeons
Talking non stop in
Their native tongues
(You name it)

And how we would mock them
And make fun of them
Never showing pity
Never feeling compassion
Never caring or even wanting
To try
To understand
(Like I said
We were little shits
And proud of it!)

At the time
There was a
Famous commercial
That ran incessantly
And radio
For a product called
Life Alert
The commercial
Would feature
An old woman
Who had fallen
And who could not
Get up off the floor
Hence the catch phrase
Help me!
I’ve fallen and
I can’t get up!

How we would howl
With derisive laughter
Every time we did our
Lame imitations
Of the commercial
Repeating the catch phrase
Over and over
Each time with as much
Mocking and derision
As we could muster!

Fast forward some
Sixty years later
And that very same
Life Alert commercial
Continues to run!
Except that
This time around
The target audience
Happens to be me
And all the other
Little shits
Of my generation
Who have
Now grown old and
Who are
For the most part
Scared shitless
Of one day falling
With no one around
To hear our pleas for help!

I believe this is
What is meant
When people talk about
Something that is called
Poetic justice

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Last Roll To Oneonta

Let Justice be done
though the heavens fall!
(Anonymous Latin proverb-
Fiat justitia ruat caelum!)

If you are a red blooded
American male
in the prime of your life
(your early twenties)
and you made
the colossal mistake
of your life
in choosing to attend
an all male
liberal arts college
in upstate New York
(Hamilton College
circa 1965- 1969)
you will do desperate things
to search out
female companionship
in the midst of
a ferociously snowy
and frigidly cold
Mohawk valley winter

Like sailors
too long at sea
I and several of my
TKE fraternity brothers
set out one
particularly forlorn
February weekend
on an epic journey
to the SUNY campus
at Oneonta
which was rumored
to be chock full
of the most sexy and
nursing students
this side of the
Continental divide
Like the intrepid
explorers of yore
Scott and Shackerton
Lewis and Clark
Aldrin and Armstrong
four of us
piled into
David Obermeyer’s
Volkswagen Beetle
and set off
due north
to reach
the nirvana of
female pulchritude
or to die trying!

Fueled by our
raging hormones
and desperate need
for some kind of
sexual gratification
(blue balls is a bonafide
medical condition that
can be referenced in the
Physicians Desk Reference
or at least
so my pre-med
dormitory roommate
Mickey O’Rourke
led us to believe)
we drove through harrowing
 road conditions and all kinds of
inclement weather
freezing temperatures
(Obermeyer’s heater
was out of commission!)
hours of
sleep deprivation
we fearlessly pushed on
encouraging each other
by recounting
 with embellishments
the already
wildly exaggerated
stories that
other schoolmates
had spun regarding the
sexual prowess and
alleged insatiable
sexual appetites
of the good
though obviously
much maligned
female vixens of
SUNY Oneonta

as luck would have it
just as we were
finally approaching
the outskirts of
Female Valhalla
our intrepid driver
David Obermeyer
turned around to inform
his back seat passengers
(me and fellow TKE brother
 James Randolph)
that unfortunately
due to circumstances
beyond his control
we in all likelihood
were not going to be able
to negotiate
the upcoming
sharp curve
that was just coming up
just ahead of us!

And true to his word
in what had to be
a little less than
several hair raising
split seconds!
we soon felt ourselves
becoming airborne
as the VW Bug
defied the pull of gravity
by seeming to have
sprouted wings
lifting us skyward
as the road beneath us
took an entirely
different direction!

With the clarity of
twenty twenty hindsight
I distinctly remember
turning to Jim Randolph
and saying something
to the effect of
well at least
we are making good time!
as the flying VW
continued to gain
altitude and air speed

After what seemed to be
an eternity
the VW ultimately
slammed into the ground
(actually a drainage ditch
so that the roof of the car
was now at ground level!)
none of us were
actually injured
except for
the sense of acute
that comes with having
lost control of one’s
and failing to maintain
contact with the road
that we were endeavoring
to follow!

We sat motionless for
several minutes as
a state highway patrol car
pulled over to the
side of the road
lights flashing and
siren still wailing

The state trooper
(a solidly built
impeccably uniformed
no nonsense kind of chap)
slowly made his way
down the embankment
to the scene of the

If you gentlemen
will kindly step out of
your vehicle and
be so kind as to
show me your
license and registration
I will start taking
copious notes
as I listen to you
try to explain
just what in hell
you all think that
you are doing!

Obermeyer did his best
to explain to the
skeptical trooper
the sequence of events
that led to our car
becoming airborne
at the critical
moment that the
road took that most
unfortunate right hand turn

Needless to say
the incredulous trooper
wasn’t buying
any of it
and he began
writing a slew
of tickets
beginning with
Failure to keep right!
(Not to mention
failure to remain at
ground level
while driving on
a state highway!)
(As we had accomplished
this bit of daring do
without benefit of
alcoholic beverage we
fortunately managed
to avoid
a DUI charge!)

But be that as it may
After we had managed
to have the VW
extricated from the
drainage ditch
we held a tribal gathering
of the elders
to try to decide whether to
abandon our quest for
female companionship
or whether to continue
pushing on ahead
to cove r the last few
remaining miles
to the promised land of
SUNY Oneonta!

Hells bells!
had we come this far
only to turn tail and run
at the first sign of
Were we the fearless and
determined men of TKE
that we thought ourselves to be
or were we merely
subject rodents in some
sort of bizarre cosmic
psychological experiment?

Back inside the very
banged up yet still
road worthy Beetle
Obermeyer switched on the radio
and turned up the booming
hard rock music of the hit tune
So Glad We Made It!
(Lyrics by the Spencer Davis Group)
We took this as a sign
from Providence!
The decision had been made for us!
It was on to Oneonta!

Pucker up
you lasciviously sexy
student nurses
of SUNY Oneonta and
Fear not for
The horny blue balled
men of TKE
are on the way!

(Neither snow
nor rain
nor heat
nor gloom of night
stays these
from completion of
their appointed rounds!)
U.S. Postal Services Creed

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

The French New Wave Or Two Or Three Things That I Know About Myself

The Cinema art movement
Known around the world as
The "French New Wave”
Is best known
For its stylistic innovations
that challenged the conventions
of Hollywood cinema,
Jean Luc Godard
 is universally recognized
as the most audacious,
as well as the
most influential of
the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers.

Anyone can make movies!
Is perhaps the single
most important lesson
to be learned from the
French New Wave
just ask
Jean Luc Godard
Francois Truffaut
Alain Resnais
Jacques Rivette and
Claude Chabrol

Anyone can make movies!
Even me!
Even you!
For instance
by New Wave standards
Each and every
one of my poems
could be viewed
as a potential
scenario for a film!
(In this regard
I have potential
scenarios for
hundreds of movies!
What freedom!)

Godard has said that
that all that one needs
to make a film is a
girl and a gun!
It was Godard
who made                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Jean Paul Belmondo and
Jean Seberg
into internationally acclaimed
film stars
in an unpretentious movie
called Breathless (1959)

I once had the
honor and pleasure of
meeting Jean-Luc
at a Paris street demonstration
during the student riots of
May 1968
(I even have
the photos to prove it)

Godard was standing next to
his protégé
Jean Pierre Leaud
in the Place du Lion
(at metro stop
eyeing me suspiciously
for having the audacity to
be taking his photograph
(Quite naturally!
After all
he suspected me
of being
an agent of the
French Secret Police!)

I was not
Instead I was a student
trying to learn to speak French
at the Sorbonne
(All my papers were in order)
But during those troubling times
everyone was suspicious of
everyone else

(It was a wartime
situation after all!)

How exciting it was for me
at the age of twenty
in the middle of
a bonafide revolution
taking part and yet
not taking part
aware and yet
not aware
It was all so intoxicating!
What a heady brew!
Street drama!
Famous celebrities!
The intellectual and cultural elites
of Paris and all the rest of Europe
joining forces
to confront the
right wing forces of
the fascist leaning regime of
Gen. Charles DeGaulle’s
Fifth Republic!

Gen. DeGaulle’s
Fifth Republic
had all but
exhausted itself
having outlived
its own usefulness
and the people
(led by the students and
the labor unions)
demanded change!

They wanted their
freedoms restored!
They wanted to breathe freely!
To live freely!
To express themselves freely!

In the end
It was DeGaulle’s government
that was forced to capitulate
to the demands of the
street demonstrators or else
France would have come apart
in an all out civil war
(And there I was!
Right smack
in the middle of
it all!
Taking notes!
Bearing witness!)

It was without a doubt
the single most formative
experience of my life!
I had just turned 21!

How you gonna 
keep ‘em down
on the farm
after they’ve seen Paris?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

Post Script:
Jean-Luc Godard (born 3 December 1930) is a Franco-Swiss filmmaker and a leading member of the "French New Wave”. Known for stylistic innovations that challenged the conventions of Hollywood cinema, he is universally recognized as the most audacious, radical, as well as the most influential of the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers. His work reflects a fervent knowledge of film history, a comprehensive understanding of existential and Marxist philosophy, and a profound insight into the fragility of human relationships.
Godard’s method of directing A Bout de Souffle was even more radical than his technical innovations. Much to the producer Beauregard’s disapproval, he often only filmed for a couple of hours a day. Sometimes, when lacking the necessary inspiration, he would cancel the day’s filming altogether. Early on in the shoot, he discarded the screenplay he had written and decided to write the dialogue day by day as the production went along. The actors found this procedure strange and sometimes forgot their lines, however, since the soundtrack was to be post-synchronized later, when the actor’s were lost for words, Godard would call out their lines to them from behind the camera. For Godard the act of making a film was as much a part of its meaning as its content and style. He felt a film reflected the conditions under which it was made and that a film’s technique was the method by which a director made a film personal.
Godard’s unorthodox methods continued in the editing suite. His first cut of À bout de souffle was two-and-a-half hours long but Beauregard had required he deliver a ninety-minute film. Rather than cutting out whole scenes, he decided to cut within scenes, even within shots. This use of deliberate jump cuts was unheard of in professional filmmaking where edits were designed to be as seamless as possible. He also cut between shots from intentionally disorienting angles that broke all the traditional rules of continuity. By deliberately appearing amateurish Godard drew attention to the conventions of classic cinema, revealing them for what they were, merely conventions.
It wasn’t only in the montage of images that Godard expressed his personality, but also through the rich depth of references to cinema and literature. À Bout de Souffle abounded with quotations of movies by directors such as Samuel Fuller, Joseph H. Lewis, Otto Preminger and any number of classic film noirs. The film is even dedicated to Monogram Films, an American “B-movie” studio. There were also quotations and references to writers such as Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, and Louis Aragon, as well as painters like Picasso, Renoir and Klee.