Michael Witt has just published the excellent In Search of Godard’s ‘Sauve la vie (qui peut)’, which discusses his research on Godard’s compilation film screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 1981, meant to compliment his feature Sauve qui peut (la vie) which was also playing at the Festival. Witt’s essay is a follow-up to his 2013 lecture and screening of a digital reconstruction of the film.
The line from Allemagne 90 neuf zéro [not Alphaville] that is given as “Feeling alive was more important than Stalin and the Revolution.” It’s a quote from Jan Valtin’s Out of the Night, and instead of “Feeling alive” should read “Firelei,” Valtin’s affectionate name for his wife – the issue, then, is one about private v. political life, which is part of what’s at issue in the letter.
“Je ne fais plus partie de la distribution” doesn’t mean, as it has been translated, “my films are no longer distributed”, or some such, it means “I’m no longer part of the cast”, “I’m no longer an actor” (in the sense here of an actor in the film world). I’m no longer part of your world.
Godard says he is now “under the protection of the strange Ecclesiastes”, not “film enthusiasts”. The letter goes on: “whispering that what will be has been done”. It seems he’s referring to Ecclesiastes, 1:9: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.”