Prénom Carmen may not bear much resemblance to the sweep and grandeur of its source material, but it is arguably Godard’s most visually and aurally ravishing film since Pierrot le fou (1965). It is operatic in its intellectual ambition reminding viewers how the nature of desire and the need to create are often predetermined by a complex of material circumstance – our jobs, clothes, physical health, social connections, cultural references and so on – in spite of ideals and aspirations.
Godard brought new levels of fragmentation to 60s cinema. By the 80s, he was just as fragmented, but old enough to slow down. Casting himself as a combination madman filmmaker/lecherous uncle, he takes yet another tale of noir-redux amour fou but views it from the outside. And if its doomed young lovers keep on living, that's because Godard had lived long enough himself to look passed the fiction of a Romantic death.
Joseph’s all-consuming, self-destruction obsession with the uncaring Carmen is painted as being wholly pathetic, without the slapstick comedy that cushioned the motional blow in the earlier film—First Name Carmen was, in this writer’s eyes, Godard’s most emotionally impactful feature until he made In Praise of Love.