On a futuristic Earth, Demetrius (Jacques Charrier), an extraterrestrial male traveler is promised by the Soviet-American government to be set up with a female companion for the night. But the basic principles of prostitution have been skewered, allowing men to pick from a magazine of women divided into categories of “Physical Love” and “Sentimental Love.” All the while, Demetrius is receiving transmissions from home, picking up on radioactivity levels and tracking behavioral processes of the girls and himself. Thus sets off Anticipation, Godard’s contribution to The Oldest Profession, an anthology film about prostitution made with the participation of several different directors. It is a fun and playful send-up of sexual mores, arguing that pleasure necessitates language and having one without the other is a largely unsatisfying experience.
Demetrius, first, chooses a woman that is only capable of providing a physical experience (played by a beautiful Marilù Tolo). The prostitute steps into the room and strips right away, but it is in vain—the man needs her to speak, to make conversation, in order for him to become turned on and willing. He refuses her affectations right away, sends her back, and chooses another woman (Anna Karina), a decision that also proves problematic. As it turns out, this companion has been programmed only for “Sentimental Love”, preferring to forgo any physicality in order to seduce and please through talking about the nature of love. These two supposed dichotomies coalesce in an inadvertent invention: the kiss, which, as it happens, combines both aspects of pleasure and language into one singular experience. Shot in gorgeous black-and-white, Godard’s charming short is an accessible and provoking mixture of light satire and inspired science fiction.
If you’re in Toronto today, check out Anticpation at the Bell Lightbox Theater.