The 'essay film' is an experimental, hybrid, self-reflexive form, which crosses generic boundaries and systematically employs the enunciator's direct address to the audience. Open and unstable by nature, it articulates its rhetorical concerns in a performative manner, by integrating into the text the process of its own coming into being, and by allowing answers to emerge in the position of the embodied spectator. My argument is that performance holds a privileged role in Jean-Luc Godard's essayistic cinema, and that it is, along with montage, the most evident site of the negotiation between film-maker and film, audience and film, film and meaning. A fascinating case study is provided by Notre musique/Our Music (2004), in which Godard plays himself. Communicative negotiation is, I argue, both Notre musique's subject matter and its textual strategy. It is through the variation in registers of acting performances that the film's ethos of unreserved openness and instability is fully realised, and comes to fruition for its embodied spectator.