Godard: farewell to the great punk of cinema (French)

Out of breath, Pierrot le fou, Contempt, Band apart… Major director of the New Wave and immense source of inspiration for international cinema, Jean-Luc Godard died at the age of 91.

5 reasons not to hate Godard

Summer is coming to an end, and several pages are turning for the cinema. After Alain Tanner and William Klein, it is the Franco-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard who left this Tuesday, September 13announced Release.

As one of the leaders of the French New Wave, he marked the history of cinema and is one of the most influential figures of the seventh art. A prolific creator with a colossal oeuvre, Jean-Luc Godard was the source of inspiration for, among others, Jean Eustache, Philippe Garrel, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma and Quentin Tarantino.

For simplicity : like it or not, Godard is a genius.

The man with the cigarette

new start

After a turbulent youth in Switzerland where he tried his hand at criticism and amateur short films, he came to study in Paris, at the Sorbonne. It was at this time that he met young French critics, notably François Truffaut and Éric Rohmer. He becomes with some of them the co-founder of The Cinema Gazette in 1950, and he published his first professional articles in the Cinema notebooks in 1952.

In 1957, he shot All the boys are called Patrick, a short film written by Éric Rohmer and produced by Pierre Braunberger – of which he was the editor before. However, it was in 1960 that Jean-Luc Godard was truly revealed to the cinema thanks to his first celebrated masterpiece: Breathless.

Inspired by the success of François Truffaut in Cannes, Jean-Luc Godard thus wrote and directed his first feature film with Breathless. This is already his second collaboration with Jean-Paul Belmondo (with whom he had already shot a short film) but this film will make them famous.

With more than 2 million admissions in France, Godard immediately set his own box office record (which he will never beat), and marks everyone’s mind with an unparalleled first cinematic shock. Breathless remains in theaters for seventeen weeks in the United States and provokes a collision of opinions, some controversy, but also a lot of enthusiasm. In his review of the film, Georges Sadoul affirmed that Godard had then set fire to all the grammars of cinema.”

Breathless: Jean Seberg, Jean-Paul BelmondoWhen the cinema was finally far from being out of breath

The new wave of godard

The filmmaker was then only 30 years old and he immediately imposed himself in the sight of all. He quickly became, alongside his companions François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette or Éric Rohmer, an essential figure of the New Wave. This phenomenon fascinates (beyond France) and, with Godard, finds a second wind.

In 1963 he produced one of his most important works: Contempt, with Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot. He adapts the novel by Alberto Moravia. He then links his cinema with the literature he loves so much, and iconizes one of the greatest French stars of his time, in one of his best roles.

Contempt: photo Brigitte Bardot, Michel PiccoliMichel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot in Contempt

Until 1966, he toured a lot with his first muse and wife, Anna Karina. He then tried many genres of cinema while he was still at the dawn of his filmography. We think of Little soldiera political drama against the backdrop of the Algerian war; Alphaville, an essay in science fiction along the lines of The Pierby Chris Marker; but also and above all, Pierrot le fou.

He finds there Jean-Paul Belmondowhich has since become very popular, in a hallucinated road movie freeing itself from the classic rules of editing, and whose aesthetic influence is once again astounding.

Pierrot le fou : photo, Anna Karina, Jean-Paul BelmondoTravel for two… but not for long

The duo that Belmondo forms with Anna Karina is legendary, and of an unparalleled symbolic force when we know that Godard is in the process of leaving the latter and that his cinema is about to change irrevocably.

Pierrot le fou is hailed by many critics as one of the peaks of his art, and the apotheosis of his work as begun since Breathless. After seeing the film, Louis Aragon will even write in French letters : “There’s one thing I’m sure of […] : is that today’s art is Jean-Luc Godard.

An era of grace that ends after his break with Anna Karina, where his militant period begins in 1968.

Band apart: photoKeeping to himself

Movies and socialism

Between 1967 and 1968 a new Jean-Luc Godard emerged. More and more committed, the filmmaker soon claims to be anti-system and Maoist. He now makes films in accordance with his ideologies, starting with The Chinese then Weekend.

A tumultuous time of both political and artistic metamorphosis – which incidentally was the subject of the book One year later, of Anne Wiazemsky, Godard’s wife at that time. Work that was adapted by Michael Hazanavicius in The Redoubtable, in 2017, which looks back on this precise moment in the director’s life.

The Chinese: photo, Anne Wiazemsky, Jean-Pierre LéaudAnne Wiazemsky and Jean-Pierre Léaud in La Chinoise

Rejected by those he admired – the situationists and the Maoists – he nevertheless invested more in his militant quest. During May 68, he joined the demonstrations and called for a boycott of the Cannes Film Festival in solidarity with the students. The failure of 68 leads him to go even further by seceding from the film industry.

Denying his own work, which he considers too bourgeois, Jean-Luc Godard also sacrifices his name to devote himself to the Dziga-Vertov group, an artistic-revolutionary collective. The filmmaker disappears from the media, and yet he co-directed up to six international films in two years.

Weekend: photoThe Weekend, according to Godard

After shooting films with Dziga Vertov on the Czechoslovakian front or in Jordan, in the 1970s he moved on to video experimentation, with Anne-Marie Miéville, his new partner. Works like Number two, Here and elsewhere, Six times two – over and under communicationhijack the dialectic and aesthetics of television.

The filmmaker’s return to theaters is made with Save who can live, with Jacques Dutronc and Nathalie Baye, which was released in 1979 and posted more than 600,000 admissions at the box office. The film was selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 1980, along with two other of his feature films, Passion and Detective. In 1983, he won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Name Carmen.

Thus, the antisystem director is reconciled with the world of cinema, inviting many stars to his films (Isabelle Huppert, Nathalie Baye, Jacques Dutronc, Alain Delon, etc.) and joining in the celebrations of award ceremonies. It is, however, much changed (once again), leaving behind Marxism for a more metaphysical view of his art of himself.

By his own admission, he then began his third life as a cinema.

Save who can (life): photo Isabelle Huppert, Jacques DutroncIt’s always the same story: Boy meets girl

In some perspective

Having migrated from political combat to the fascination of the sacred, Jean-Luc Godard became a hermit and imbues his works with an obsession for the mystical experience of images and the past. He again touches moviegoers, but locks himself in on his own perception of cinema and the story he wants to make of it.

I exist today in close solidarity with the past. I refuse to forget because I don’t want to fall” he explained in 1995, when he received the Adorno Prize. It was during this decade that he assembled his most personal works, where he often took care of doing the narration and commentary himself. what he films. Godard then wishes to become one with his art.

Our music: photoOur music

It is among others I greet you, Sarajevo, JLG/JLG. December self-portrait, In the dark of time (available on Youtube) and of course History(ies) of cinema which will mark this new stage in his evolution as a director. At the beginning of the 21st century, he continued on this path with, in particular, Freedom and Homeland and Selected moments from the History(ies) of cinema.

He is more and more distant from traditional fiction and gives birth to ghostly works that are just as mystical as the others, as with Our musicin 2004, where theological themes mingle with those of war.

In 2010, Jean-Luc Godard presented at Cannes his ultimate film (proclaimed as such), Movie Socialism, in which he closes his personal story with cinema and politics. After that, the 80-year-old filmmaker becomes increasingly rare, but still experiments. He tries his hand at 3D with 3x3Dreleased in 2012. But Cannes did not forget him and awarded him the Jury Prize in 2014 for Farewell to Language.

In 2018, he also received a Special Palme d’Or for his picture bookwhich will be his last true film work.

Farewell to language: photo Héloïse GodetFarewell to cinema

Time and time again quoted and celebrated, Jean-Luc Godard will have been until 2022 the last vestige of the New Wave, but also the representative of a cinema that only existed through him. Characterized by his contradictions, the Franco-Swiss director has experienced many conflicts with his art, his entourage and himself. The evolution of his filmography has made him as cult as he is protean, sometimes revolutionary, sometimes poetic and often opaque. Farewell to Godard will not be without consequences for the seventh art.

We wish to say thanks to the writer of this short article for this incredible material

Godard: farewell to the great punk of cinema (French)