Film: Jean-Luc Godard Is Back - and It's like He Never Went Away ; Modern Cinema - from `Pulp Fiction' to Digital Features - Could Never Have Happened without the Great New Wave Director
Darke, Chris, The Independent (London, England)
In a career that spans almost 50 years, Jean-Luc Godard's elevation from New Wave enfant terrible to grand old idiot savant of cinema has delivered an astonishing body of work. And all of the 40- plus features, as well as the videos, shorts and TV works, are collected in the NFT exhaustive two-month retrospective. Is there a Godard revival afoot? Maybe. After all, for the first time in well over a decade, British distributors are bidding to release his new film, Eloge de l'amour. For those wishing to catch up with Godard, here are a series of career-sketches departing from some of the veteran provocateur's best-known phrases.
"Surely, Monsieur Godard, you do at least acknowledge the necessity of having a beginning, middle and an end in your films?"
To director Georges Franju's mid-Sixties question, Godard replied: "Certainly, but not necessarily in that order". Franju wanted to know why Godard couldn't, or wouldn't, tell a story straight. It's a refusal, or incapacity, that marks the entire career. "I don't really like telling a story" Godard has admitted. "I prefer to use a kind of tapestry, a background on which I can embroider my own ideas." Throughout his New Wave period (1959- 1968), Godard used pulp backdrops which he populated with fragments from films and books. In A bout de souffle (1959), Belmondo is a Bogart ventriloquist; Une femme est une femme (1961) is described as a "neo-realist musical"; in Le Mepris (1963) Michel Piccoli is "a character from Hawks in an Antonioni film". Underpinning the appropriations was a documentary focus: "The documentary side is: a man in a certain situation. The spectacle comes when you make that man a gangster or a secret agent." Alphaville (1965) is exemplary in this respect: contemporary Sixties Paris filmed as the futuristic set for a sci-fi spy thriller.
"All you need to make a film is a girl and a gun."
Or, love-interest and danger; sex and death (the "two great subjects"). The aphorism, attributed to Godard, derives from DW Griffith. However, the interest in which subjects lend themselves to cinematic treatment (and how, and why) goes back to the beginning of Godard's career and acknowledges Roberto Rossellini's influence. "When I saw Voyage to Italy," Godard has admitted, "I knew that one could make a two-hour film with just a couple in a car." The subject of the heterosexual couple has been at the heart of his films and how they're made. All of Godard's female partners have been colleagues: Anna Karina and Anna Wiazemsky as actresses, Anne-Marie Mieville as collaborator. But across his work, the car is far deadlier than the gun. From the pile-up finale of Le Mepris, through the traffic- jam savagery of Weekend (1967), to the director staging the road-accident death of his alter-ego in Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1979), Godard was making Crash before JG Ballard put pen to paper.
"It's not blood, it's red."
Godard responded thus when asked why Pierrot le fou (1965) featured so much blood. The Eastmancolor stock on which his Sixties films were shot was the palette for Godard-the-painter, and the films still retain their pop-art force. The smart-arse aestheticism of the response, though, concealed an increasingly troubled relationship to the beauty of cinematic spectacle. On one hand, it's a statement one can hear echoes of in Tarantino's justifications of his own casually brutal films. On the other, Pierrot was full of references to the Vietnam war and America's bloody imperialism. Godard had a reputation for ignominy from the off. Alongside his facility for intellectual wordplay was a taste for …
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Publication information: Article title: Film: Jean-Luc Godard Is Back - and It's like He Never Went Away ; Modern Cinema - from `Pulp Fiction' to Digital Features - Could Never Have Happened without the Great New Wave Director. Contributors: Darke, Chris - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: June 3, 2001. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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