Jean-Luc Godard-musicien: die Musik in den Filmen von Jean-Luc Godard. By Jürg Stenzl. Munich: Edition Text + Kritik, 2010. [464 p. ISBN 9783869160979. i48.] Music examples, facsimiles, interview, bibliography, filmography, discography, index.
Jean-Luc Godard. Edited by Bernd Kiefer. (Film-Konzepte, edited by Thomas Koebner and Fabienne Liptay, Heft 20.) Munich: Edition Text + Kritik, 2010. [116 p. ISBN 9783869160719. i22.] Music examples, screen stills, filmography, list of contributors.
Given his fame and widely acknowledged influence, Jean-Luc Godard reached his eightieth birthday in December 2010 after a year predictably filled with festivals, retrospectives, and similar public events. Just as predictably, the director himself was actively involved in the celebration and stirred up controversy along the way. He had already set the terms with a retrospective exhibition in 2006, and when the time came, he offered the premiere of a dense and politically pointed film (Film socialisme, Cannes Film Festival, May 2010). Later in the year, media attention spiked as he dithered about whether he would attend the ceremony to receive an honorary award from the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Science (he decided not to go). Rumors started in 2009 also continued throughout 2010 that Godard's next proj - ect would be a film version of Daniel Mendelsohn's book about the Holocaust, The Lost: Six of Six Million.
The year offered surprisingly little from publishing quarters, however. The specialty film seller, Criterion Collection, did take advantage of the event to release a number of early films on DVD and to upgrade several of the most familiar to Blu-ray format. Of three substantial trade-level publications, one is a topical dictionary ( Jean-Luc Douin, Jean-Luc Godard, dictionnaire des passions [Paris: Stock, 2010]) and the second an exhaustive documentation of more than 900 pages by a film historian (Antoine de Baecque, Godard: biographie [Paris: Grasset & Fasquelle, 2010]). The third actually appeared in 2009 and was a paperback reprint of a critical biography skewed by overly aggressive claims that Godard is anti-Semitic (Richard Brody, Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard [New York: Picador (Macmillan), 2009]).
Academic journals, on the other hand, barely seemed to notice. Cinema Journal, the official organ of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, did run a print symposium, but it covered the New Wave generally, not only Godard (in vol. 49, no. 3 [June 2010]). Critical Quarterly also ran a five-article symposium on Godard's late films (in vol. 51, no. 3 [October 2009]), but film periodicals with a leftist political tradition, such as Screen, Cineaste, and Cineaction, published only the scattered article through 2009 and 2010.
Ironic, then, that two of the most sustained efforts came not from France or North America but from Germany: a special issue in the periodical Film-Konzepte and a monograph survey of Godard's career in terms of his treatment of the sound track.
Jürg Stenzl is emeritus professor of musicology at the University of Salzburg. He is known as a medievalist and a specialist on Italian modernists, in particular Luigi Nono. Jean-Luc Godard is his first book about film.
The author's segmentation of Godard's career comes through very clearly in the book's organization. Six chapters begin with Godard and his composers, covering early films (from 1959-67) that follow the traditional path in which an experienced musician provides original material for the underscore and sometimes also for source music. "For Ever Beethoven" gathers seven films from the 1970s and 1980s (with one outlier from 2002) in which that composer's music provides the source material from which Godard fashions the musical component of his film's sound design. "Political and Musical Passions," as the title suggests, divides into two sections: the first on the films that respond to world events in the 1970s and in which music's role is either reduced or eliminated, and films from the 1980s in which Godard returns to aesthetic concerns but refashions his approach to the sound track. …