Jean-Luc Godard: Son + Image

By Klawans, Stuart | The Nation, November 23, 1992 | Go to article overview

Jean-Luc Godard: Son + Image


Klawans, Stuart, The Nation


He barely makes it onto the screen. While most of the frame is taken up with an office setting--a desk, a lamp, some chairs and shelves--the world famous filmmaker intrudes only so far as the screen's left edge, and provisionally at that. A hand darts in and out of view, flicking a cigarette toward the ashtray on the desk. On the soundtrack, you hear the familiar baritone, pebbly in texture, speaking in monotone bursts. The year is 1976; the place is Grenoble. Jean-Luc Godard is sneaking into view. During his New Wave period, Godard had preferred to let the likes of Jean-Paul Belmondo stand in for him on screen. During the Maoist period of the Dziga Vertov Group (roughly 1968-72), he'd allowed himself to address the audience more directly; but still he hadn't shown himself. At most he'd spoken through a persona, as someone who assumed the authority to lecture other people.

Then came the return to order in France and the demise of the Vertov group (really just Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin). The revolution went splat; so did Godard, in a motorcycle accident that nearly killed him.

Fortunately, he found a new collaborator (and sometime lover) to help with his recoveries, physical, political and spiritual alike--Anne-Marie Mieville. After a couple years of her influence, a new figure became visible in his work. Gone was the Godard who'd imagined himself as Belmondo imagining himself as Bogart. Gone was the Godard who'd hid behind a badge, as chief image-inspector of the revolutionary thought-police. In their place stood a small, middle-aged man, perpetually blue-chinned and rumpled, who answered to the name Jean-Luc. He wasn't necessarily a nice man--at times, he showed himself to be overbearing, lecherous, even sadistic--but he was out in the open as never before, searching, questioning, revising. This is the Jean-Luc Godard who keeps disturbing the edge of the frame in the first part of Six fois deux, his 1976 collaboration with Mieville for French television. It's the Godard to whom the Museum of Modern Art has dedicated an invaluable retrospective, "Jean-Luc Godard: Son + Image," on view through November 30.

The MoMA series performs the great service of integrating Godard's post-1972 films with his videos from the same period. In some cases, that allows for indirect comparison. You can see the film Hail Mary (1985), then watch Godard play with some of the same images and themes in an elliptical, non-narrative fashion in the videotape Puissance de la parole (1988). But there are direct matchups as well. For example, the 1982 film Passion comes accompanied by a videotape from the same year, Scenario du film Passion, which is a bit more intellectually engaging than the movie (because it's coherent) and also more entertaining (but I repeat myself).

Sitting at an editing table before a blank screen, Godard calls up images from Passion, all the while talking about the choices involved in making the film and about everything else as well: the genesis of writing, the history of film, the relationship between love and labor, the falsity of TV newscasts. What ties this material together, apart from Godard himself?. A desire to see; a conviction that seeing might yet be possible; an impatience with everything that dissuades us from seeing.

"I didn't want to write a script," Godard says of Passion, "but to see it." Cinema, he insists, came from an encounter with life--as when Mack Sennett took his crew into streets and parks and shot whatever passed before his eyes. Writing, on the other hand, came from merchants' lists: "Bookkeeping gave rise to the script." What would happen if film were to recover the primacy of the visible? Godard shows us a detail of hands from a painting by Tintoretto; he shows us documentary footage of a factory worker's hands. The motions are similar. "So there's proof," he concludes. "Tintoretto's gesture of love is linked with the laborer's gesture. It's not just one of Jean-Luc's fantasies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Jean-Luc Godard: Son + Image
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.