Ideas, Not Plots, Inspire Jean-Luc Godard His Latest Three Works Are Touring US in Celebration of France's Gaumont Studio

By David Sterritt, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 1994 | Go to article overview

Ideas, Not Plots, Inspire Jean-Luc Godard His Latest Three Works Are Touring US in Celebration of France's Gaumont Studio


David Sterritt, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


JEAN-LUC GODARD has an obligatory place on any list of Europe's greatest filmmakers.

A founding member of the New Wave movement in France, where he directed such groundbreaking classics as "Breathless" and "Alphaville," he sparked radical new views of narrative form, film editing, and even movie criticism during the 1960s and '70s.

Today he still marches to a drummer very much his own, directing such unconventional works as "JLG by JLG," a cinematic self-portrait, and "Histoire(s) du Cinema," an expressionistic video series on the history of world film.

Once a familiar face on the international film-festival circuit, Mr. Godard has become a somewhat elusive figure of late, keeping a low profile even when his visually stunning "Nouvelle Vague" was featured at the New York filmfest a few seasons ago.

He continues to generate a good deal of film and video work, however. His three latest productions are included in a touring program celebrating France's venerable Gaumont studio. To support this, he dropped into Manhattan recently for a few interviews with interested critics. I took advantage of his visit to renew acquaintance after a long gap, and found him as modest, thoughtful, and passionate about cinema as the first time we met nearly 15 years ago.

A key characteristic of many Godard films is their great complexity, as if he were trying to pack entire worlds of thought, feeling, and imagination into every scene. I began our talk by asking if he expects moviegoers to grasp everything in a single viewing, or if he wants us to view the films repeatedly and gradually tease out their meanings.

"Most of the films won't be seen more than once," he answered ruefully, "because the distribution system doesn't make them available. So people miss half the things that are there. But it's like music: You don't understand all the notes, yet there is still enough to make it worthwhile."

Musing further about the density of his style, Godard says his works are "complex in a scientific sense." A century ago, he notes, "scientists believed the atom was the ultimate matter. Then they discovered that in one atom there are many things, and in one of those there are many more things, and so forth.... In films, we are trained by the American way of moviemaking to think we must understand and `get' everything right away. But this is not possible. When you eat a potato, you don't understand each atom of the potato!"

Few critics would think of a Godard film as a potato, but sometimes it's difficult to put a precise label on his extremely innovative approach to style and content. While he often seems interested in constructing a sort of cinematic essay, he rarely leaves storytelling completely behind, merging his innovative formal experiments with the traditional devices of narrative fiction.

Asked for his comments on this, Godard answers thoughtfully. "I think I am making more-or-less documentaries," he says in lightly accented English, "but I don't see much difference between these categories. Maybe it's my education. I'm very classical in a sense. I'm a great admirer of the novel, mainly of the 19th century.... There can be different kinds of narrative - in a novel, or a painting, or a piece of music."

Motion pictures, he continues, "were invented to look, tell, and study things. They were mainly a scientific tool ... for seeing life in a different way. To be only spectacular should be 5 or 10 percent of cinema. …

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

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.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

Ideas, Not Plots, Inspire Jean-Luc Godard His Latest Three Works Are Touring US in Celebration of France's Gaumont Studio
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.
    Buy instant access 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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.