Jean-Luc Godard is a French-Swiss filmmaker born on December 3, 1930 in Paris and died on September 13, 2022 in Rolle (canton of Vaud).
As a complete author of his films, he is often the director, the scriptwriter, the dialogue writer, and he masters the editing. He occasionally appears in them, sometimes in a small role, sometimes not as an actor but as a subject. Producer and writer, he is also a film critic and film theorist.
Like Éric Rohmer, François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard began his career in the 1950s as a film critic. He writes in particular in La Gazette du cinéma, Cahiers du cinéma and Arts. In parallel with this activity, he shot short films in 16 mm: Operation Concrete (1954), a documentary on the construction of the Grande-Dixence dam in Switzerland, A Lovely Woman (1955), inspired by Guy de Maupassant and made without a budget, All Boys are Called Patrick, a marivaudage written with Éric Rohmer, A Story of Water (1958), which he edits from images filmed by François Truffaut, and finally Charlotte and her Julius (1958).
In 1959, he moved on to feature films with the direction of À bout de souffle. The film was a great success and became one of the founding films of the New Wave. During the 1960s, he multiplied his projects and directed several films per year. In 1960, he shot Le Petit Soldat, a film about the Algerian war, and Une femme est une femme, a tribute to the musical. He then directed Vivre sa vie (1962), a film about a young woman who prostitutes herself, Les Carabiniers (1963), a new film about the war, and Le Mépris (1963), about the world of cinema. He continued in 1964 with Bande à part and Une femme mariée. In 1965, he directed Alphaville, a strange adventure of Lemmy Caution, a science fiction film, then Pierrot le Fou, a road movie in which many specialists see his masterpiece. He then directed Masculin féminin, a film about youth, Made in USA, Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle (Two or three things I know about her), in which he again deals with the theme of prostitution, La Chinoise (1967) and Week-end (1967).
Godard had become a filmmaker of the first importance, and a leading figure in the artistic world and the intelligentsia. In 1968, the events of May, foreshadowed by some of his earlier films, were the occasion for a break with the cinema system. Godard became politically radicalized and marginalized. He tried with Jean-Pierre Gorin to make a political cinema and signed his films under the collective pseudonym of “Dziga Vertov group”. During this period, his films are not widely distributed. From 1974, he experiments with video with his partner Anne-Marie Miéville, works for television and moves away from cinema.
He returned to the cinema at the turn of the 1980s with Sauve qui peut (la vie). He then regained the central place he had occupied in the 1960s.
From the end of the 1980s, he devoted himself to a series of film essays entitled Histoire(s) du cinéma (History(s) of Cinema), which he completed in 1998 and which attempted to draw up a cinematographic history of cinema. In the 2000s, he continued his work in cinema with Éloge de l’amour (2001), Notre musique (2004) and Film Socialisme (2010). He also set up an exhibition project at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris. The project, extremely ambitious, is finally abandoned and gives rise to an exhibition entitled “Voyage(s) en utopie. In search of a lost theorem. JLG 1945-2005” which shows the models of the planned exhibition.
Jean-Luc Godard won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1965 for Alphaville, as well as two Silver Bears (for Best Director in 1960 for Breathless and the Extraordinary Silver Bear in 1961 for A Woman is a Woman). He also received a Golden Lion of Honor in 1982 at the Venice Film Festival and the Golden Lion for Best Film for Carmen in 1983. In addition, he was awarded the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for Farewell to Language in 2014, as well as two honorary Césars, in 1987 and 1998, and an honorary Oscar in 2010 for his entire career. In 2018, he received a special Palme d’or for The Picture Book and all his work at the 71st Cannes Film Festival.
Children and youth
Jean-Luc Godard was born on December 3, 1930 at 2, rue Cognacq-Jay in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. He was the second of four children. His older sister, Rachel, born on January 6, 1930, died in 1993. Another sister, Véronique, is a photographer.
His father, Paul Godard (1899-1964), was born on June 1, 1899 into a family from the north of France on his mother’s side (Le Cateau-Cambrésis) and from the Cher on his father’s side, Georges Godard, who came from an old Protestant family from Sancerre. In 1916, the latter had moved with his family to Switzerland out of pacifist conviction and had settled in Vevey, then in Geneva. He then studied medicine and defended his thesis in Paris in 1925. He then worked both in Paris and in Switzerland.
His mother, Odile Monod (1909-1954), belonged to a large French Protestant family descended from Pastor Jean Monod born in Geneva in 1765 and Pastor Adolphe Monod born in 1802. The maternal grandfather, Julien Monod, had directed the Société financière d’Orient and was one of the founders of the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas. In 1924, he bought an apartment at 16, boulevard Raspail in a building built by the architect Henri Sauvage. He frequented writers and became very close to Paul Valéry whom he met in 1924. A great admirer of the poet, he collected books, manuscripts and correspondence in his apartment, in a room called the “Valerianum”.
Paul Godard married Odile Monod at the Oratoire du Louvre on October 16, 1928.
In 1933, he found a place in a clinic in Switzerland and the Godard family settled on the shores of Lake Geneva between Nyon and Rolle before moving to Nyon in 1938 rue du Prieuré, 4. Jean-Luc Godard went to elementary school in Nyon from 1936. His childhood was particularly sporty with the practice of soccer, skiing and basketball. It was also marked by the protestant religion. The young Jean-Luc Godard was first interested in painting. His early works seem to be inspired by Paul Klee and Oskar Kokoschka. He spends his vacations at his maternal grandparents’ property in Anthy-sur-Léman.
In June 1940, Jean-Luc Godard was living with his grandparents in Paris at the time of the German invasion. He was first sent to his aunt Aude in Brittany where he began the 1940 school year before crossing France to Switzerland. The Monod family was rather republican and left-wing, but Julien Monod, his grandfather, was more conservative, defending Marshal Pétain and reading the collaborationist press. Godard’s parents, on the other hand, worked for the Red Cross and were rather Anglophile.
After the war, Jean-Luc Godard graduated from high school in Nyon and was sent to Paris to take his baccalaureate at the Lycée Buffon. He is then away from his family. His parents are on the verge of separation. His father suffers from Charcot’s disease and cannot stand the Monod family’s attitude towards him, while his mother cannot stand being away from her family. She left the marital home to move to Geneva in 1949, then to Lausanne in 1951 and the couple divorced in November 1952. Godard then moved to rue d’Assas, just below the apartment of the writer and editor Jean Schlumberger. He lost interest in studies and failed his baccalaureate in 1947. He began to attend film clubs and the French film library. His discovery of cinema also involved reading critical texts such as those in the Revue du cinéma, in which he discovered the texts of Maurice Schérer, better known today as Éric Rohmer.
Since his adolescence in Nyon, Jean-Luc Godard, who lives in a well-to-do family, takes the habit of stealing. This habit becomes a mania and Jean-Luc Godard also steals from his relatives and friends. He stole books from Jean Schlumberger’s library, which he sold at the Pont-Neuf. He also steals works by Paul Valéry from his grandfather’s library, which he sells to the Gallimard bookstore, located across the street from his grandfather’s home. The latter discovers the theft and Jean-Luc Godard becomes the black sheep of his family at the age of seventeen. Later, he also stole the cash register of Cahiers du cinéma in 1952 and the cash register of the Café de la Comédie, located near the Palais-Royal and run by the parents of his friend Charles Bitsch. In November 1947, Godard wrote a pamphlet against his family, entitled Le Cercle de famille. Or impressions d’ensemble.
He returned to Switzerland in 1948 and prepared for the baccalaureate at Lémania College in Lausanne. After failing a second time, he obtained it on the third attempt, in 1949. At that time, Godard was still hesitating between painting, cinema and literature. He wrote his first screenplay, entitled Aline, based on the novel by Charles Ferdinand Ramuz.
In the fall of 1949, he enrolled in anthropology at the Sorbonne in Paris, but he quickly lost interest in this discipline. At the Sorbonne, he met Suzanne Klochendler, who would later become Suzanne Schiffman and who would collaborate with Godard on many films, and the writer Jean Parvulesco. He wrote a second screenplay based on George Meredith’s The Bride, entitled The Truce of Irony, Claire. At that time he saw a lot of films. At the film library directed by Henri Langlois, he regularly meets Suzanne Klochendler, François Truffaut, Jean Gruault and Jacques Rivette. He also attended the cine-club of the Latin Quarter founded by Frédéric Frœschel in 1947 where he met Maurice Schérer, Paul Gégauff, Truffaut, Chabrol, Gruault and Rivette. The group of this cine-club publishes the Bulletin du ciné-club du Quartier latin which becomes at the end of 1949 a real magazine called La Gazette du cinéma. It was in this magazine that Godard published his first critical texts at the age of 19. He published twelve articles from June to November 1950 under his own name or under the pseudonym of Hans Lucas, the German translation of his first name Jean-Luc. In September 1950 he participated, with his friends from the Latin Quarter film club, in the Festival du film maudit de Biarritz organized by the Objectif 49 film club, presided by Jean Cocteau. This festival is an important moment in the affirmation of the young critics gathered around the Gazette du cinéma who do not hesitate to criticize the programming choices of their elders.
In December 1950, his father offered to take him on a trip to America. He first visited New York, then went to Kingston, Jamaica, where his father bought a house to live in. Jean-Luc Godard then left, alone, to travel through South America for several months. He went to Panama, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil before returning to France in April 1951.
The Cahiers du cinéma years (1950-1959)
In April 1951, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze created the Cahiers du cinéma. The magazine, created to prolong the spirit of the Revue du cinéma, welcomed critics of various persuasions, including Maurice Schérer, who tried to bring his friends from the Gazette du cinéma into the Cahiers. Godard published his first text in the new magazine in January 1952 with an article on Rudolph Maté’s La Flamme qui s’éteint. He continued in April 1952 with a polemical praise of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Stranger on the North Express entitled “Supremacy of the Subject” and then attacked André Bazin head-on in September of the same year with a text entitled “Defense and Illustration of the Classical Cut.
In the spring of 1953, his father found him a job as a cameraman for Swiss television in Zurich. The experience ended badly. Godard stole again from the television’s cash register. He was denounced to the police and spent three nights in prison. Moreover, in order not to go to war in Indochina, Godard preferred to choose Swiss nationality when he came of age, but he had not fulfilled his military obligations in Switzerland and was therefore outlawed. His father had him committed for several weeks to the psychiatric hospital of La Grangette in Lausanne. After this episode, he did not see his father again for ten years. When he was released from the hospital, his mother found him a job on the Grande-Dixence dam in the Valais. Godard worked there during the summer of 1953 and all of 1954 and spent his free time in Geneva where he hung out with a group of casual dandies. With his friend Jean-Pierre Laubscher, he made a 16mm documentary on the construction of the dam. From this first film, entitled Opération béton, Godard paid particular attention to the sound and tried to record it faithfully. He then sold it to the Compagnie de la Grande-Dixence. On April 21, 1954, his mother died in a scooter accident, at the age of 45. After the sale of his documentary, Godard moved to Geneva and made a second short film, Une femme coquette, shot in November 1955 on the Île Rousseau.
He returned to Paris in January 1956 and renewed his relationship with the Gazette du cinéma. Thanks to Claude Chabrol, he became a press agent at Fox where he worked irregularly for two years. He also made his return to Cahiers du cinéma. For his return, he chose to publish a text on a filmmaker outside the classical pantheon defended by the other young Turks, Frank Tashlin. Thanks to François Truffaut, he also joined the weekly Arts in February 1958. In parallel, he also works as an editor for the producer Pierre Braunberger under the direction of Myriam Borsoutsky.
In June 1957, he shot his first professional short film, Tous les garçons s’appellent Patrick or Charlotte et Véronique. The film, written with Éric Rohmer and produced by Pierre Braunberger, tells the story of two coquettish and naive young girls who are alternately seduced by the same man around the Luxembourg Gardens. The film is light and fast. It was shown in theaters in the spring of 1958 as a companion piece to Édouard Molinaro’s Un témoin dans la ville.
In February 1958, the Île-de-France was flooded by torrential rains. After a discussion with Godard and Pierre Braunberger, François Truffaut set out to film the story of a young girl living in the suburbs who wanted to go to Paris during the floods. The film is called Une histoire d’eau. Truffaut was not satisfied with the rushes and abandoned the project, but Godard wrote a text that he read in voice-over with Anne Colette and edited the film. The film was finally shown in March 1961 as the first part of Lola by Jacques Demy.
Godard then shot Charlotte et son jules with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anne Colette. The film, inspired by Jean Cocteau’s Bel Indifférent, is a long monologue of a boy in front of his girlfriend, who simply came back to see him to tell him that she was leaving him and to get her toothbrush. Belmondo is absent for the post-synchronization and it is finally Godard himself who doubles his character. The film was also released at the same time as Lola in March 1961.
In an interview with Marguerite Duras in 1987, Jean-Luc Godard said that the first film he wanted to make was inspired by literature, with The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus, which he proposed to the producers to adapt to film. The Diary of the Seducer by Søren Kierkegaard, was also a novel that he would have liked to make into a film.
After the success of François Truffaut’s Four Hundred Blows at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, Godard realized that he should not miss the wave and tried to make his first feature film. He took up an idea from Truffaut’s screenplay based on a news story and contacted the producer Georges de Beauregard to finance his film. Breathless tells the story of Michel Poiccard, a young man who steals a car in Marseille to go and meet an American woman in Paris. On the way, he is chased by two policemen and ends up killing one of them. He finally finds the American woman in Paris. As in the tradition of American film noir, the film was inspired by a real-life story. The film was shot in August and September 1959 with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in the main roles. If the shooting is relatively short, the material is too abundant and Godard is obliged to cut in his film but rather than cutting entire shots as the tradition wants, he cuts within the shots. He thus follows the advice of his friend Jean-Pierre Melville who had told him that having shot an impossible film, he should now go to the end and finish it as such. He thus creates discontinuities in his film that give it a particular rhythm. Released in March 1960, the film was a great success with the public (2.2 million admissions in France). It was also a critical success and Godard received the support of important critics, such as Georges Sadoul in Les Lettres françaises.
The Karina years (1959-1967)
As soon as À bout de souffle was released, Godard began shooting Le Petit Soldat. He thus took the opposite view of those who accused the young cinema of only talking about problems of sleeping and of not dealing with more current problems, such as the Algerian war and censorship. The action of the film takes place in Geneva on May 13, 1958, the day that General Massu takes power in Algiers. The film tells the story of a deserter from the French army who works for a far-right terrorist group in Geneva. He wants to quit but is taken hostage by the FLN and manages to escape while his girlfriend is taken hostage by the far-right terrorists. Politically, the film is ambiguous and the torture is as much the work of the extreme right as of the FLN. The film was censored by the Minister of Information, Louis Terrenoire, who justified his choice as follows: “At a time when all French youth are called to serve and fight in Algeria, it seems difficult to admit that the opposite behavior is exposed, illustrated and finally justified. The film was released in 1963, after the end of the Algerian War.
On the set of the film, he seduced the actress Anna Karina. After spotting her in a commercial in the summer of 1959, he offered her a role in Breathless, which she refused because she did not want to undress. He then offered her the lead role in The Little Soldier. Anna Karina became the muse of Jean-Luc Godard and made seven films with him during the 1960s (The Little Soldier, A Woman is a Woman, Living Life, Bande à part, Alphaville, Pierrot le Fou and Made in USA). He married her on March 3, 1961 in Begnins, Switzerland and then at the Protestant church on Avenue Marceau in Paris. Nevertheless, their couple does not work and Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina officially divorce on December 21, 1964.
At the end of 1960, Godard shoots with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean-Claude Brialy and Anna Karina his third feature film entitled A Woman is a Woman. The film tells the story of Angela (Anna Karina), who wants to have a child within 24 hours. As her partner Émile (Jean-Claude Brialy) refuses, she threatens to make a child with Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo). Like its predecessors, the film divided the critics and polarized the attention of the newspapers. It won a special jury prize at the Berlin Film Festival in June 1961 and Anna Karina received the Best Actress award. On the other hand, the public success is below the expectations of the production (550 000 admissions in France).
In Vivre sa vie (1962), Godard portrays a woman who engages in prostitution. The film was presented at the Venice Film Festival in August 1962 and won the Special Jury Prize and the Critics’ Prize. It was released in Paris on September 20 and attracted 148,000 spectators at its first screening in Paris, which seemed to be a success in relation to the film’s budget, and the critical reception was unanimous, with the exception of Positif, Cinéma 62 and Le Figaro.
The same year, Godard appeared with Anna Karina in Cléo de 5 à 7, a film by Agnès Varda, who inserted in one scene a very short burlesque film in black and white as a tribute to silent cinema entitled Les fiancés du pont MacDonald.
Also in 1962, he adapted The Carabinieri by Italian playwright Beniamino Joppolo. The film is a description of war and its excesses through the story of two peasants, Ulysses and Michelangelo, who go to war and discover with joy that everything is allowed. When they return, it is impossible for them to return to normal life and when they hear the sound of cannons in the distance, they go back to war and are shot. For this film, Godard deliberately chose unknown actors and an image quality close to amateurism. He wanted to show the war as it is without glorifying it and without heroism. The film, which was released in Paris in March 1963, was a commercial failure (20,000 spectators exclusively in Paris) and the reaction of the press was also very negative.
Unlike the previous film, Le Mépris (1963) is a big budget film with one of the most famous actresses of the time, Brigitte Bardot. The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Italian novelist Alberto Moravia. It tells the story of Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli), a playwright married to Camille (Brigitte Bardot), who goes to Cinecitta to negotiate a contract with producer Jeremy Prokosch to rewrite the script of a film about the Odyssey, directed by Fritz Lang who plays himself. Godard is back to success with the public (1.5 million admissions). At the time, Le Mépris did not arouse the enthusiasm of critics, but the film later became one of the great classics of its author. The film is nevertheless praised by famous critics like Jean-Louis Bory (Arts) and Jean Collet (Télérama) and especially by the writer Louis Aragon in Les Lettres françaises.
In the spring of 1964, he shot Bande à part. The film, inspired by a novel of the noir series entitled Pigeon Steals, tells the story of two friends, Franz and Arthur, who manipulate a young woman, Odile Monod (Anna Karina), to steal money from her guardian. The scene where Odile, Franz and Arthur run through the great gallery of the Louvre to break a speed record and the one where the three characters dance the madison in a café have remained famous.
A Married Woman shows the life of a Parisian woman divided between her lover and her husband until she becomes pregnant. Godard coldly shows moments of this woman’s life by “filming the subjects as objects”. The film was made in four months between May, when Godard proposed a first project to his producer, and the Venice Film Festival in September. At the end of September, the film was banned by the film control commission, which judged on the one hand that the initial title, The Married Woman, was outrageous for all women and on the other hand, that the staging of sexuality was too suggestive. This ban causes a scandal in the press. Finally Godard agreed to change the title and to rework some scenes so that his film could be shown.
In January 1965, Godard shot Alphaville, a strange adventure of Lemmy Caution, a science fiction film that has the particularity of being shot in Paris on real sets rather than in the studio. This aesthetic bias comes from the idea that the future is already here and that in 1965, Paris and its inhabitants have already become machines. The particular atmosphere of the film is due in large part to the choice of shooting at night and without lighting with a very sensitive film, which gives a very contrasting black and white and a twilight impression. The film won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in June 1965.
After Alphaville, Godard shoots Pierrot le Fou. The film is a road movie through France. Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and Marianne (Anna Karina) flee Paris, and the society that bores them, to the south of France. The criminal intrigue that forms the plot of the film is treated casually. The film is presented at the mostra of Venice in 1965 and causes controversial reactions but Godard receives important support, including a text by Louis Aragon in Les Lettres françaises entitled “What is art, Jean-Luc Godard? Aragon appreciates the art of collage in Godard and sees in his work the continuation of cubism. Conversely, the critic Bernard Dort strongly attacked Godard in Les Temps modernes and saw him as a nostalgic reactionary. The film made 1.3 million admissions.
Pierrot le Fou is a sort of culmination in the work of Godard and he must now begin something else. At the end of 1965, he shot Masculin féminin, a film adapted from two short stories by Guy de Maupassant, Le Signe and La Femme de Paul with Jean-Pierre Léaud, Chantal Goya, Marlène Jobert. It is a sociological film-investigation on the youth of the 1960s. The character of Jean-Pierre Léaud, named Paul Doinel, resembles Antoine Doinel, the character of François Truffaut. Like him, he is socially maladjusted and unhappy in love.
During the 1960s, Godard’s political orientation shifted to the left. The censorship of Une femme mariée (1964) was an important moment in his political evolution. When in 1966, the Minister of Information banned Suzanne Simonin, Jacques Rivette’s Diderot’s Religious, Godard publicly attacked André Malraux by publishing a text in Le Nouvel Observateur entitled “Lettre ouverte à André Malraux, ministre de la Kultur”. Malraux finally authorized the screening of La Religieuse at the Cannes Film Festival of the same year.
During the summer of 1966, he shot two films in a row. Made in USA was made in a hurry at the request of producer Pierre Braunberger, who needed a new project for his production company. The film shows the life of a reporter, Paula Nelson, who investigates the death of her friend Richard Politzer, but most commentators have pointed out the incoherence of the story. Godard followed up with the filming of Two or Three Things I Know About Her in August 1966. The film tells the story of a day in the life of a young woman, Juliette Janson (Marina Vlady), who lives in the big cities and engages in occasional prostitution to buy dresses or get her hair done. In his approach, Godard is openly inspired by structuralism and seeks to make a “sociological survey” of French society.
The Mao years (1967-1973)
Jean-Luc Godard met Anne Wiazemsky, granddaughter of François Mauriac, on the set of Au hasard Balthazar by Robert Bresson in August 1965. After refusing his advances, she wrote him a love letter in June 1966. Anne Wiazemsky has just passed the baccalaureate and enters the university of Nanterre and it is through her that Godard discovers the student environment that serves as a backdrop for La Chinoise. He married Anne Wiazemsky on July 21, 1967. The couple separated in October 1970.
During 1967, Godard shot La Chinoise and Weekend. The former tells the story of a group of young Maoists at the very moment when this movement was emerging in France. The film was presented at the Avignon Festival in August 1967 in the courtyard of the Popes’ Palace, then at the Venice Film Festival in September and was released in Paris at the same time. Godard was then at the height of his fame and the film was eagerly awaited but not very well received. The film review was rather positive but the Maoist militants were very virulent against the film: they saw it as a provocation and were indignant about the fact that the Maoists were represented as young bourgeois playing at revolution.
In Weekend, Godard shows a couple going away for the weekend to a mother-in-law’s house in hopes of recovering her inheritance. The weekend quickly degenerates with characters devoid of any humanity and quickly becomes apocalyptic. Godard himself anticipates that his film will displease the public and defines it as a “nasty, crude and caricatured” film. After this film, Godard planned to stop making films, at least as he had been making them since the early 1960s, and advised his main collaborators, Raoul Coutard, Suzanne Schiffman and Agnès Guillemot, to work with other filmmakers.
The year 1968 was a turning point in Godard’s career, as he moved away from the classical cinema he had practiced until then, and became involved in the various political struggles of the time (the Langlois affair, the commitment to the Vietnam War and, in his own way, May ’68). He also sought new ways of making cinema through the didacticism of Le Gai Savoir and the film-tracts of May ’68.
In January, he shot Le Gai Savoir for French television with Jean-Pierre Léaud and Juliet Berto. By its didacticism, the film is an extension of La Chinoise. Edited in August of the year after the events of 1968, it was refused by the ORTF and banned from the cinema by the control commission.
In February 1968, the Minister of Culture, André Malraux, undertook to have a new artistic director elected at the Cinémathèque Française to replace Henri Langlois. Like his New Wave comrades, Godard had discovered cinephilia at the cinémathèque thanks to Langlois and could not bear the idea that the government wanted to replace him. Along with other filmmakers and cinephiles, he participated in the demonstrations on February 12 at rue d’Ulm and February 14 at the Palais de Chaillot and created the Comité de défense de la cinémathèque française. Langlois was finally reinstated on April 22, 1968.
With other filmmakers such as Philippe Garrel and Chris Marker, he participated in the events of May ’68 by following and filming the demonstrations on the one hand, by participating in the Estates General of French Cinema at the Technical School of Photography and Cinema in the Rue de Vaugirard and at the IDHEC and finally by demanding with François Truffaut, Alain Resnais, Claude Lelouch, Louis Malle and others, the cessation of the Cannes Film Festival in “solidarity with the students. With Chris Marker, he participated in the making of kinetracts, short films of 3 minutes mixing revolutionary slogans with images of demonstrations or hijacking of advertising images. But May 68 is also the moment of disappointment for Godard who detaches himself from the filmmakers’ movement and does not participate in the creation of the Society of Film Directors. Finally, it was also the moment when Godard questioned his notoriety and wanted to become anonymous again. He also questioned the notion of auteurism that he had defended when he was a critic at Cahiers du cinéma.
After May 1968, he went to London to film the Rolling Stones recording Sympathy for the Devil. In his film, initially entitled One + One, Godard juxtaposes filmed rehearsals of the Rolling Stones with scenes that have no apparent connection to the recordings, featuring the Black Panthers, among others. The film shows the Stones at work and thus deconstructs the myth of the creative genius. In July, Godard shoots Un film comme les autres in France, in which he has students from Nanterre and workers from the Renault factory in Flins talk about the lessons of May 68. The film is deliberately anti-spectacular and the film is little broadcast.
In the fall of 1968, Richard Leacock and Don Alan Pennebaker proposed that Godard come to the United States to make a film about the state of America. After nearly a month of shooting across America, Godard abandoned the project. He was very disappointed by the rushes and did not like Pennebaker’s way of filming. Finally, Pennebaker and Leacock used the rushes to make a film called One Parallel Movie. He then undertook with Jean-Henri Roger, a 20 year old Maoist student, British Sounds (1969), a film about the state of Britain for the British television channel LWT, and then they went to Prague to make Pravda, a film about Czechoslovakia one year after the Prague Spring.
In the summer of 1969, Godard undertook to shoot an “extreme left-wing western” in Rome with Marc’O and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, whom he had known since 1967 thanks to Anne Wiazemsky, entitled Eastern Wind. At the beginning, it was a utopian project in which all the participants would be paid in equal parts and especially in which the scenario and the work plan were elaborated collectively during general assemblies. Quite quickly, the team divides and the anarchist friends of Cohn-Bendit do not manage to get along with the Maoist friends of Godard. Some, like Marc’O, abandoned the project. Godard then called on his friend Jean-Pierre Gorin to help him get the film back on track. After the shooting, Godard and Gorin worked alone for four months to edit the film. Finally, East Wind was the birth of the Dziga Vertov group, a collective pseudonym formed essentially by Godard and Gorin in reference to the Soviet director Dziga Vertov. Godard and Gorin seek to make “political cinema”. With this group, Godard also sought to forget his status as an “author”. They then directed Struggles in Italy for the RAI, essentially inspired by the writings of Louis Althusser, and then left for Palestine with Armand Marco and Elias Sanbar to make Until Victory. The film remained unfinished but the images and sounds recorded were later reused in Ici et ailleurs (1974). After the failure of the Palestinian film, the Dziga Vertov group directed Vladimir and Rosa, inspired by the trial of the Chicago 8. For the first time Godard was also an actor and tried his hand at burlesque.
Thus from 1968 to 1973, Godard and Gorin made films together with a particularly Maoist message. At the initiative of producer Jean-Pierre Rassam, they returned to a more classical form of cinema with Tout va bien, working again with well-known actors (Yves Montand and Jane Fonda). The film, released in April 1972, cost 2.5 million francs and only gathered 78,000 spectators in Paris.
On June 9, 1971, during the preparation of Tout va bien, Jean-Luc Godard was the victim of a serious motorcycle accident in which his pelvis was fractured and he remained in a coma for a week. He had to undergo numerous operations and stayed in the hospital for more than six months and had to make regular hospital stays for three years. It was during this time that he met Anne-Marie Miéville, whom he had met a few months earlier in Lausanne. When he left the hospital in November 1971, he moved in with her and asked her to work with him on Tout va bien as a set photographer.
After Tout va bien, Jean-Pierre Gorin tried to direct his own film L’Ailleurs immédiat but encountered many difficulties and did not feel supported by Godard, which marked the end of their collaboration. Gorin left France at the beginning of 1973 to live in Mexico and then in California. A few months later, it was François Truffaut who broke with Godard for good. When La Nuit américaine was released, Godard wrote a letter to Truffaut in which he strongly criticized the film and asked for money to finance his next film. He replied violently, accusing him of not paying attention to others, of “only loving people theoretically” and of behaving like a diva.
The video years (1973-1979)
At the beginning of 1973, after the dissolution of the Dziga Vertov group, Godard planned to make a film in the form of an autobiographical confession entitled Moi Je. For the first time, he considered abandoning traditional cinema film and making his film entirely on video, investing all the money he had obtained from the CNC for the film in video equipment in order to become completely autonomous. It was at this time that he met Jean-Pierre Beauviala, an engineer from Grenoble, inventor of the Paluche, an ultra-light camera, and director of the company Aäton, who invited him to come and live in Grenoble at the end of 1973. Godard suddenly left Paris with Anne-Marie Miéville and reconstituted his video studio in Grenoble where he created a new production company called Sonimage. He brought Gérard Teissèdre, a specialist in video, photography and automation, to Grenoble to set up and innovate the video studio.
Anne-Marie Miéville and Jean-Luc Godard work from the images shot in Palestine for Until Victory in 1970 and critically analyze them to compose a new film: Here and Elsewhere (1974). Godard and Miéville discovered that some Palestinian fighters were afraid of the Israeli army and did not trust their leaders. The film was released on September 15, 1976, to relative indifference, but caused a scandal afterwards because of the radical pro-Palestinian bias of the film and the comparison between a photo of Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974, and a photo of Adolf Hitler.
The producer Georges de Beauregard then suggested that Godard direct a remake of Breathless. Godard deviated from the commission and made a film called Numéro deux in which he showed the daily life of three generations, a young couple, their two children and their parents in Grenoble. The film, released in Paris in September 1974, was a commercial failure but once again divided the critics, as it did at the time of Pierrot le Fou. The technical characteristic of this film is its shooting on video followed by a transfer to silver film.
In June 1976, the Institut National de l’Audiovisuel commissioned him to make a series of six times two one-hour films for the French television channel FR3, to be produced within a very short period of two months. Godard had already been thinking about making television for a long time and was happy to finally have the opportunity. The series, entitled Six fois deux
In 1976, tired of his life in Grenoble, he had the Sonimage company’s premises emptied without informing the existing staff. Sonimage will be condemned thereafter for these facts. In the spring of 1977, Godard moved with his partner Anne-Marie Miéville to Rolle, Switzerland, near the town of Nyon where he had spent his childhood. On the occasion of the centenary of the publication of Le Tour de la France par deux enfants, the French television channel Antenne 2 wanted to produce a television adaptation of the story in the form of a series of twelve 26-minute episodes and finally entrusted the commission to Godard. As usual, he turned the original order on its head and made a series entitled France tour détour deux enfants in which he filmed the daily life of two children in contemporary France. Antenne 2 lost interest in this series and only broadcast it in April 1980.
The return to cinema (1980-1988)
After the video years, Jean-Luc Godard tried to return to the classical circuit of cinema. In May 1979, he contacted Jean-Paul Belmondo who had bought the rights to adapt the biography Jacques Mesrine, but Belmondo distrusted Godard and refused to collaborate with him again, fearing that his film would be too experimental. Godard then considered making a film in the United States with Francis Ford Coppola. With the screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, he wrote a screenplay entitled The Story based on the book by the writer Henry Sergg about the mobster Bugsy Siegel. The project bogged down and Godard eventually gave up, especially after Diane Keaton refused to play in the film.
It is finally with Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980) that Godard returns to cinema. The film opens a new period in his work with seven features in seven years. It portrays three characters in four separate episodes. Godard, who was wary of written scripts, innovated by sending a videotape to the CNC’s advance receipts commission. Although the film was well received by the public (620,000 admissions), it once again divided the critics. In the magazine Cinéma 80, Gérard Courant sees in Sauve qui peut (la vie) “a brilliant film made by a genius of cinema”.
The next film, Passion (1982), was born of the desire to shoot with Hanna Schygulla, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s muse. The film shows both a film being made in which the director seeks to reproduce famous paintings, the hotel in which the film crew is housed with the boss (Hanna Schygulla) and her husband (Michel Piccoli), a factory manager and finally Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), a young worker on strike in the factory of the husband. If the critical reception is good, the number of spectators is much lower than for the previous film (207 000).
Godard then shot Carmen, an adaptation of Carmen transposed into the contemporary world, in which he substituted Beethoven’s string quartets for the music of Georges Bizet. Initially, the film was to be shot with Isabelle Adjani, but she left the shoot after a few days, not liking the way Godard was filming her. She was replaced by Maruschka Detmers. First Name Carmen is also the first film in which Godard gives himself a major role since Vladimir and Rosa and therefore the first time that the general public discovers his acting on screen. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1983 and was a success with the public (395,000 admissions).
On the set of Passion, Godard met Myriem Roussel, a young actress with whom he became close and with whom he planned several film projects, including Dora et Freud, a film about the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his first patient, and L’Homme de ma vie, a film about incest. Godard gave her an important role in Carmen, but it was with Hail Mary (1985) that their collaboration came to a head. He revisits the story of Mary, drawing inspiration from the book by Françoise Dolto and Gérard Sévérin, L’Évangile au risque de la psychanalyse, and transposing it to the contemporary world. At the same time, Anne-Marie Miéville made her own film on the same subject, entitled Le Livre de Marie, which was presented as a preface to Godard’s film. Godard’s film caused a huge scandal and aroused indignation among Catholics, first in France, but also in Latin America. The public is again at the rendezvous (350 000 entries in France).
To finish Je vous salue, Marie, which took longer than expected to shoot, Godard committed himself to directing Détective, which was presented as a Godard detective story. For this film made at the initiative of producer Alain Sarde, Godard brings together Johnny Hallyday, Nathalie Baye, Claude Brasseur, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Alain Cuny and Laurent Terzieff. The film, shot in September 1984, was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985. The reception of the press is mixed but the film is again a success in theaters (380 000 admissions in France).
In February 1986, he shot for television Grandeur et décadence d’un petit commerce de cinéma with Jean-Pierre Mocky in the role of a producer and Jean-Pierre Léaud in the role of a director. He followed this with the shooting of Soigne ta droite, a slapstick comedy with Jacques Villeret, Dominique Lavanant, Michel Galabru and the Rita Mitsouko, in which he gives himself a slapstick role of an idiot filmmaker. The film, released in December 1987, gathered only 130 000 spectators in France. In 1985, he signed a contract with producer Menahem Golan to direct an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear in the United States. Nevertheless, the realization of the project was difficult. Godard asked the American writer Norman Mailer for a screenplay and then rejected his script. He finally shot in February 1987 on the shores of Lake Geneva with Peter Sellars, Burgess Meredith, Molly Ringwald, Julie Delpy and Leos Carax and presented the film at the Cannes Film Festival of the same year. The producer is scandalized by the work of Godard and particularly by the fact that the latter used their private conversations in the film. The film was not released in France and was only shown for five days in the United States. Distributed in France in 2002, the film only had 9,000 admissions.
The History(s) of Cinema (1988-2000)
From 1988 to 1998, he undertook Histoire(s) du cinéma, a vast philosophical and aesthetic fresco made up of collages and quotations in the manner of André Malraux’s Musée imaginaire. From this series of eight programs, he published a version illustrated with photograms at Gallimard. The project was completed in 1998. In his Histoire(s) du cinéma, Godard uses the cinema as a means of thinking. In the interview he gave to the Inrockuptibles in 1998, he explained: “I made an echography of History through cinema. Because of its material, which is at the same time time time of time, projection and memory, the cinema can make an echography of the History by making its own echography. And give a vague idea of time and the history of time. Because the cinema is time that passes. If we used the means of cinema – which is made for that – we would obtain a certain mode of thought that would allow us to see things.” This cinematographic essay poses complex problems of copyright. Godard indeed takes extracts from films to insert them in his Histoire(s) du cinéma, but in cinema, there is no right of quotation as there is in literature, which makes it difficult to release the film.
In parallel with his work on the History(s) of Cinema, Godard continued to film. He directed Nouvelle Vague (1990) with Alain Delon. The film tells the story of a man who is abandoned by his wife while drowning, then finds her, seduces her and saves her from drowning before she recognizes him. The film was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1990. The success in theaters is mixed (140 000 entries in France). He then directed Allemagne 90 neuf zéro with the collaboration of his former assistant Romain Goupil. He also made short essays such as L’Enfance de l’art for Unicef, Pour Thomas Wainggai for Amnesty International and (Parisienne People)s, an advertisement made with Anne-Marie Miéville for the cigarette brand Parisienne, and then a more ambitious film, Les Enfants jouent à la Russie (en).
He shoots Hélas pour moi (1993) with the actor Gérard Depardieu. The film was not very successful (80,000 admissions in France). He then directed for Gaumont a self-portrait entitled JLG
In 1996, he directed For Ever Mozart. The film made 56,000 admissions throughout the European Union. Godard himself judged the film rather harshly: he considered that the actors were not good enough and that the film remained too theoretical.
Anne-Marie Miéville hired him as an actor for her film Nous sommes tous encore ici (1996), replacing another actor who withdrew at the last moment, and then hired him again for Après la réconciliation (1999).
The project Éloge de l’amour was born in 1996 but the gestation of the film was particularly long and Godard rewrote the script at least four times. The shooting was also quite long and spread throughout the year 1999 and the editing took another fifteen months. Released in 2001, the film received a relatively cold critical reception and met with little success with the public (75,000 admissions in France).
Godard then directed Our Music. The film, released in 2004, met with a very weak response from the public (28,000 admissions in France).
In 2006, Dominique Païni gave Jean-Luc Godard carte blanche to organize an exhibition at the Centre Georges-Pompidou initially entitled Collage(s) de France. Archaeology of Cinema. He proposed a financially unfeasible project and the exhibition was presented to the public unfinished under the title Voyage(s) en utopie. In search of a lost theorem. JLG 1945-2005.
This experience of an impossible exhibition is the starting point for a film by Alain Fleischer dedicated to Jean-Luc Godard and entitled Morceaux de conversations avec Jean-Luc Godard. The film shows Godard at work in Rolle, meetings with Fresnoy students, discussions with Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet, Nicole Brenez, Dominique Païni, Jean-Michel Frodon, Jean Douchet, Jean Narboni, and André S. Labarthe.
In 2008, he directed a trailer for the Vienna Film Festival entitled Une catastrophe. In 2010, after the death of Eric Rohmer, Godard directed a tribute film of 3 min 26 s. The film uses the titles of Rohmer’s articles in the 1950s while Godard in voice-over evokes common memories.
In 2010, Godard directed Film Socialisme. The film is selected at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival in the section “Un certain regard”. Before the screening of his film, he broadcasts on the Internet condensed versions where you can see all the images of the film in accelerated. The film, which is composed of a set of sketches pasted together, has reached 38,000 entries in all the countries of the European Union.
In November 2010, Jean-Luc Godard received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Upon receiving the award in November 2010, screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson said, “Godard changed the way we write, direct, shoot and edit. He didn’t just break the rules. He crushed them in the car before driving over them again in reverse to make sure they were dead.
This Oscar ceremony revives the accusations of anti-Semitism that he has been the subject of since the 1970s. The controversy on this subject resumed in the United States on October 6, 2010 when the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles (en) headlined “Is Jean-Luc Godard anti-Semitic?” At the same time, Alain Fleischer addresses this issue in a book entitled Réponse du muet au parlant (Response from the Silent to the Talking) and points out troubled comments on the issue. Daniel Cohn-Bendit in the newspaper Le Monde and Antoine de Baecque on the website Rue89 considered that Godard’s anti-Zionism could not be equated with anti-Semitism. The accusation of anti-Semitism is also contested by the writer Maurice Darmon in a book entitled La Question juive de Jean-Luc Godard.
After Film Socialisme, Jean-Luc Godard experiments with 3D cinema. He shot a short film, Les Trois Désastres, presented at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week in a joint triptych with Peter Greenaway and Edgar Pêra entitled 3x3D, and a feature film, Adieu au langage, selected in competition at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Godard did not go to Cannes to present his film but sent a “filmed letter to Gilles Jacob and Thierry Frémaux,” an eight-minute short film to explain his gesture. Despite his desire not to receive any prize, the jury awarded him his first Cannes prize after eight selections: the Jury Prize.
At the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, he presents The Picture Book, an experimental film devoted largely to the Arab world, quoting extensively from Albert Cossery’s An Ambition in the Desert. The director does not travel to Cannes but makes the press conference by video conference. This time, he receives for this film a “special” Palme d’Or. Jean-Michel Frodon perceives a “great journey in the images, sounds and events (which) builds a reflection focused on the history of the Middle East to reformulate the issues of a revolutionary aspiration to the future.
In October 2019, he made the front page of Cahiers du Cinéma smoking cigar. In this long interview with Stéphane Delorme and Joachim Lepastier, the filmmaker looks back on his life and his latest film The Picture Book.
Since 2002, the director Fabrice Aragno collaborated with Jean-Luc Godard on his last films and became his confidant until his death.
Jean-Luc Godard died on September 13, 2022 at the age of 91. The director had resorted to assisted suicide for disabling polypathologies, a practice that is legal and regulated in Switzerland. His body was cremated on September 15, and his ashes were given to his widow.
Godard usually chooses the title of his next film before he knows what the film will look like. In an interview with Serge Kaganski in 2004, he explains: “The title always comes before. The only title I came up with after the film was Breathless, and I didn’t like it at all. For the next one, I came up with a title, The Little Soldier, before I even knew what the film would be like. Titles have become artistic signposts. The title tells me what direction I should look in.”
Godard and the art of the quote
Godard’s films are filled with quotations, whether they be pictorial, musical, literary, philosophical, historical or cinematographic. In the press conference he gave at the Cannes Film Festival in 1990 at the time of the release of Nouvelle Vague, Godard defined himself as the “conscious organizer of the film” rather than as the author and explained his relationship to quotations: “For me, all quotations – whether pictorial, musical, literary – belong to humanity. I am simply the one who puts Raymond Chandler and Fedor Dostoyevsky together in a restaurant one day, with small actors and big actors. That’s it.”
Jean-Luc Godard does not make autobiographical films. Nevertheless, one can find in some of his films some elements of an autobiographical nature. For example, in Breathless, the scene in which Michel Poiccard steals money from his friend Liliane while she is getting dressed recalls the habit of the young Jean-Luc Godard of stealing money from his relatives. In Le Petit Soldat, we see a youth adept at political provocations, beautiful cars and obsessive flirting, probably quite close to the milieu Godard frequented in Geneva in 1953 and 1954. In Prénom Carmen, Godard himself plays the character of Uncle Jean, a filmmaker committed to a psychiatric hospital. Godard himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital in 1953, interned at the request of his father to escape prison after a robbery.
Godard explains, “I made films more like two or three jazz musicians: you give yourself a theme, you play and then it gets organized.” To varying degrees and depending on the period, the filmmaker breaks with the narrative dimension of classical cinema as well as with the idea of characters. However, his first films were influenced by B-movies, thrillers and film noir, which he sought to transcend through a critical re-reading of the genres at the expense of a traditional narrative. As for Alphaville, it revisits anticipation. His work plays with false connections and disconnects the image from the sound, which become two entities in their own right. Moreover, Godard indiscriminately mixes fiction, documentary, activism, painting, sociology, music and video art. There is not necessarily a scenario, nor pre-established dialogues, but a succession of collages or a mosaic of visual fragments and scattered notes, assembled according to plastic and sound links. In his works, the meaning to be given to the images belongs to the spectator: the meaning is born after the vision and not before.
For the philosopher Gilles Deleuze, Godard’s art of editing is built on the use of AND, of the in-between, to show the no-man’s land of borders: “What counts with him is not 2 or 3, or any number, it’s AND, the conjunction AND. The use of AND in Godard’s work is essential. It is the important one because our thought is rather modeled on the verb to be, IS. The AND is neither the one nor the other, it is always between the two, it is the border. Godard’s goal: “to see the borders”, that is to say to make see the imperceptible”.
Games of mise en abyme on the cinema
The cinema intervenes very often in his films in games of mise en abyme. Examples: Detective where we see a JVC camera filming. At one point it turns towards the uncle (Terzieff), turning in reality towards the camera that is filming her, creating a mise en abyme effect similar to that of the opening of Le Mépris.
The filmmaker also often alludes to video equipment: the AGFA neon in Detective, VHS and the video store in Alas for me…
The mise en abyme is very present through the activities of the characters who :
Posters from other films sometimes appear. Examples: in In Praise of Love, we see the poster of Matrix. In Le Mépris and 2 or 3 things, we see the poster of Vivre sa vie.
References to movie scenes
References to directors: Godard’s extremely referential cinema is full of tributes to his peers, and it would be tedious to list them all. A few examples: in Le Petit soldat, Anna Karina plays the character of Veronika Dreyer in what seems to be a tribute to one of Godard’s favorite directors, Dreyer. She is overwhelmed in the cinema, in Vivre sa vie by the face of Falconetti, the Joan of Arc of Dreyer. Fritz Lang plays himself in Le Mépris, in what is a tribute from Godard to one of his masters. More generally, there is almost always a director in abyme in Godard’s works: in Le Mépris it’s Lang, in Pierrot le Fou it’s Fuller, in La Chinoise it’s himself, in Tout va bien it’s Montand, in Sauve qui peut (la vie) it’s Dutronc, in Passion it’s Djerzy, in Prénom Carmen it’s him, in Soigne ta droite, King Lear and Notre musique too.
References to painting
Godard’s work contains many references to painting:
The play of references between Godard’s films
Godard’s cinematography has a strong self-referential dimension, his films referring to each other:
Jean-Luc Godard spoke out against bullfighting, he defended Roman Polanski during his arrest in 2009, and declared himself against the Hadopi law.
From the 1970s Jean-Luc Godard displays opinions favorable to the Palestinian cause and anti-Israeli, especially through films such as Here and Elsewhere and Our Music, which earned him accusations of anti-Semitism. The first controversies arose in 1974, when he overlapped an image of Adolf Hitler with that of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meïr, criticized the Bible as “too totalitarian a text” and made what were considered offensive links between the genocide of the Jews and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the following years, he made other polemical remarks about the Jewish people and the Israelis, comparing the Jews to the Nazis in a 1970 film on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “The Jews do to the Arabs what the Nazis did to the Jews. However, Jean-Luc Godard also declared that he was shocked by the anti-Semitism of his maternal grandfather and felt a sense of guilt about the Shoah. For his biographer Antoine de Baecque: “Godard’s position is not that of an anti-Semite. There is an obvious anti-Zionism in him, born in 1967, after the Six-Day War, when the image of Israel changed. This pro-Palestinian position, relatively commonplace in the 1970s, offends our sensibilities today. The Jewish question is recurrent, but it is more a matter of anti-Zionism. In 2009, Alain Fleischer accused Jean-Luc Godard of having made anti-Semitic remarks during the shooting of his film. In 2010,The Daily Beast and American Jews criticize the award of an honorary Oscar to Jean-Luc Godard and protest against the award, citing his “anti-Jewish” views. In May 2018, he signed a petition for the boycott of the France-Israel season of the French Institute, aimed according to the signatories to promote the image of Israel.
Since Breathless, Godard has continued to divide critics. He is both adored by some and hated by others.
On the occasion of the release of Two or Three Things I Know About Her, François Truffaut, co-producer of the film, justifies his participation:
“Jean-Luc Godard is not the only one who films as he breathes, but he breathes best. He is quick like Rossellini, mischievous like Sacha Guitry, musical like Orson Welles, simple like Pagnol, wounded like Nicholas Ray, effective like Hitchcock, deep, deep, deep like Ingmar Bergman and cheeky like nobody else.”
In the same text, he does not hesitate to compare Godard to Picasso, as Olivier Assayas will do later:
“The passing years confirm us in the certainty that Breathless will have marked a decisive turning point in the history of cinema like Citizen Kane in 1940. Godard has pulverized the system, he has made a mess of the cinema, as Picasso did with painting, and like him he has made everything possible…”.
Some filmmakers condemn part of Godard’s creation. Costa-Gavras says, for example, his lack of interest in the so-called communist period, which are, according to him, only “leftist films”.
Jean-Luc Godard remains a controversial filmmaker. Some people hate his work. For example, the American novelist Philip Roth finds Godard’s work unbearable: “With the exception of Breathless, which has been of unquestionable importance, his work seems to me unbearable.”
Jacques Lourcelles, in his Dictionnaire des films, is particularly critical of the work of Godard, who according to him “devoted himself to depicting, not without complacency, the mental confusion of his generation, ample material for dozens of films.” He also criticizes him and other filmmakers of the New Wave for the arrogance of their words: “No one before them had dared to say so much good about themselves and so much bad about others,” quoting Godard: “Between one of our films and a film by Verneuil, Delannoy, Duvivier and Carné, there is really a difference in nature.”
Woody Allen, who filmed with Godard in 1987 in King Lear, offers a bewildered commentary on his experience: “He plays the French intellectual very well, with a certain vagueness. When I arrived for the shoot, he was wearing pajamas – top and bottom – a bathrobe and slippers and smoking a big cigar. I had the strange feeling that I was being directed by Rufus T. Firefly”. Firefly is the name of the character played by Groucho Marx in Duck Soup.
According to some sources, Yves Montand declared that Godard was “the most stupid of the Swiss Maoists. Christophe Bourseiller mentions that the formula “Godard: the most stupid of the Swiss proponents” is a graffiti that appeared on the walls of Paris in May 68 at the initiative of the Situationist International.
The Catholic Church accused Godard of heresy after the release of his film Hail Mary (1985).
In 1987, his interpretation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear was criticized by the Shakespeare Bulletin as “very bad”.
In the mid-1960s, several young filmmakers were directly influenced by Godard. Among them were Jean Eustache, whose medium-length film Le Père Noël a les yeux bleus (1966) was financed in part by Godard, Jean-Michel Barjol, Francis Leroi, Luc Moullet, Romain Goupil and Philippe Garrel. Godard particularly appreciates the work of the latter and said he was very impressed by the films that Garrel, then twenty years old, made in May 68.
At the same time, Godard also influenced a generation of American filmmakers born in the 1940s such as Peter Bogdanovich, Paul Schrader, Monte Hellman, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Brian De Palma. There is also Quentin Tarantino, whose production company name “A Band Apart” was chosen in reference to Godard’s film.
Marie Cardinal describes the period leading up to the shooting of the film Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle (Two or three things I know about her) in her book Cet été-là (This summer), written in 1967, of which the second edition (the only one available), published by Nouvelles Éditions Oswald in 1979, includes two appendices: “Examen du film dans son état actuel” (Review of the film in its current state) and “Choses à filmer” (Things to film).
His former wife Anne Wiazemsky recounts her life together with Jean-Luc Godard in two stories, Une année studieuse (2012) and Un an après (2015).
In 2016, he appeared in Jean-Baptiste Thoret’s documentary, En Ligne de mire, comment filmer la guerre?
In 2017, director Michel Hazanavicius adapted Anne Wiazemsky’s book Un an après into a film called Le Redoutable. The role of Jean-Luc Godard is played by Louis Garrel. The role of Anne Wiazemsky is played by Stacy Martin.
French box office
He is often rewarded, especially with his nine films in the official selection at Cannes, his six films in competition for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, or his numerous participations at the Berlinale, Berlin festival. It is thanks to the diversity of his films, or by his originality that the selectors will often notice him.
In 1981, Jean-Luc Godard was nominated to receive the National Order of Merit, which he refused. He said: “I do not like to receive orders, and I have no merit.
Essays and collections of articles
- Jean-Luc Godard
- Jean-Luc Godard
- Par la famille de sa mère, Jean-Luc Godard est le neveu de Théodore Monod et le cousin de Jérôme Monod.
- Anne Wiazemsky raconte sa rencontre avec Jean-Luc Godard sur le tournage de Au hasard Balthazar dans Jeune Fille (2007) et leur vie commune dans Une année studieuse (2012).
- ^ a b c Grant 2007, Vol. 3, p. 235.
- ^ a b c Ankeny, Jason. “Biography”. AllMovie. Archived from the original on 2 August 2020. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
- ^ “‘Godard shattered cinema’: Martin Scorsese, Mike Leigh, Abel Ferrara, Claire Denis and more pay tribute”. The Guardian. 14 September 2022. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
- ^ Grant 2007, Vol. 2, p. 259.
- ^ David Sterritt. “40 Years Ago, ‘Breathless’ Was Hyperactive Anarchy. Now It’s Part of the Canon”. Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 24 May 2013.
- 1 2 Jean-Luc Godard // Encyclopædia Britannica (англ.)
- BFI | Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 – The Critics’ Top Ten Directors. 23. Juni 2011, abgerufen am 2. Dezember 2020.
- Jean-Luc Godard: a beginner’s guide. 2. Dezember 2015, abgerufen am 2. Dezember 2020 (englisch).