“I have always confused cinema with life”: Jean-Luc Godard

In 2010, the Hollywood Academy presented Jean-Luc Godard with an honorary Oscar, which he refused to accept. / AFP

Photo: AFP agency

It wasn’t his stories that made him the legend he is today, it was his way of directing, his approach to camera handling and an experimental style that was defined and reviewed as “almost improvised”. Jean-Luc Godard’s work marked a before and after in French cinema to such an extent that President Emmanuel Macron admitted that “he had the vision of a genius”. The director, through films such as A bout de souffle (1960), Week-end (1967), Banda a parte (Bande à part, 1964), among others, ushered in the era known as the nouvelle vague, the New Wave in French cinema and with this he cemented his legacy in the history of cinema with more than 90 productions to his name, including feature films, documentaries, shorts and videos.

The French-Swiss director, who died yesterday of an assisted suicide at his home in Switzerland, left behind a long list of features and short films that caused a sensation at the time and eventually made him a cult figure. This is what his lawyer Patrick Jeanneret said New York Times that after suffering from various pathologies, the director decided to end his life in a dignified way, as was always his wish, because “he could not live like you and me, so he decided with great clarity, as he had done throughout his life to say, ‘Enough,'” he said in the phone interview.

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“Godard was at first revered as a hero and adored, then shrugged and yawned: as recklessly mocked and mocked as he had once been unwittingly revered. It was influential in the sense that the French New Wave shook up Hollywood and all filmmakers; his own rarefied experimental procedures have today migrated to video art,” writes Peter Bradshaw in guard.

Born in Paris in 1930, Godard spent his childhood between France and Switzerland with his family. He is a descendant of prominent figures such as the composer Jacques Louis Monod and the former president of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Although he does not usually visit movie theaters, the man who would become the father of the French New Wave claims that his love for and introduction to the seventh art came through the texts. According to his biographer Richard Brody, in 2008 Godard approached cinema through an essay by André Malraux entitled An Outline of the Psychology of Cinemaand reading The review of the cinema after it was revived with the end of World War II. Godard bounced through different cities and fields of knowledge such as art, anthropology and philosophy while a student before venturing into the film industry.

He initially did not pursue directing as a career, beginning by attending film clubs in the early 1950s, where he established his voice as a young critic alongside figures such as François Truffaut, André Bazin, Jacques Rivette and Claude Chaborl. His journey as a film critic began in Bazin’s magazine, Cahiers du cinema, where he defends the most traditional way of making films. Jean-Luc Godard said that “a film consists of a beginning, a middle, and an end, though not necessarily in that order.”

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When he released his first feature film in 1960, Breathless, Godard already had a tour of the short films he had started making in 1957, and they laid the foundation for his signature shooting style. His first film was shot on the streets of Paris, “with little use of artificial lighting and a script written day after day. Breathless became a true cultural phenomenon upon its release, making Jean-Paul Belmondo a star and winning the Godard Award for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival,” wrote Andrew Pulver and Angelique Chrysafis in the obituary published by guard.

With each premiere of a new feature film, his name became more and more associated with a different style and some kind of revolution, although he never enjoyed the wide fame of other colleagues. Susan Sontag in 1968 stated that Godard was “one of the great cultural heroes of our time”, comparing him to the likes of Pablo Picasso and James Joyce. The American critic also said that French helped create a new cinematic language with films that are “at once well-achieved and chaotic, a ‘work in progress’ that resists easy admiration”.

His first feature film was followed by titles like live your life (1962), the carabinieri (1963), Crazy Pierrot (1965) and I contemplate (1963). “Godard tore up the rule book without bothering to read it: his wild digressions, off-the-cuff dialogue scenes, checked, non-narrative excursions and ‘jump cuts’: that inspired, semi-intentional mis-editing created by an intuitive, uninformed author,” Bradshaw wrote of him. Among the cameras and scripts, Godard found love in the Danish Anna Karina, who directed several times, becoming his muse and future wife. His marriage did not stand the test of time, and a decade later he married director Anne-Marie Miéville, with whom he shared similar visions.

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His cinema slowly turned to a more political message as, according to Pulver and Chrisafis, Godard “identified with the revolutionary politics of the time and his film production reflected it: he created a collective of directors named after Dziga Vertov, the Soviet director of Man with a movie camera” who helped shut down the Cannes Film Festival in 1968 in sympathy with the student riots in Paris and collaborated with the young student Marxist Jean-Pierre Gorin on This is going wella study of a sausage factory strike with Jane Fonda”.

Although his relevance in the world of cinema did not exceed the 80s, his name is already written in the history of the seventh art. Although he continued to direct films, documentaries and television programs in the 1990s, what had made him a prominent character ceased to be of interest to the public.

His 2001 feature film in celebration of love, was considered the return of the legendary father of the New Wave. “Godard continued to make films over the years, mostly elliptical philosophical essays such as our music (2004) and film socialism (2010). Shifts in public taste and his defiant and relentlessly provocative style limit his audience to serious cinephiles and connoisseurs, but the impact of his early work on generations of filmmakers cannot be understated,” writes Adam Bernstein for The Washington Post.

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In 1994, Jean-Luc Godard spoke to the magazine’s Andrew Sarris Interview, where he stated that he was not proud of any particular film, “I don’t think I’ve been able to make really good films. There are moments, scenes, entire movements that sing. It all adds up to a kind of cinema, even though I’m still learning my craft.”

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