RIP to the legendary Cahiers du Cinéma critic turned director who made personal art cinema hip to international audiences in the 1960s. I must say I’ve barely seen anything he made after he became more of a radical activist later in the decade, but his earlier works still possesses a sense of stylistic freedom and experimentation that feels fresh in the 21st century.
When I went through my ‘film snob’ phase in college, Godard was my favorite director. I remember being entranced by the energy and vibes (though I would not have used that term then, it’s certainly what I meant) of his films. But, when I revisited him years later, I found a lot of those same films I once liked a bit insufferable. Not just his frequently derided Maoist period either, even in the ‘60s he has a low batting average for such an esteemed director.
However, I also got into his recent works which are mostly great, from In Praise of Love onward to The Image Book, his last film I suppose. I also got to see Histoire(s) du cinema in its complete form which is maybe his masterpiece. So ultimately my younger self was correct to love his work, just wrong about which era to emphasize (Breathless and Alphaville still own, though).
And yes, younger me was also correct in wanting to own a pair of his glasses.
I think he is the last principal director or actor of that movement to pass away. Frankly, I didn’t realize he was still with us, and I remember well when Anna Karina died a few years ago. At their peak, those two made magic.
Well, if he was a living legend yesterday, now he’s just a legend. I watched and wrote about a ton of his films in college.
Just read his obituary where I learned his end of life was purposeful… I guess he was defying traditional rules right up to the end. RIP
RIP. From the Guardian obit: “Godard provocatively and exasperatingly liked to declare that cinema was dead – a haughty après moi, le déluge affectation, which never stopped his own rampant productivity” - which actually seems to me to be a fine attitude for an artist. Art is dead … now, let me start my next piece.
Lester Bangs: “Rock and roll is dead. Now here’s my piece on one of the only rock and roll bands that still matters.”
The end of Breathless, where Belmondo flees his killers while still holding onto his cigarette and then all this cigarette smoke comes out of his mouth as he dies, is one of the most unintentionally funny things I’ve ever seen in a film.
They should have had him holding a croissant or a baguette instead and had crumbs fall out of his mouth.
I was very much more a fan of Rohmer and Truffaut as far as New Wave filmmakers go, but there’s no doubt that the best of Godard (Pierrot Le Fou, Contempt, Breathless, Masculin Feminin) changed film.
He was endlessly quotable too:
“He who jumps into the void owes no explanation to those who stand and watch"
“To be or not to be. That’s not really a question.”
“A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.”
I still hated Alphaville, though.
RIP. I was going to highly recommend “Elevator To The Gallows” as an excellent noir and his first film, but then I remembered that was actually Louis Malle.