Jean Luc Godard, 1930-2022 | Become immortal, then die

In Godard there is God ! “The formula of the moderator of Jean-Luc Godard’s press conference had caused more than a sigh twenty years ago at the Cannes Film Festival by its swelling, its deference and its obsequiousness. I think back on it and tell myself that maybe it wasn’t so exaggerated after all.

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The French-Swiss filmmaker, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91, resorted to assisted suicide, which is legal in Switzerland. He was and remains a god of cinema. Adored and hated, misunderstood and incomprehensible, the enfant terrible of the seventh art embodies the best and the worst it has to offer.

He was a creature of several paradoxes. An artist as inevitable as elusive, avant-garde as pretentious, brilliant as insufferable. In the picture, yes, of his films, sometimes repulsive, sometimes irresistible.

A scholarly iconoclast with a cigar in his mouth, a chain seducer with hints of misogyny, an unconventional moralist with a mischievous look behind his dark glasses.

Born on December 3, 1930 in Paris to a middle-class background, then raised between France and Switzerland, Jean-Luc Godard experienced a difficult youth, finding refuge in sports and late in becoming a cinephile. The thunderclap is intense. Unconditionally by Hitchcock and Nicholas Ray, by Bergman and Bresson, he became the critic of the magazine arts and to bookletsunder the pseudonym Hans Lucas while working as a spokesman for Fox Studios.

His penchant for formulas, aphorisms, and reversals (“All great feature films tend toward the documentary, just as all great documentaries tend toward the fictional”; “It’s not a fair picture, it’s just a picture”) earned him the acclaim of his peers.

Like the other “Young Turks” of notebooks – Rivette, Chabrol, Truffaut, Rohmer – he advocates a revolution in the seventh art and dreams of doing cinema differently. With Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo, who died almost a year ago to the day, Godard made his first feature film, Breathless, based on a screenplay by François Truffaut. The film, which will remain his greatest critical and popular success, marks the arrival of a “new French cinema” in 1960 with a white stone. Godard is not even 30 years old and, together with Truffaut, is the herald of the New Wave.

With Belmondo, JLG once again realizes the sentimental comedy A woman is a woman 1960. In 1965 he also entrusted him with the leading role in his masterpiece Pierrot le fouan incredible love story with his companion and muse Anna Karina (with whom Godard had a stormy split in the same year).

1963 Godard shoots on Capri contempt, starring Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot, in their most outstanding role. The following year he found Jean-Claude Brialy, actor of his first short films, in Keep to themselves. 1965, Alphaville wins the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.

In five years, JLG has already revolutionized cinema. He signs Male Femalewith Jean-Pierre Léaud, “in joint custody” with Truffaut, then in 1967, at the height of his fame, he shot The Chinese with Anne Wiazemsky, who would soon become his wife.

The reception of this Maoist pamphlet provoked in Godard a deep questioning of his work and his role as an artist, which was exacerbated by the events of May 68. With Truffaut he demanded and obtained the suspension of the Cannes Film Festival. “I talk to you about solidarity with students and workers and you talk to me about driving shots and close-ups! They are idiots! “, he starts the organizers of the festival.

A few months later, in December 1968, Godard was shooting the documentary in New York One plus onewhich juxtaposes interviews with the leaders of the Black Panthers and images from the Rolling Stones, in a full take on the classic sympathy for the devil.

He took the opportunity to go to Abitibi, where, accompanied by his team and some Quebec collaborators – including Pierre Harel – he stormed a Rouyn-Noranda TV station to carry out a “revolutionary experiment” in citizen television, which should last 10 days. It only takes 30 minutes.

Chilling, Godard left Abitibi without telling his hosts, promising to write “a book on the connections between Maoism and the climate.” Quebec filmmaker Éric Morin was inspired by this historical anecdote for his first feature film Chasing Abbittibbi Godard in 2013. Documentary filmmaker Julie Perron turned it into a short film in 2000, May in December (Godard in Abitibi).

After the events of May 68, Godard broke with his “big brother” Truffaut. Their friendship didn’t survive JLG’s 180-degree turn, which swept away this New Wave they had created together a decade earlier.

Godard dives into and directs an antithetical, militant and revolutionary cinema of the extreme left east wind with the radical Dziga Vertov group and tirelessly devotes himself to debunking, if not to say busting, his own myth, sabotaging a number of projects and friendships.

François Truffaut wrote to him in a famous correspondence that he had become “a crappy person on a crappy basis”.

His popular revival of the turn of the 1980s, with Save who can (life) and name Carmen – which was awarded the Golden Lion in Venice in 1983 – was short-lived. The following year he caused a scandal with his staging of the naked Virgin I greet you Mariewho have favourited Juliette Binoche revealed. His increasingly experimental and hermetic work (particularly with his long-term partner, the filmmaker Anne-Marie Miéville) has only been pursued by a handful of irreducible people since the 1990s.

Snubbed by the Cannes Film Festival until 1980, he returned to the official selection in 2000 with a short film. The origin of the 21ste century, presented shortly before the opening film. I still remember the grimaces of festival-goers who, without warning, spotted the images of five men hanging from a tree and another urinating in a girl’s mouth…

  • Jean-Luc Godard with actress Jean Seberg, who was part of the cast of À bout de souffle, in Paris in March 1960.


    Jean-Luc Godard with actress Jean Seberg who is part of the cast ofBreathlessin Paris, March 1960.

  • In 1980 the director presented the film Sauve qui peut (la vie) with actress Nathalie Baye in Cannes.


    In 1980 the director presented the film in Cannes Save who can (life)starring actress Nathalie Baye.

  • Actors Alain Delon, Jean-Luc Godard and Italian actress Domiziana Giordano at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival for the film Nouvelle Vague


    Actors Alain Delon, Jean-Luc Godard and Italian actress Domiziana Giordano at the Cannes Film Festival in 1990 for the film New wave

  • In 2001, Jean-Luc Godard presented his film The Praise of Love in Cannes.  He is surrounded by actress Cécile Camp and actor Bruno Putzulu.


    In 2001, Jean-Luc Godard presented his film The Praise of Love at Cannes. He is surrounded by actress Cécile Camp and actor Bruno Putzulu.


He has made around 125 films, feature and short films, documentaries and feature films. His latest films – movie socialism, farewell to the language (which earned him the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2014, level with mummy by Xavier Dolan) – were chaotic, provocative, subversive, enigmatic. In the picture, yes, their author.

“Godard had many lives. He’s an agitator. He’s very fascinating. He’s colossal. You can’t make films without engaging with your work at some point,” said Louis Garrel of him at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival after playing JLG in the film directed by Michel Hazanavicius. Impressivethe adaptation of Anne Wiazemsky’s book about her life with the filmmaker.

We can see this by reading the fascinating (unauthorized) 900-page biography dedicated to him by New Wave exegete Antoine De Baecque in Grasset: Godard the man was funny, brilliant, stupid and evil at the same time. A born provocateur, a megalomaniac dandy, biting and narcissistic, often despicable, especially by those close to him. His life, marked by self-destructive and masochistic outbursts, writes De Baecque, is a series of broken loves and friendships (personal and professional).

At the end of the documentary she made with visual artist JR in 2017, faces, cities, his old accomplice Agnès Varda meets this irascible hermit in Switzerland. Godard, who had a small role in Cleo from 5 to 7don’t even open the door for him.

He was not an easygoing man, but he was a great artist. “He’s the biggest terrorist in cinema,” said documentary filmmaker Mark Cousins ​​with admiration (The Story of the Movie). Cinema wouldn’t be the same today without him.

“What is your biggest wish in life? the character of Jean Seberg asks about a writer, played by the great filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville Breathless. “Become immortal and then die. ” Mission accomplished.

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