For Ever Godard

One of the gre [...]

One of the greatest filmmaking giants of all time, Jean-Luc Godard (1930-2022) seemed like an unstoppable force of superhuman intellect who would live forever, but he finally chose to go out on his own terms. It looked as if he was having his last laugh, bidding us farewell at will, and stunned us with his last breath. 

In his lifetime, he shocked and enthralled everyone when he introduced jump cut as a cinematic tool for editing, and broke the fourth wall in the middle of a sentence without hesitation. Many filmmakers were daring, few were willing to try something new, but it’s another thing to keep on breaking the rules, experimenting with cinematic forms, pushing the narrative boundaries, reinventing new sets of film language, as well as embracing new technologies. Ever since Godard made Breathless, cinema has never been the same. 

Godard began writing film criticism in the 1950s for the film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. Together with fellow critics François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer, they formed a group of enthusiasts who criticised the traditional ‘quality’ French cinema and believed in the Auteur Theory. These young critics would become the influential French New Wave when they began making innovative films that revolutionise the world of cinema with their agility and creativity. 

Having made over 40 feature films in his lifetime, Godard inspired audiences by holding on to his independent spirit in film and in life. His career can basically be divided into four phases. During his New Wave period, one would be excited at the freshness and freedom of his filmmaking style and appreciate how he surpassed the boundaries of his narrative, and captured the charm of his muses who shone brightly in front of the camera; in his political years after the revolution of May 1968, one would be stimulated by his revolutionary spirit and unflinching passion; in his later years, one would be immensely moved and admire without reservation his abstract cinematic essays that managed to balance ideology and poetry. 

In Breathless, Patricia (Jean Seberg) interviewed Parvulesco (Jean-Pierre Melville) and asked, ‘What is your greatest ambition in life?’ To which Parvulesco replied, ‘To become immortal… and then die.’ Godard did just that, and left us an unparalleled body of work, which should be understood only by experiencing, again and again.

French New Wave

Jean-Luc Godard, the leading figure of the French New Wave from the Cahiers du cinéma faction, as opposed to the ‘Left Bank’, was an auteur and provocateur who challenged the conventions and expanded the possibilities of filmmaking. We marvel at his revolutionary ideas and innovative mise-en-scene, as well as his adorable muses, Anna Karina and Anne Wiazemsky, who radiate in every frame of his films. His extensive use of jump cuts, non-linear narratives, handheld cameras on wheelchairs, title cards, the distancing effects… created a unique film language that catapulted him to be one of the most influential filmmakers ever. 

His most celebrated creative period spans seven years from Breathless to Week-End, during which he directed masterpiece after masterpiece that opened the viewers’ eyes and minds. However, he was never far from political engagement and frequently criticised the American culture, the Vietnam War, consumerism, and capitalism. His revolutionary spirit extends far beyond the medium as he threw himself into the protests of May 68, and soon became a militant and radical filmmaker. The end credits of Week-End reads ‘End of Cinema’, and marked the end to his mainstream filmmaking career, at least for a few years.