Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Jean-Luc Godard a Disparu

Three months ago, after furrowing my way through the Cannes premiere of Film Socialisme — the latest, fantastically baffling picture by Jean-Luc Godard — I surged energetically up the steps of the Palais towards the room where the great man …

Thu, Sep 2, 2010, 14:37

   

Three months ago, after furrowing my way through the Cannes premiere of Film Socialisme — the latest, fantastically baffling picture by Jean-Luc Godard — I surged energetically up the steps of the Palais towards the room where the great man was to give his press conference. The chance to ask a question of JLG was not to be sniffed at. Heck, the opportunity to stand in the same room as Jean-Luc was reason enough to trample a few Spanish hacks into the dust.

He was elsewhere.

I was not the only person to suspect that his non-appearance was all part of the Film Socialisme experience. For the last 40 years or so, Godard — never a straight-arrow — has been engaged in a massive act of Marxist prank-making. Get frustrated with his increasingly opaque films and you are just demonstrating the complex nature of the wider creative dialectic (or something).

The other day we reported that the Academy was finally getting round to awarding him an honorary Oscar. Guess what? They can’t find him.

Sadly, reports suggest that Jean-Luc, now 79, is not terribly well. It is, thus, possible that there is nothing playful or subversive about his unavailability. Let’s trust that he gets his puff back soon and hammers out a few more streams of audio-visual dyspepsia.

There is, you’d have to agree, no question that Godard matters. Even the later films have their champions. Cahiers du Cinema continued, right through the 1980s and 1990s, to include puzzlers such as Je vous salue, Marie and  Forever Mozart in its films of the year. For me, the combination of inflexible  ideology, willful obscurity and sheer arrogance rendered almost everything made after 1967′s Weekend close to unwatchable. Consider 2004′s Notre Musique, in which a great director delivers elliptical aphorisms while touring contemporary Sarajevo. The viewer is expected to recognise JLG as JLG and treat his wisdoms accordingly. If you say so.

The films made between 1959 and 1967 do, however, make up one of the great streaks in cinema history. Taking the rawness of the American B-movie and further roughing it up with a Marxist cudgel, these delightfully funky, knotty films repay endless rewatching. For the record — Godard loves his lists — here’s the top five. If you’re wondering, I regard Breathless as a throat-clearing exercise. It’s historically important, but it’s not quite the Real McCoy.

Une: Vivre Sa Vie (1962)

Deux: Bande à Part (1964)

Trois: Pierrot le Fou (1965)

Quatre: Une Femme est Une Femme (1961)

Cinq: Alphaville (1965)

If you want to investigate the later stuff, then check out the Histoire(s) du cinéma from (eventually) 1998. It’s predictable mad, but oddly diverting. The score is particularly notable.

FIN.