Discover with several of his outstanding films, how Jean-Luc Godard participated in dynamiting the codes of cinema with his comrades of the New Wave.
Out of breath, create novelty
Michel Poiccard (John Paul Belmondo) steals a car in Marseille and on the road, kills a policeman. Arriving in Paris, he meets an American student named Patricia (John Seberg) with whom he plans to flee to Rome. But when his photo is published in the newspapers and he is hunted down, his fate will change.
It’s a good entry point because it’s the director’s first feature film, written on an idea Francois Truffaut. Breathless offers the itinerary of a young delinquent who, after stealing a car and killing a policeman, is tracked down by the police. Which makes Godard with his first feature film, it is to show that we can start from an overexploited genre in cinema (here, the detective film) and propose new ways to tell it.
This is what he does by filming with a moving camera, by multiplying the camera gazes, by adding the improvisation of reality to the narration. To put it another way, it’s about letting the real life that unfolds around the film (in the background, next to the actors), breathe life into the feature film.
In doing so, Jean-Luc Godard contributes to building the cinematographic movement of New wave. And if at the end of breath has remained in the memories of cinephiles, it is because it bears the seeds of an accomplished filmmaker, who strikes hard from his first attempt.
Live your life, modernity above all
To make ends meet and fight boredom, Nana, a saleswoman in a record store, decides to live her life as she sees fit. This film is a declaration of love from Jean-Luc Godard to his companion and muse at the time: the actress Anna Karina.
She’s on every plane Live your life, a film in “twelve tableaux” (cf. the subtitle) which recounts the wanderings of a free young woman. Free of his choices, of his body, free to express himself. Godard also shows the shackles suffered by Nana and, not without pessimism, the way in which society revolves around men and that they can turn out to be destructive.
If from a formal point of view, Live your life is even less accessible than Pierrot le fou for example (black and white, stylistic boldness, literary dialogues), the themes it addresses are more relevant than ever for viewers of 2022.
Alphaville, poetry of anticipation
In a time after the 1960s, the authorities of “outside countries” send the famous secret agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) on a mission to Alphaville, a disembodied city, a few light years from Earth. Caution is responsible for neutralizing Professor von Braun, despot of Alphaville, who has abolished human feelings there.
More feelings, more communication… Godard rebels in his own way against what matters most to him. How to love without language? What to talk about if not love? An experimental film from a time when the filmmaker had not rejected any idea of structured narration and which, if it has lost some of its innovative aspect in terms of form, remains a feature film to be seen by its director.
Detective, always avant-garde
During a boxing match, the murder of a Prince triggers a strange ballet between the mafia and the police. In a large Parisian hotel, near the St-Lazare train station, two cops investigate the untimely death of the Prince. In the corridors, like a maze, characters seek their way. And their stories intersect at times. With Johnny HallydayNathalie Baye, Claude Brasseur and Jean-Pierre Leaud.
Even when given a certain budget and a star cast, Godard is not where you expect him to be. In fact of detective film, he delivers a film at the border of the experimental made of dialogues-quotes, of an offbeat and disjointed story at the limit of comprehensibility for a perfect exercise in style which breaks the codes of thriller. To be reserved for fans of the director.
Contempt, finished love
Paul, a French screenwriter (Michael Piccoli) and his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot) visit the set of Fritz Lang’s new film, which is shooting the story of Ulysses for an American producer (Jack Palance). Very quickly, Paul is offered to work on the script for the film, while Camille finds herself a little too often alone with the producer, who intimidates her. From then on, their couple begins to falter…
Perhaps the “coldest” film of Godard’s early career. Contempt tells a couple in the process of destruction, a sad love story coupled with the birth of a film. Sometimes lost love can lead to creation. The images of Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli on the Camilla’s theme composed by Georges Delerue alone justify the vision.
Pierrot le fou, exploded codes
Ferdinand (John Paul Belmondo) just lost his job. One evening, having just had a disastrous evening, he renews contact with Marianne (Anna Karina), a friend who is now the babysitter of her children. With her, he leaves his family to embark on an improvised journey of ups and downs.
Godard is perhaps more free than he has ever been and leaves in a film which is both an ode to the love he felt at the time for Anna Karina, a film which makes you fly in the structured stories sparkle and give off a scent of anarchy, both in form and substance.
It is also the reflection of a filmmaker in search of an absolute, a purity, which is perhaps only possible in death. Pierrot le fou is not an accessible film, but it deserves, also for the freedom it exudes, that we give it a chance.
Roland and Corinne leave the big city to spend the weekend in the countryside. But from unexpected encounters to monstrous traffic jams, their getaway will turn into a nightmare. A year before the events of May 68, Jean-Luc Godard opposed the world of the Gaullist bourgeoisie (represented by Roland/Jean-Yanne and Corinne/Mireille Darc) to the rest of the modern world.
These two characters will go through the pitfalls with total indifference and certain cruelty. Weekend is divided into chapters with no real red thread other than this couple of consumers, who will show a complete hermeticity to the imagination (the passage with Lewis Carroll), a penchant for violence and voyeurism, and a detachment that borders on perversion.
Godard therefore does not make a fine point, but shows more delicacy in the staging, which opts for a formidable tracking shot (the traffic jam) or sequence shots that are often very “raw”. A curiosity that shows all the elusiveness of the director.