L'enfant terrible

By Michael Roberts

 

Iconoclast, contrarian, egomaniac, polemicist... the list goes on but barely scratches the surface with this genius of world cinema. One of a gaggle of critics from the magazine 'Cahier Du Cinema' who were fed up with the 'tradition of quality' so prevalent in the French cinema of the mid-50's, and who decided to make their own films to remedy the status quo. Godard started feature films with a bang, 'Breathless' burst onto the scene with energy and verve in 1960 and Godard hardly drew breath himself in the next dozen years. Progressing quickly from a singular and personal vision to a political and collectivist ethic Godard variously essayed France's turmoil over Algeria and the riots of 1968 and their aftermath, sometimes directly as in 'Le Petit Soldat' or 'Tout Va Bien', and sometimes obliquely as with 'Pierrot le Fou'.  Godard moved from a narrative style, that is narrative as it applies to him, to a documentary approach after his political radicalisation in the late '60's, but early on he noted 'you can either start with fiction or with documentary, but whichever you start with you will inevitably find the other'. In later years he again made some narrative based films, but his remarkable 266 minute documentary series 'Histoire(s) Du Cinema' from 1988 to 1998, where he edited a personal and idiosyncratic take on what cinema meant to him, revealed where his true sympathies lay.

Godard polarises like few other filmmakers, alternately maddening and engaging, sometimes within the same frame, he is not to all tastes. Personally I looked at 'Breathless' early in my viewing life (mid-20's) and found it tedious, couldn't understand the fuss. I re-visited after I'd discovered Truffaut and Malle, and soon was hooked on Godard's skewered take on the world.

Godard's golden period from '60 to '68 continues to amaze and entertain.

 

Also recommended;

Alphaville

Slow Motion

Masculin, féminin

Made in the USA

Two or Three Things I Know About Her

 

 

For fans only;

Tout Va Bien

Le Gai Savoir

 Week End

Best avoided;

Les Carabiniers