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My Jean-Luc Godard Film Marathon, Breathless and Beyond

I’m one of those Godard obsessed.

There are many people around us who have a deep interest and love for Jean-Luc Godard’s films. Perhaps nothing explains my condition better than watching all of Godard’s films chronologically over a period of months, with the exception of an elusive few.

At the time of my project about 20 years ago, Godard had created about 100 works (131 at the time of his death Tuesday, according to the IMDB tally), which were published in feature films, short films, television programs, advertisements, and other works. I was counting the strangest things. Most of his video copies were so rare, or even rarer, that an intense Internet search campaign was required to find them.

The reward for those efforts was an exquisite immersion in Godard’s work. It’s a fascinating study of a filmmaking revolutionary whose constant, even ruthless, drive to invent proves to be endlessly absorbing. As Steven Spielberg put it, if Akira Kurosawa was the Shakespeare of the movies, Godard was Samuel Beckett.

French director Jean-Luc Godard in Berlin in 1966.

(Edwin Reichhardt/Associated Press)

My first encounter with Godard, where it all began, was, of course, “Breathless” at Nuart (or perhaps New Beverly) in the early ’80s.

In the famous jump cut scene at the end of the opening sequence, I was disorientated early on when Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character Michel shoots a cop. Busy working under the hood of a stolen car, Michelle encounters a motorcycle cop on a rural roadside. Michelle reaches for his car for a gun. “Freeze!” says the officer. A close-up of the (whose?) hand holding the trigger of the pistol. gunshot. the body falls A wide angle shot of Michelle running across the field.

In the backseat of a car arriving in Paris, Michelle cuts to jazzy music and is eventually met by Jean Seberg (Patricia), who sells copies of the New York Herald Tribune.

what happened now? The story was rushing ahead and I was still trying to figure it out but never quite caught up. I was surprised.

I sat down and watched it again.

In my movie-going life (I was 20 or so), I wasn’t ready for it. I never thought a movie could tell a story like that. After his second viewing of the day, the story came into focus. And the jazzy soundtrack, the black-and-white handheld shots, the movement, the shuffled montages, and of course, the super-cool Belmondo and the adorable Seberg, all pulled me into a strange and wonderful new world. If all I ever saw was a movie, what was this?

Photo collage of female faces and other images.

Image from “History(s) du Cinema”.

(UCLA Film and Television Archive)

This experience seeded my enduring interest in world cinema, and Godard in particular, and decades later became my peculiar idea of ​​watching all the films he made in a row.

My interest in doing so began when Godard embarked on a monumental television miniseries called “History of Cinema.” From his 1989 to his 1999 he produced in eight parts. Upon completion, the series was compiled into a film of the same name, considered by many to be his best work. Based on Godard’s years of watching and making films, it is a kaleidoscopic mosaic of sounds and images of vision, invention, historical exploration and a total length of 266 minutes. He’s one of my favorite movies, whether it’s a Godard movie or anyone else’s.

However, as it was shown in France, it was rarely shown in the United States, and a video copy with English subtitles was rumored to exist, but was never found. “Histoire” was a part I had never seen before, so I decided to find it. In doing so, I became interested in finding other Godard rarities. My idea of ​​​​seeing was born.

Some of Godard’s more famous works were on DVD, but many more were strictly on VHS and often out of production. And the rest didn’t seem to be available at all.

I don’t remember how I first found Robert on a movie bootlegger (eBay or whatever), but he claims to sell high quality VHS copies of many Godard titles. Of course, I bought all of them. The picture and sound were amazingly beautiful.

Robert, who lived in Colorado, vaguely described in an email about some kind of high-end duplicating machine he owns, but otherwise, he’s been trying to figure out how to pirate Godard (and other) movies. or how they got these movies that don’t seem to exist in the first place. Quality wasn’t always good, but he always made it clear when to expect a tape to be substandard.

Robert hunted down my request for a title he didn’t have on hand. I had to save up to buy his not-so-cheap tapes, and then there were the ethical concerns of piracy. I have purchased dozens of his Godard films over the years. In all, he was on 32 Maxell VHS cassettes, each bearing a typewriter label with one or more of the coveted titles.

Some of the finds were modest triumphs, out-of-print VHS titles that had eluded me despite years of searching. For example, “Numero Deux” and “Comment ça Va” from the mid-1970s. A visually stunning film/video hybrid from the 2000s and 2010s.

Bigger discoveries included the documentaries ‘1:00 AM’ and ‘1:00 PM’ co-produced by Godard and DA Pennebaker. and a wonderful television series featuring schoolchildren, titled ‘French Tour de Tour de Enfants’, which Godard made with his longtime partner and collaborator Anne-Marie Miéville.

The films of the Dziga Vertov Group, a Marxist-themed project that Godard co-created with director Jean-Pierre Golin, and their film collective grew in the late 60s and early 70s. How the hell did Robert Vertov get his group’s films?His four major works: ‘Pravda’, ‘Wind from the East’, ‘Italian Struggle’ and ‘Vladimir and Rosa’ I had it all. Not to mention other songs from the period often attributed to the Vertov Group, such as “See You at Mao” (aka “British Sounds”).

My favorite in Robert’s collection was Godard’s series of “minis”, which he compiled into six volumes, each containing a few (for the times) rare short films. These include the 1950s gems “Charlotte and Veronique, or All Boys Called Patrick” and “Charlotte and Her Jules”, two of her shorts before “Breathless”, the latter featuring Belmondo. doing. The 1958 Water Tale co-directed with François Truffaut. Some later rare songs included “Meetin’ WA”, paired with dialogue between Godard and Woody Allen. A documentary about the making of Godard’s Every Man for Himself. Girbaud’s TV advertisement for his jeans directed by Godard. His documentary “His 20×50 Years in French Cinema” in his mid-90s television. Nothing I’ve seen before connecting with Robert.

But Robert didn’t have it all. A significant hole remained in my collection, including two of Godard’s early films. His debut in 1955 It will be many years before we see his documentary “Operation Beton” and his 1956 short film “Une Femme Coquette” based on Maupassant’s story “The Sign” I guess. For some of Godard’s other titles, we’ll have to wait for his DVD or Blu-ray releases in the future, or the plethora of movie streams we enjoy today.

So the last time we screened a Godard retrospective, one or two of the Godard retrospectives were from Charlotte and Véronique (1957) to The History of Cinema (1999) in full, plus one or two more. It even extended to the new Godard. It was made while looking for tapes from Robert. I had DVD copies of his quite a few movies, mostly his VHS, some of dubious quality. I haven’t counted how many I’ve seen in total, but I think my Godard Film Festival consisted of about 70 films.

My methodical exploration of Godard has led to a deep understanding of the enormity and trajectory of his body of work. I noticed the difference between great and non-great movies, not necessarily in their numbers, but each as a segment across the vast decades of cinema that is “Jean-Luc Godard.” Histoire’s mosaic construction exploded throughout the span of his filmmaking life.

Godard’s artistry was so daring that his films still feel modern today, as if he were incessantly dreaming of new, if not new, more humane and habitable worlds. It looks like you are making an effort. His films ranged from artistic masterpieces to wandering experiments, and were filled with well-crafted, stylish, and entertaining films. Most of them were richly endowed with both art and entertainment, and among his mistakes, Godard was always notable.

His work was the most literary in the history of cinema, but ultimately he was the visual arts because of all the book references and the repetitive Godard essays that revolved around many of them. Image was important to Godard, as suggested by the titles of two featured articles, ‘Goodbye to Language’ and ‘The Image Book’.

With Godard’s oeuvre closed and pending posthumous release, the chances of seeing his films in theaters are rare these days. However, with his many Blu-ray releases and his streaming on YouTube and other his platforms, the virtually complete Godard collection is now available in unprecedented quality.

Saying goodbye to him and reflecting on my love of cinema may be time to start over and watch them all again.