Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Posts Tagged ‘jean-luc godard

Auteur Spotlight: Jean-Luc Godard

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Jean-Luc Godard, champion of the French New Wave and peer to Truffaut

 Jean-Luc Godard emerged with post-war cinema and the French New Wave, right when Truffaut was defining what we now recognize as auteur films. Godard had weighty political and social influences that cropped up in all of his works, as subtle flavors in earlier shorts and later as major plotpoints. He began, as most auteurs have, by making short films. His very first short work was Une Femme Coquette (1955), in which he was credited as Hans Lucas. He began with this pseudonym when he was writing for several film periodicals as a critic, along with his friend, Francois Truffaut. He dropped the false name soon after.

Godard’s filmography is extensive, and his name is universally recognized among cinephiles. Though he was born in December of 1930, he continues to make films today, at the ripe old age of 80. What defines Godard’s style as an auteur? That would be quite a long discussion, but an article from the New York Times movie website sums it up nicely:

Crafted with a rough-and-tumble, home-movie-like quality, it dodged all accepted notions of narrative and visual storytelling, adopting a freeform hipness unlike anything before it and sparking a revolution in low-budget, on-the-fly independent filmmaking. Seemingly overnight, Godard was revered as the most important cinematic talent of his generation. Quickly, however, Godard’s refusal to be pigeonholed became apparent, and despite a few works of lesser quality, his work over the course of the upcoming decade was a remarkable period of innovation, experimentation, and sustained genius.

The author is speaking specifically of A Bout de Souffle, one of his later features, but I think its applicable to much of his work. The same style and themes are present in a short of his that I analyzed earlier in the semester, De l-origine du XXIe siecle (2000). Undoubtedly, Godard has made a lasting impression on the film industry by simply attempting to subvert it in every way.

Below is an interview with Godard where he discusses his themes and his goals as a director, describing specifically a film he released in 1972. Enjoy!

To Each His Own Cinema (2007)

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This anthology was commissioned in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Cannes Film Festival, and the credits read like a snooty film class syllabus. While some reviews state that these auteurs manipulated this framework to make a film about whatever they damned well pleased, many of these shorts have something unique to say about the ritual of going to the cinema, the devotion which we pledge to the chapel of film, the way the art of film mirrors our lives and how we shape our lives to mirror it, and finally how, as with every other artistic endeavor, technology and modernity are killing everything we love. says this of the collection:

Especially through the first part of the grouping, the overwhelmingly dominant image is of old movie theaters fallen into states of disrepair, disintegration and disuse. In the films of Takeshi Kitano, Theo Angelopoulos, Andrei Konchalovsky, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-Liang, just for starters, one beholds the spectacle of a world in which cinemas, at least as a home for shared experienced in a privileged domain, no longer seems valid or valued. A mourning for the passing of the classical Euro-style art cinema of the ’60s — of the sort very much represented by films commonly shown in Cannes — filters strongly through the proceedings, no doubt in great measure because they were made by men who belong to that tradition or grew up on it (Jane Campion, still the only woman to have won the Palme d’Or, is the sole femme in the group here).

My personal favorites were Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Anna, about a blind woman’s visceral reaction to Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt, and  Zhang Yimou’s Movie Night, in which a young boy is so excited during the preparations for the town’s outdoor movie night that by the time the film is actually shown, he has fallen sound asleep. This anthology is definitely valuable, especially in terms of short film study, though I wish we had focused on each short’s context (who directed it, where they are from, and what else they’ve directed) in order to understand fully the range of celebrated talents featured on this DVD.

De l’origine du XXIe siècle (2000)

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“I have tried to cover the memories of the atrocious explosions and crimes with children´s faces and the tears and smiles of women”. The attempt was of course bound to fail, as there is no cure against all the horrors of the last century in this retrospective. Godard scans the 20th Century in reverse; its major trends include armies and refugees, cannon shots and prisoners, freight trains and mountains of corpses, conquests and occupation, humiliations and torture. And when a scene starts a quest for a lost Century, the aim is not to find again the sweetness of remembrance, but an era lost because it was devastated by violence and wars.

That quote from a short write-up about the film through As my first example of post-war cinema, though it was completed well after the post-war era, this film exhibits everything short films of the 1940s and 1950s aimed to do. It is a montage rather than a narrative, with scenes originating from news reels and some Hollywood films like The Shining. Using this found footage, Godard moves us backwards through the twentieth century. He seeks to connect people through events, and the events we seem to all share are usually wars, tragedies, and deaths. Viewing a hundred-year period this way, only through images, makes it feel like humanity keeps repeating history, as if we keep trudging through the same events with the same outcomes. The images of corpses and fallen soldiers sharply contrast with the more innocent images of children and lovers, pitting our breakable bodies against equally breakable souls. Godard’s work focuses on the state as the opposite of love, in this film and others. An analysis of this film compared to a few of his others can be found on another blog, Only the Cinema. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from the film.

“Society makes the body something more than it is, and the soul something less.”

Written by Alisa Hathaway

February 26, 2011 at 11:59 am

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