Jean-Luc Godard

Jean-Luc Godard

Jean-Luc Godard is considered the most radical French filmmaker of the 1960s and 1970s, and his approach in film conventions, politics and philosophies made him arguably the most influential director of the French New Wave movement. Godard criticized mainstream French cinema’s ‘Tradition of Quality,’ which emphasized craft over innovation, and privileged established directors over new directors. To challenge these conventions of traditional Hollywood in addition to French cinema, Godard and like-minded critics for the Cahiers du Cinema decided to make their own films. Along with presenting knowledge of film history through homages and references, several of Godard’s films expressed his political views; while being an avid reader of existential and Marxist philosophy. When Godard debuted his first film Breathless in 1959, the radical technique of irregular jump-cuts which broke the eye-line match rule in continuity editing, was a very startling innovation for audiences at the time. The film also incorporated random bursts of pop music and sound effects, while audiences listened to characters spout off spontaneous dialogue, sometimes even directly to the audience. Breathless became a revolutionary breakthrough in the way films were conceived while Godard also employed quotations from several elements of popular culture, specifically American film noir. Godard viewed film-making as an extension of criticism and was more interested in redefining film structure and style than actually being understood by the public. Most of the films earlier on in Godard’s career like Vivre sa vie (1962), Contempt (1963) Band of Outsiders (1964) and Pierrot le fou (1965), integrated more film homages than any of his New Wave colleagues. Godard loved to quote and give visual citations towards cinema, as film directors like Samuel Fuller, Fritz Lang and Nicholas Ray were constantly referenced or discussed. Godard, known to be extremely literary would sporadically quote passages by William Faulkner, Dylan Thomas and Bertolt Brecht, while randomly citing musicians on the soundtrack, like Mozart, Picasso and J.S. Bach. Politics were never far from the surface in Godard’s earlier films but it wasn’t until the late 60’s when Godard became much more political, speaking up about both the Algerian and Vietnam war, which was escalating at the time and greatly infuriating Godard. Films like Masculin Féminin (1966), 2 or 3 Things I know about Her (1967) and Weekend (1967) were far less conventional and more abstract, nihilistic and allegorical, integrating explicit collage-like essays. Godard’s work has been central to narrative theory, challenging both commercial cinema norms and film criticism’s vocabulary. He is said to have created one of the largest bodies of critical analysis of any filmmaker since the mid-twentieth century and in 2010 was awarded an Academy Honorary Award, but did not attend the award ceremony.



Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard Featured Films

Articles and Essays on Jean-Luc Godard

Weekend (1967)

Jean-Luc Godard’s cathartically political and infuriating masterpiece Weekend is one of the key films of the late 1960’s. It is on one hand a chaotically brilliant black comedy and on the other hand a surrealistically acid disdain on the nihilistic bourgeoisie consumer society. Weekend is less like a film and more like a abstract angry political collage, as its pop art […]

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Pierrot Le Fou (1965)

If a viewer is not used to the films of French director Jean-Luc Godard, than Pierrot le fou can be an extremely frustrating experience. Like other great artists like Bergman, Fellini, Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer and Tarkovsky, once you get used to the world that Godard has created for you, you end up appreciating and enjoying his films much more. And […]

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Vivre Sa Vie (1962)

Vivre Sa Vie (or in English titled My Life to Live), is the tragic story on a woman’s slow descent into prostitution and death. Directed by the legendary Jean-Luc Godard, he divides the film into 12 tableaux, very similar to a novel. The actress who plays the character of Nana is the beautiful and legendary Anna Karina […]

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Contempt (1963)

Jean-Luc Godard’s poetic masterpiece Contempt is a like a haunting three-act Greek tragedy, in which a French playwright gets hired by a seedy and corrupt American film producer to rewrite a movie script of a direct to film adaptation of The Odyssey, which is being directed by the legendary German director Fritz Lang (playing himself). When the producer is told […]

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The haunting score from Godard’s Contempt

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Jean-Luc Godard
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NEW Jean Luc Godard Cinema Historian by Michael Witt
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