Download The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible (Cambridge Film Classics) PDF

TitleThe Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible (Cambridge Film Classics)
ISBN 139780521589710
CategoryArts - Film
File Size24.6 MB
Total Pages313
Document Text Contents
Page 1

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard
Seeing the Invisible

The Films of Jean-Luc Godard examines the work of one of the most
versatile and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. With a
career ranging from France's revolutionary New Wave movement in
the early 1960s, through a period of drastic political experimenta-
tion in the late 1960s and 1970s, to a current introspective period in
which he explores issues of spirituality, sexuality, and the aesthetics
of sound, image, and montage, Godard's work defies easy categori-
zation. In this study, David Sterritt offers an introductory overview
of Godard's work as a filmmaker, critic, and video artist. He then
traces Godard's visionary ideas through six of his key films: Breath-
less, My Life to Live, Weekend, Numero deux, Hail Mary, and Nou-
velle Vague. Also included is a concise analysis of his work in video,
television, and mixed-media formats. Linking works by Godard to
key social and cultural developments, The Films of Jean-Luc Godard
explains their importance in modernist and postmodernist art of the
past half century.

David Sterritt is Film Critic of The Christian Science Monitor and
Professor of Film at the C. W. Post Campus of Long Island Univer-
sity. Author of The Films of Alfred Hitchcock and Mad to Be Saved:
The Beats, the jo's, and Film and editor of Jean-Luc Godard: Inter-
views, he has contributed articles on film, theater, and music to a
wide range of periodicals.

Page 156

patrie - the "children of the nation," as citizens are called in "La Marseil-
laise," the French national anthem. She then labels this hydra-headed
monster a "factory," thus returning us to the film's opening words, about
a factory and a landscape locked into close but uneasy coexistence.

By this point it is clear that Numero deux aims to analyze and criticize a
number of interlocking phenomena: the home, where children must cope
with such daunting existential challenges as the primal scene and other
parental mysteries; the education system, which ill prepares them for pres-
ent or future tasks; the industrial world, where people's lives are not their
own; the government, which uses and abuses us; and the mass media, in-
cluding the film and video technologies used to make Numero deux itself.

Continuing the latter thread, the shot of Godard's audiovisual work-
shop returns to the screen, its monitors still showing a commercial movie
and a news report. "Film is also a factory," Sandrine observes, "a factory
that manufactures images, like television." She then offers a sort of media-
savvy nursery rhyme, again confirming childhood (and its comparative in-
nocence) as an organizing factor in the movie:

Once upon a time there was an image.
Once upon a time there were two images.
Twice upon a time there was a sound.
Once upon a time there were two sounds.
Number One and Number Two.

This leads (at last!) to the credits of Numero deux, which Sandrine re-
cites aloud. But wait a moment - surprises are frequent in Godardian cin-
ema, and this turns out to be not the credit sequence after all but a "com-
ing attractions" teaser. "Numero deux: coming soon on this screen!"
announces Sandrine, with typically deadpan delivery.

Has the film actually started, or are we still in some kind of preamble?
Does Numero deux have an "official" beginning at all? It is probably bet-
ter not to worry about such things, turning our attention to the moment-
by-moment progress of whatever it is we are watching.

Sandrine encourages us in precisely that direction. "This screen is on
a wall," she notes, pointing out the obvious. Then she problematizes her
simple statement by asking, "A wall between what and what?" We know
from earlier films that Godard loves to challenge the commonsense bor-
ders, boundaries, and dividing lines - that is, the conceptual walls - that
we customarily use to organize our everyday thoughts and activities. He
is willing to grant that movies and videos materialize on screens, and that

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Page 157

these screens generally have walls behind them. What, however, do those
(metaphorical) walls separate the movies and videos from? Is it the multi-
tude of real-life problems continually thrust at us by families, govern-
ments, schools, factories, and the market forces that determine what cin-
ema and television will comprise? If so, our fascination with screens and
spectacles - our willingness to gaze at them without really thinking about
them - ties in with far-from-ideal social situations that cry out for critical

The two-sided coin of separation and combination is a fundamental theme
of Numero deux. The movie's interests range from common yet ambigu-
ous categories like "before" and "behind" to such filmic phenomena as
the juxtaposition of different shots, which are separated by "cuts" in con-
ventional film, but can merge and combine in video composites like the
"primal scene" image we've just watched.

Most profoundly, Numero deux is concerned with the hazy boundaries
between different people - boundaries that are both affirmed and erased
by sexual activity - and between different aspects of a single person. These
aspects may be conflicting facets of the mind, forever split between con-
scious and unconscious, reason and unreason, influences of the past and
imperatives of the present. Then again, they may be various parts of the
unruly human body; we have noted Godard's tendency to see the body
in fractured terms, using strings of words or images to represent bodies
as collections of separate part-objects rather than coherent wholes.

All of which explains why Numero deux is itself simultaneously divid-
ed and unified in its interests and methodologies. "So another political
film?" Sandrine asks rhetorically. "No, it's not political," she immediately
answers, "it's pornographic. No, it's not pornographic, it's political. So
is it pornographic or political? Why do you always ask either-or? Maybe
it's both at once."

She then restates the phrase "twice upon a time," which is becoming
an unofficial motto of the film, and another video screen lights up with
a little girl writing on a blackboard. Sandrine proposes that we put aside
"talk, talk" and attend to quiet looking and listening.

"Look at what?" she queries. "You don't always need to go far. There's
a lot to see.. . . Your sex, for example. Have you ever looked at it? Did
you let others know you looked at it? Honestly. Not like in commercials
or adventure movies."

The idea of gazing at a part of one's own body, instead of at manu-
factured body-images in entertainments and advertisements, suggests that

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Page 312

Paris Belongs to Us (Rivette), 6
Paris Cinematheque, 4
Paris-Flirt, 57
Paris vu par ... (anthology film), 34
Passion (Godard), 3, 10, 55, 159, 161,

162, 169, 177, 221, 249, 252,

Passion of Joan of Arc, The (Dreyer), 71-4,

Paul, Saint, 165
Pennebaker, D. A., 1, 132
Phenomenon of Man, The (Teilhard de

Chardin), 277n2
Picasso, Pablo, 32, 111
Piccoli, Michel, 162, 275nio
Pierrot le fou (Godard), 9, 16, 31, 80, 91,

119, 129, 234-5, 237

"Pierrot My Friend" (Godard), 235
Playboy, 273m4
"Plenitude of Eros in the Spontaneity of

Human Love, The" (John Paul II),

Poe, Edgar Allan, 30, 84, 85, 86, 119
Polanski, Roman, 216
Positif, 1
Power of the Word (Godard), 222
Pravda (Dziga-Vertov Group), 9, 130, 188
Preminger, Otto, 44
Prenom: Carmen, see First Name: Carmen
Production Code, 44
Proust, Marcel /Proustian, 232
Psycho (Hitchcock), 48, 54, 82, 119
Puissance de la parole, see Power of the

Purcell, Henry, 97

Rabelais, Francois, 122
Raphael, 273ni4
Rauschenberg, Robert, 44
Ray, Nicholas, 18, 45
Rembrandt, 56
Renoir, Auguste, 58, 59
Renoir, Jean, 5, 34
Resnais, Alain, 43
Rhinoceros (Ionesco), 108
Ride Lonesome (Boetticher), 44
Riflemen, The, see Les Carabiniers
Rimbaud, Arthur, 75, 76, 237, 238,

Ringwald, Molly, 222
Rio Bravo (Hawks), 44
Rivette, Jacques, 4, 6, 73, 111
Robbe-Grillet, Alain, 260
Robson, Mark, 57

Rode, Thierry, 183, 199
Roger, Jean-Henri, 130-1
Rohmer, Eric, 4, 7
Rolling Stones, 91, 130
Roman Catholic Church, 164
Roman Numeral Series (Brakhage), 228
Rosenbaum, Jonathan, 3 5-6, 262
Rossellini, Roberto, 5, 8, 54, 166
Rouch, Jean, 63
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 100, 239
Roussel, Myriem, 183, 186, 199, 205, 217

Sack Theaters, 167
Saint-Just, Louis Antoine Leon de, 105,

106, 115

Sanctuary (Faulkner), 123
Sartre, Jean-Paul, 42
Sautet, Claude, 138
Sauve quipeut (la vie) (Godard), 159, 161,

162, 163, 168, 169, 170, 221, 224,

230, 251, 262, 274ni7

Scar face (Hawks), 39
Scenario du film Passion (Godard et al.),


Schatz, Thomas, 29
Schnabel, Artur, n o
Schonberg, Arnold, i n
Schubert, Franz, 176
Scientific American, 179
Scorsese, Martin, 167
Schygulla, Hanna, 162, 253
Searchers, The (Ford), 122
Seberg, Jean, 40, 41, 43, 55, 59
See You at Mao, see British Sounds
Selby, Hubert, Jr., 272^
Sellars, Peter, 222
Seven Capital Sins, The (anthology film),


Seventh Seal, The (Bergman), 181
Shakespeare, William /Shakespearean,


Sharks, Paul, 190
Shoah (Lanzmann), 275ns
Silence, The (Bergman), 27on9
Sirk, Douglas, 44, 45, 82
Situationist International, 92, 258
Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication

(Godard-Mieville), 161, 251- 2, 254-
6, 259

Six Times Two/Over and Under Commu-
nication, see Six fois deux ISur et sous
la communication

"Sloth" (Godard), 62


Page 313

Slow Motion, see Sauve qui pent (la vie)
Smith, Harry, 228
Soft and Hard (A Soft Conversation

Between Two Friends on a Hard
Subject) (Godard-Mieville), 222, 259

Soigne ta droite (Godard), 222
Soldiers, The, see Les Carabiniers
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 44
Sonimage, 135, 250, 251, 254
Sorbonne, 3, 40, 50
Spurt of Blood, The (Artaud), 75
Stam, Robert, 116, 127, 224, 228, 238,

Stanislavski, Konstantin, 65
Steiger, Rod, 57
Steinberg, Leo, 187
Sterling, Jan, 57
Story of Water, A, see Une Histoire d'eau
Straub, Jean-Marie, 111, 269m
Subterraneans, The (Kerouac), 46
Suddenly Last Summer (Manciewicz), 44
Sympathy for the Devil, see One Plus One

Tashlin, Frank, 44
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre, 277n2
Tenant, The (Polanski), 216
Terzieff, Laurent, 221
Theater and Its Double, The (Artaud), 73
Theodore of Mopsuestia, 213
Theology of the Body (John Paul II), 165
Three Stooges, 94, 101
Totem and Taboo (Freud), 122, 123
Tous les gar cons s'appellent Patrick, see

All Boys Are Called Patrick
Tout va bien (Godard-Gorin), 130, 131,

132, 250
Triumph Films, 167
True Story of Jesse James, The (Ray), 18
Truffaut, Francois, 4, 6, 7, 17, 19, 39, 44,

46, 61, 86
Twentieth Century-Fox, 7, 136
Twenty Years After (Dumas), 83
20M3 Choses qui je sais d'elle, see 2 or 3

Things I Know about Her
2 or 3 Things I Know about Her (Godard),

9, 16, 22, 23, 27-8, 60, 91, 92, 103,
129, 170, 185, 189, 190, 236, 237,
244, 255

2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick), 211
2 x 50 ans de cinema francais, see 2x50

Years of French Cinema

2 x jo Years of French Cinema (Mievil le-

Godard), 259, 260,

Ulysses (Joyce), 177-8
Umberto D. (De Sica), 4
Une Femme coquette (Godard), 7
Une Femme est une femme, see Woman Is

a Woman, A
Une Femme mariee, see Married Woman,

Une Histoire d'eau (Godard-Truffaut), 7
Un Film comme les autres (Dziga-Vertov

Group), 130
United States Supreme Court, 166
University of Alabama, 167
University of Nebraska, 167
Until Victory (Dziga-Vertov Group), 132

Vent d'est, see Wind from the East
Vertigo (Hitchcock), 82
Vertov, Dziga, 36
Vincent, Francois, Paul. . . and the Others

(Sautet), 138
Virgin Mary/Mary, 10, 164, 166, 170,

174, 187, 214, 216, 274ni8
Vivre sa vie, see My Life to Live
Vlady, Marina, 185, 237

Waiting for Godot (Beckett), 196
Waits, Tom, 162
Warhol, Andy, 90
Warren, Charles, 174, 175
Webster, John, 205
Weekend (Godard), 9, 16, 38, 89-128,

129, 134, 144, 188, 190, 214
Welles, Orson, 4, 5
Westbound (Boetticher), 44
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home,"

White, Armond, 224, 228, 236
Wiazemsky, Anne, n o , 132
Wild Palms, The (Faulkner), 53
Wilson, Robert, 238
Wind from the East (Dziga-Vertov Group)

Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 28
Woman Is a Woman, A (Godard), 8, 13,

62, 63, 64, 258
Wright, Frank Lloyd, 44
Writing Degree Zero (Barthes), 260
Wyler, William, 4-5

Yanne, Jean, 95, 101, 107, i n

Zoo Story, The (Albee), 44


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