Jean-Luc Godard

Histoires du Cinema Movie

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they attempt to dissect a movie that’s a dissection of movies. In the #48 (tied) movie on the list, Jean-Luc Godard chops up cinema’s past in order to praise and bury it by relegating it to histories. But why is it one of the best movies of all time?

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Pierrot le fou

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they leave their old lives behind to go on the run with a beautiful woman who can literally drive a man insane. In the #41 (tied) movie on the list, Jean-Luc Godard delivers a fancy-free story involving crime, waterboarding and whirlwind romance that comes with a bomb strapped to itself. But why is it one of the best movies of all time?

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Contempt

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they explore the illustrious history of directors declaring cinema dead with a New Wave heavyweight doing battle with American financiers for the first (and last) time. There’s a reason Jean-Luc Godard‘s CinemaScope attempt is called Contempt.  In the #21 (tied) movie on the list, an American producer and a film director played by an iconic film director try to make a big budget movie version of Homer’s “Odyssey” while struggling to balance commerce (nude scenes) with art (tasteful nude scenes). But why is it one of the best movies ever?

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Breathless Godard

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they celebrate a by-the-numbers movie that changed everything. Jean-Luc Godard‘s Breathless. In the #13 movie on the list, Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) does his best Bogart impression, steals a car, shoots a cop, and hides out with his American girlfriend Patricia (Jean Seberg). But why is it one of the best movies ever?

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Quentin Tarantino

Emerging from a nitrate fire in 1963, Quentin Tarantino was fed only exploitation films, spaghetti Westerns and actual spaghetti until he was old enough to thirst for blood. He found his way into the film industry as a PA on a Dolph Lundgren workout video, as a store clerk at Video Archives and by getting encouragement to write a screenplay by the very man who would make a name for himself producing Tarantino’s films. Peter Bogdanovich (and probably many others) think of him as the most influential director of his generation, and he’s got the legendary story to back it up — not to mention line-busting movies like Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained under his belt. He’s also the kind of name that makes introductions like this useless. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a guy who really loves Hi Diddle Diddle and plans to keep 35mm alive as long as he’s rich enough to do it.

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Culture Warrior

Criticizing the Academy Awards is becoming a tradition as solidified as the Awards ceremony itself. The ink spilled over anticipation of who will come out swinging during Awards season is typically followed by an anticipated – but, when well-argued, often necessary – critique of the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony itself. Now that we’re neck-deep in Presidential election season, the time dedicated to polling, statistics, and manufactured drama all in the service of something ultimately unpredictable resonates alongside the earliest Fall predictions of the Winter’s Awards competitors: no matter the race, we can become hopelessly invested in every detail in the process of competition. As Matt Taibbi stated bluntly in an editorial on the Presidential race, this is not what democratic participation should look or feel like. Nor, for that matter, is immersing oneself in the Kool-Aid of Oscar anticipation what a genuine investment in cinema should look like. While I’ve bloviated more than enough on the Oscars, it’s something different entirely when someone who ostensibly stands to benefit from the institution itself to criticize it, as potential Best Actor nominee Joaquin Phoenix did recently. Perhaps criticizing the Oscars is not the bravest thing a wealthy famous person can do (perhaps), but the exact form that it takes is certainly worthy of attention because such instances evidence certain power relations and possibilities in Hollywood. Why do some Hollywood figures participate in this criticism, and others don’t?

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Criterion Files

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Moonrise Kingdom. Wes Anderson is known for getting his inspiration from a variety of sources. While Anderson’s signature visual quirks make his films unquestionably his own, the director’s images, themes, and characters also emerge through an amalgamation of materials that inspire him, whether the source be the stories of J.D. Salinger or the pathos of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. But most of Anderson’s references are to other works of cinema, as detailed in this five-part video essay by Matt Zoller Seitz, which details Anderson’s particular influence by auteurs ranging from Orson Welles to Hal Ashby. However, certain films anchor their influence more directly than others. For instance, The Life Aquatic was greatly inspired by Federico Fellini’s post-Dolce Vita work, and The Darjeeling Limited is dedicated to celebrated Indian auteur Stayajit Ray. In the weeks since the Cannes premiere and commercial release of Anderson’s latest, Moonrise Kingdom, several critics have noted that only does the film seem to be directly influenced by a specific director, but one particular film by that director. Pierrot le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard’s colorful, whimsically anarchistic couple-on-the-run film from 1965 seems to bear a great deal of similarity to Moonrise Kingdom, which takes place the year that Godard’s film was originally released in France (Pierrot’s US release was delayed until 1969, where it stood curiously opposite Godard’s polemical late-60s work). Having read several reviews that cite Pierrot‘s influence on Moonrise, I reflected back on both films, and here are some of the […]

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For a filmmaker who completed only seven feature films in his lifetime, Andrei Tarkovsky has made an enormous impact. In addition to his artistry, perhaps the enduring fascination with his work has to do with the story of a life cut short. After all, several European filmmakers who were born before Tarkovsky, like Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Resnais, are still around and making new films. Each of Tarkovsky’s seven films are brilliant works that each possess an ambition towards perfection and cinematic transcendence, but when bringing the filmmaker’s abrupt death by lung cancer into the equation it’s difficult to avoid the saddened feeling that there’s a great deal more time-sculpting he had left to share. So it makes sense then that the number of documentaries about Tarkovsky (or prominently feature the filmmaker) far exceed the number of films the director himself completed, and this fact gives a clear indication of his broad cinematic influence. These films are made because people want more, and desire to understand the depth of Tarkovsky’s work better. Films like Voyage in Time (1983), Moscow Elegy (1987), Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky (1988), and Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky (2008) have examined the auteur’s method, life, philosophy, and impact. But easily the best documentary about Tarkovsky thus far is French visual essayist Chris Marker‘s One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich (1999), recently released on DVD by Icarus Films.

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Culture Warrior

We often don’t think of commercials as having authorship, at least not in the same way we think of movies. Commercials are created by advertising companies, by focus groups, by strategists; not by “artists.” But while the purpose of a 30-second ad may on the surface differ from the motive of a feature length film (though not always), both are media assembled through a particular economy of storytelling devices and are made often by a collaborative company of individuals. But commercials don’t often contain credit sequences, and thus the phenomenology of its making is cloaked and the personalities who made it unconsidered. The focus is on the product being sold, not the creative team selling it. So it can be surprising to find out that well-respected, top-tier, artistic filmmakers often direct commercials. Sure, many filmmakers regularly make commercials as a more lucrative and less time-consuming alternative to feature filmmaking, and there are many visual artists who have honed an ability to express their personality in various media forms, but a surprising number of supposedly cinema-specific auteurs make commercials, despite a lack of apparent monetary need or professional benefit. This subject came to my attention recently because of a series of articles on Slate last week by David Haglund about the oeuvre of the Coen brothers that included the filmmaking duo’s commercials in considering their larger cinematic contribution. It’s an interesting way to view a filmmaker’s career, for it forces you to look for their identifying traits and revisited themes via […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column and link collector that is tired of explaining itself to you, quite frankly. Drew McWeeney at HitFix got the scoop this evening on a big story, in which Harry Potter director David Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves will be re-teaming to do a multi-film version of Stephen King’s epic The Stand. The hope here is that Yates can give it that Deathly Hallows scope, something the work of Stephen King has long deserved, but never really received. With The Dark Tower on the ropes, this could become a new fixation for King fans.

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afilm a symphonie threemovements deathof language The above “sentence” would probably be the most appropriate way to describe French filmmaking legend Jean-Luc Godard’s latest (and possibly his last) film, Film Socialisme. The fragmentary and strangely juxtaposed words above are not only an (unsuccessful) attempt to describe an incredibly abstruse film, but it is also an attempt to do so in the film’s selected stylistic “language”: rather than traditional full-sentence subtitles, these are the type of words we see at the bottom of the screen whenever a character or narrator speaks. I can barely recognize only a few select words in French myself, but from what I can tell the characters, while often speaking esoterically in conversations motivated without typical movie-logic contextualization, rarely actually speak in fragments, but in full sentences. So the subtitles for non-French-speaking audiences are a deliberately obscuring selection of the words actually spoken, and they often arrive late in their juxtaposition of words spoken and occasionally seem to have no direct correspondence whatsoever. This is not to suggest that the unique subtitling in the international release of Film Socialisme somehow “obscures” non-French speakers from understanding the film’s meaning. In one sense, the film is incredibly difficult to follow no matter what language(s) one knows, but in another, the film’s meaning is plainly available in this multilingual wordplay.

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Criterion Files

Much of Jean-Luc Godard’s cinematic output is inaccessible to American audiences. His most prolific period, the 1960s (in which he made 18 feature films) is almost entirely available, due in no small part to the Criterion Collection’s well-justified infatuation with the cineaste’s important and influential work. The output of much of his later career, however, isn’t commercially accessible in the US including much-lauded work like Nouvelle Vague (1990) and the Histoire(s) du Cinema entries (1988-98). In fact, Tout va Bien (1972 – his most recent title included in the Collection) is to my knowledge the only film he made in the 1970s that’s available on Region 1 DVD. This is all to say that here in the US, what we know of Godard we know mostly the first decade of his career. While it’s unfortunate that cinephiles have minimal access to his later work, this complaint is not meant to undervalue the importance of the work he did in the 1960s. Godard made an unbelievable amount of brilliant and challenging work in an astoundingly short amount of time, and by 1970 he had emerged as a different kind of filmmaker altogether. Godard’s 1960s work is, in a sense, the only logical starting point in order to approach an understanding of this later work. Godard’s films are an ongoing exercise in personal growth, aesthetic experimentation, and political criticism. Each work builds off of what came before. With this weekend’s US release of Godard’s most recent work, Film Socialisme, the gaps in […]

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I can’t be sure, but they may have condensed at least half of Jean-Luc Godard‘s latest film into this minute-long trailer. The images flash by in typically enigmatic form, but at least we know what he was up to while he was snubbing Honorary Oscars. Since the trailer itself does little to explain what the movie’s about (and that lovely young woman staring at cats online isn’t helping either), let’s turn with pleading eyes to the official synopsis: “Legendary director Jean-Luc Godard returns to the screen with Film Socialisme, a magisterial essay on the decline of European Civilization. As a garish cruise ship travels the Mediterranean (with Patti Smith among its guests), Godard embarks on a state of the EU address in a vibrant collage of philosophical quotes, historical revelations and pure cinematographic beauty.” Oh, now it all makes sense:

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Criterion Files

Welcome to the second installment of Guest Author month at Criterion Files: a month devoted to important classic and contemporary bloggers. Each Wednesday for the month of April, a writer and fellow Criterion aficionado from another site will be giving their own take one one of the collection’s beloved titles. This week, Joshua Brunsting, writer for CriterionCast and Gordon and the Whale, takes on Jean-Luc Godard’s beloved musical, A Woman is a Woman. Tune in every week this month for an analysis of a different title from a new author. Sometimes, the splash a filmmaker makes with his or her first feature ultimately breeds a wave too harsh to ride as a career living up to the beginning. While everyone and their mother points to a film like Jean-Luc Godard’s debut feature, Breathless, as the (in my eyes definitive) auteur’s crowning achievement, it’s almost as common to hear the director discussed as a filmmaker of diminishing returns. However, while his debut is for all intents and purposes a brilliant, all-time classic, it’s not until his third feature, the neo-musical fever dream known as A Woman Is A Woman, that one truly gets a hold of what kind of filmmaker Godard, in all of his feverish style, truly is. Starring a trio of fantastic thespians — Godard staple Jean-Paul Belmondo, Godard’s muse Anna Karina, and French New Wave star Jean-Claude Brialy — Woman follows the story of Angela, a sweet and caring exotic dancer, who is not only torn between two […]

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Culture Warrior

Acts of spontaneity have been an essential component of artistic expression in the twentieth century, based in the notion of a perceived “purity” within the spontaneous act that allows art to be directly articulated without mediation or interference from social pressures and constructs. From the improvisatory paintings of Jackson Pollock to the idea of the rewrite as heresy within Jack Kerouac’s prose, spontaneity in many cases is seen as the only way to make art that has any “real” meaning. According to Daniel Belgrad, mid-century efforts toward artistic spontaneity provided a means of expression free from the constrains enforced by an oppressive, conformist hegemonic culture: “This new avant-garde shared the belief that cultural conditioning functioned ideologically by encouraging the atrophy of certain perceptions and the exaggeration of others…In the recovery of such an alternative “reality”…they saw the only basis for constructively radical social change.” Spontaneity through art then doesn’t alter perception as much as its restores it to its ideal original state, allowing artists and spectators of art to see beyond a regime’s oppressive confines.

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Editor’s Note: This article will be updated in real time as the winners come in during the Academy Awards broadcast. Please join us for our Live-Blog tonight (because we ask nicely), and while you wait for the winners, check out our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. Tonight’s the night! You find out if you will take top prize in your office pool, and, you know, you’ll get to see which fantastic films are most celebrated with little naked statues of gold. If you love the Oscars, hate them, or pretend to hate them while sitting riveted to the broadcast, one thing is clear: tonight is a night to celebrate the best in filmmaking. We love movies. So do you. Tonight we can all celebrate our favorites of 2010 even if they don’t win and even if they weren’t nominated. As for those in the running, they are all beautiful works of art, they’re all winners tonight, they went out on the field and gave 110%…and…yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s get to the winning, right? And the Oscar goes to…

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It’s that time of the year again: that brief span of time in between Christmas and New Year’s when journalists, critics, and cultural commentators scramble to define an arbitrary block of time even before that block is over with. To speculate on what 2010 will be remembered for is purely that: speculation. But the lists, summaries, and editorials reflecting on the events, accomplishments, failures, and occurrences of 2010 no doubt shape future debate over what January 1-December 31, 2010 will be remembered for personally, nostalgically, and historically. How we refer to the present frames how it is represented in the future, even when contradictions arise over what events should be valued from a given year. In an effort to begin that framing process, what I offer here is not a critical list of great films, but one that points out dominant cultural conversations, shared trends, and intersecting topics (both implicit and explicit) that have occurred either between the films themselves or between films and other notable aspects of American social life in 2010. As this column attempts to establish week in and week out, movies never exist in a vacuum, but instead operate in active conversation with one another. Thus, a movie’s cultural context should never be ignored. So, without further adieu, here is my overview of the Top 10 topics, trends, and events of the year that have nothing to do with the 3D debate.

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Criterion Files

Just as film noir isn’t one single definable thing, noir itself contains many offshoots and categories. And every Noirvember, it’s important to not only examine good ol’ film noir, but its corresponding variants as well. One aspect of noir that complicates its designation as a genre or a style is the persistence of neo-noir, a cinematic form that arose in direct reaction to noir. In the US, canonical neo-noirs include films like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown or Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. These were films made by filmmakers who knew cinema’s history, who have seen and studied noir’s origins and staples. These were filmmakers who worshiped film history and used classic cinema as a prototype for their own creation, embedding references to the old while departing from it in creating the new.

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This past weekend saw the cinematic glory of Resident Evil: Afterlife pushing past security to get into your local theater even though it was moving slower than an instant replay in a curling match. The absolute atrocity of this film raises a lot of questions, but one of the first and foremost is whether or not directors should work with their spouses in a leading role. Paul W.S. Anderson, who thinks Milla Jovovich is as big an action star as Sigourney Weaver, is also married to Milla Jovovich, and while we can’t prove causation for the low marks in her performance here – we can certainly point to correlation. We can also point to 9 more husband and wife teams in order to find out if working with your legally bound significant other is really such a great idea.

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Veteran French filmmaker and New Wave-co-founder Claude Chabrol passed away in Paris this morning at the age of 80. Chabrol, like Éric Rohmer who died this past January, wrote for the Cahiers du cinéma film journal in the 1950s before making his own feature films later that decade alongside New Wave contemporaries Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Jacques Rivette. But while Rohmer’s late career slowed down a great deal and Godard’s oscillated between experimentation and obscurity, Chabrol continued to prove himself a particularly prolific filmmaker well after the New Wave’s late 1950s and 1960s heyday.

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