We’ve ticked Clouzot and Truffaut off the list in our Director’s Series, and it was only a matter of time before we’d get around to celebrating the work of their New Wave colleague and one of the most influential filmmakers of our time, Jean Luc Godard.
We’ve ticked Clouzot and Truffaut off the list in our Directors' Showcase, and it was only a matter of time before we’d get around to celebrating the work of their New Wave colleague and one of the most influential filmmakers of our time, Jean Luc Godard.
Throughout July, we have five of the Swiss-Franco director’s films for you to enjoy. Godard was 80-years-old when he made his last film but the Directors' Showcase focuses on his early work.
We begin with Godard’s debut feature film Breathless (A Bout de Souffle), Sunday 1st July, 8.30pm. A film well received critically and commercially in both France and abroad, Breathless brought international attention to the French New Wave movement and Godard became an overnight sensation thanks to a carefully planned publicity campaign. Obviously, spending a couple of years working in the publicity department at Twentieth Century Fox’s Paris office paid off.
The film was originally Truffaut’s idea and he had collaborated on it with both Clouzot and Godard, but they were unable to secure funding. After Truffaut’s The 400 Blows became a major success at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959, New Wave became the ‘next big thing”, and Godard asked Truffaut if he could resurrect Breathless. Truffaut not only agreed, but helped him secure a producer, Georges de Beauregard.
The film tells the story of a petty criminal on the run who tries to convince his American girlfriend in Paris to run away with him. Godard re-wrote Truffaut’s original idea (based on a true story), and then re-wrote his own script day by day as the production was shooting. It was an unconventional approach, as was the idea of shooting hand held with minimum lighting, and if inspiration was lacking Godard would shoot for only a couple of hours a day. During the editing stage Godard introduced the jump cut into feature films, breaking with the conventions of classic cinema.
In 1961, Godard released A Woman is a Woman (Une Femme est une Femme), Sunday 8th July 8.30pm, staring Anna Karina, Jean-Claude Brialy and Jean-Peal Belmondo (who also starred in Breathless). A musical comedy about a woman blackmailing her boyfriend into marrying her by having an affair with his best friend, A Woman is a Woman won best actress for Karina and the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, but failed to live up to the commercial success of Breathless. Anna Karina and Godard married in 1961, and while they almost divorced a year later, after Karina had an affair with a co-star, their tempestuous relationship continued until 1965, when they did divorce.
Contempt (Le Mepris), Sunday 15th July 8.30pm, about a screenwriter and his failing marriage is possibly Godard’s most conventional film and stared Brigitte Bardot. Released in 1963, Godard’s edit was initially rejected by the film studio for not showing enough of Bardot nude. They happily paid for re-shoots, which included the famous opening shot of Bardot lying naked on a bed naming the parts of her body. Need I say more.
Godard released two films in 1965, his black and white sci-fi, film noir Alphaville, Sunday 22nd July 8.30pm, and Crazy Pete (Pierrot Le Fou), Sunday 29th July 8.30pm, about an unhappily married man who runs away with a past lover only to discover she’s a murderer and gun runner.
As Godard once said, “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.”