Hey there. This is my first topic in the forum, so nice to be able to communicate with you all :)
So, I am a recent film buff of about a year now. (However, considering I’m relatively young, it kind of evens out.) After taking a few film history classes and going to a slew of film screenings, I found myself particularly attracted to New Wave. Now, I have seen a good mix of work from both Godard and Truffaut. For example: Day for Night, The 400 Blows, Jules et Jim, Contempt, Breathless, Band of Outsiders, and Pierrot le Fou to name a few…
I know that Truffaut and Godard were not the only people who impacted the new wave by any means. However, I find that they are often compared side by side. Also, their work poses some very stark contrast…so why not compare?
Anyways, I know whose work I prefer. And perhaps this subject has been spoken of before, but I’ll go out on a limb. If you had to compare the two, who do you tend to favor?
I’d tend to favor Godard.
It’s more than a bit unfair as Truffaut is dead and who knows what he might have made had he lived.
They were compatriots, rivals and in the end very different filmmakers — though they knew all the same people and had many similar ideas (at least initially) about the movies and the way they worked — or didn’t.
Truffaut was a better director on the whole. Godard was more of a risk-taker, often times more interesting and exciting, and less afraid to fall on his face. They’ve both made stinkers and a few of the greatest movies ever made.
Two of my favorite directors, but I’ve found Truffaut to be more consistent with his films.
Melville. Ah, but if I had to choose between the two aforementioned, I’d say Truffaut. As Shotzi said, Truffaut was a better director overall, but Godard often produced more interesting films if something like cinematic shorthand can be analyzed. I think it’s entirely fair to compare the two though. Sure, Godard’s still living, but he hasn’t really done anything worth raving about for, say 30 years? If we compare the two according to Godard’s prime period and Truffaut’s entire career then it’s a bit more fair – that alone gives Godard a run for his money because he never made a film like Jules et Jim, let alone 400 Blows.
I prefer Godard but Truffaut has been given critical short thrift since his death, especially his 70s masterpieces like Bed & Board, Two English Girls, and The Story of Adele H.
And if an argument can be made that Godard is the greatest filmmaker of all time, one can also be made that Truffaut is the greatest film critic of all time (Godard himself makes this argument in Histoire(s) du cinema).
Alain Robbe-Grillet, Chris Marker, and possibly Resnais and Melville are the only native born French directors who I am willing to celebrate. Truffaut and Godard in my admittedly limited experiences have only struck me as sentimental and vapid and just vapid respectively.
My brain favors Godard, but my heart favors Truffaut.
Good point Robert-
I was going to say that, out of all adjectives, Godard seems to be described most as “pretentious” whereas Truffaut is more empathetic. I find Truffaut’s characters to be harder to empathize with. For some reason, I feel like Godard’s characters have more depth. I mean, I usually despise one character in a Godard film whereas I found Jules et Jim hard to watch because I couldn’t empathize with any characters and, in fact, disliked them.
I have to admit I’m pretty ignorant on both these directors. And like Deckard, I’d prefer to vote for Jean-Pierre Melville. But from what I have seen of Truffaut and Godard (The 400 Blows and Band of Outsiders), here is what I’ll say: I see more potential and range from Truffaut. There was something timeless about The 400 Blows that I really appreciated and the story seemed to resonate with me. It’s not flashy or complicated but that’s ok. With Band of Outsiders, it felt more like a product of it’s time – a film that was probably really mindblowing when it first came out but has lost some of it’s luster as the decades pass. Just based on this film, I can see why Tarantino would lift the name as what I just stated about BoO can aptly be applied to QT’s films.
Like I said, it’s impossible for me to compare Truffaut and Godard as a whole since I’ve only seen one film of theirs. So instead, I’m judging the two films I’ve seen and just reading other people’s comments, it sort of falls in line with how I feel about The 400 Blows and Band of Outsiders. If you want to talk about French New Wave in general, I actually think I like Cleo 5 to 9 better than either of these films. But that’s neither here nor there.
One of these days I will see Pierre le Fou and Breathless to get a better taste for Godard as well as see more of Truffaut’s films. Regardless, it’s pretty cool that two guys like this could come out of an organization and make a number of classic films. You don’t see that a lot these days.
Very different. I cant’ compare them.
>Regardless, it’s pretty cool that two guys like this could come out of an organization and make a number of classic films.
With Rivette, Rohmer, and Chabrol, that’s five guys who came out of the same organization and shook the world.
Good choice for your first topic.
I’m a classic diverger – comparing directors is fair, because one can essentialize an oeuvre – just don’t ask me to pick my all time favorite movie
////French New Wave in general, I actually think I like Cleo 5 to 9 better than either of these films…\\\
Interesting…..you realize that Varda wasn’t necessarily of the New Wave?
From my notes:
An ending, beautiful in its simplicity.
I couldn’t place the tentative camera work in time, but this explains: the grandmother of the French new wave, Varda belonged more precisely to the complementary Rive Gauche movement.
Edit: Her DP was Jean Rabier who worked mostly with Claude Chabrol: I have 6 of his films in my queue so can see if it was Rabier’s sole influence on the camera work in Cleo
“My brain favors Godard, but my heart favors Truffaut.”
My sentiments exactly, well put. I think it’s unfair to say that one is better than the other, Godard’s work, or at least his early work which I am familiar with, experiments with form and throws politics right into our faces; Truffaut’s films always seem to me to be much more sincere – I would actually find it easier to empathize with Truffaut’s characters than Godard’s, his Antoine Doinel Cycle for instance wouldn’t function without that relationship between character and audience.
Well there you go. Shows how much I know. I don’t know why I thought that but I guess I thought I remember reading that Cleo 5 to 7 (sorry, I originally called it Cleo 5 to 9) was a french new wave film. In any case, I enjoyed it more than the boys’ films.
If I had to pick one, it would be Godard. Despite what a lot of people think, I find the heart in a lot of his films even if many of them are very intellectual. For example, look at “Tout va Bien” with Jane Fonda. On the surface, it plays like a commentary on the working class and what not, which it is. But to me, it shows how much he cares about these types of people. I mean shit, he made a whole film defending them and trying to voice some of their concerns (along with his). His films get me to think, startle me with it’s visuals which still ring fresh to me today, and always somehow pull me in emotionally.
But I absolutely love Truffaut as well! “Jules et Jim” is one of my favorite French movies of all time.
Well, Truffaut was a bit swarthier than Godard, but Godard was fast. I’d say it would go the distance and Godard would win on points.
I had a lot of technical issues with Cleo, not least of which was the lighting
Truffaut rocks….there was some other thread I don’t know if it was here or elsewhere on the web where it showed how cruel Godard was as a human being. Either the Truffaut or Godard boards on IMDB it has personal letters from Truffaut to Godard, berating his actions toward other people and telling him he was through. Quite interesting. I have always liked Truffaut more.
Godard abandoned his closest friends for ideological reasons – he said you are all wrong and I never intend to see you again
2 or 3 things has an interview with one of his former friends -It was a touching interview, his friends really loved him
What’s this about liking the character of Jules et Jim? Is that a prerequisite for a good film, likability?
I’m with Robert though on Cleo. Purely as a cinematic experience it’s great, especially when I switch my brain off and just take in the story and the characters, but the lighting is problematic almost distractingly so.
The problem I have with Godard is the same problem I have with Tarantino. I know these two have been compared (erroneously) for the same reason but hear me out. It’s all fine and wonderful to comment on pop culture and to reference various films and techniques with your films, but to put out an entire filmography based on this is laughable.
Sure, Godard remains a better filmmaker than Tarantino will ever be, but the problem with his characters is not that they’re not relatable (word?) but that he attempts to make them relatable by the references they infer (directly or indirectly). For instance, Breathless’ protagonist (I forget his name) has an obsession with Bogart which in and of itself is fine, but do we really need Godard to drive this nail into our brain by referring to it incessantly throughout the film? What do we gain by this other than just the example of how to eschew subtlety? Anyway, all that to say that there’s plenty to not like about Godard besides labeling him as “pretentious”. The word pretentious has probably done more harm to art than good.
Truffaut was a more understated, minimalist director which doesn’t make him better or worse than Godard, but it certainly makes him a more mature one. So, they’re both fantastic directors, but very different, approaching art from very differing angles.
///… but the problem with his characters is not that they’re not relatable…\\\
That’s true, but if they were more empathetic or evocative, would that take away from the message? ….you might have a different film. For me, Godard’s films are definitive.
Cleo: wish there was more of Legrand’s music played – what a tease the score was !
Truffaut had far more commercial success than Godard. “The Last Metro” was a genuine blockbuster. But I don’t care for it half as much as “The Green Room.”
“but the problem with his characters is not that they’re not relatable”
Ok, so that statement was very badly put I admit. What I meant was the insincerity by which Godard attempts to make his characters relate to the audience. The entire character of Breathless’ protagonist is defined not by the situations he finds himself in or his personality, but by the references Godard is molding him out of.
A similar thing was done more recently in Children of Men (well, it’s done a lot in Hollywood, but nevermind) where we’re given all this false empathy. Such as a character is listening to King Crimson, oh I like King Crimson so this a character I can relate to. Or there’s a giant pig (the Pink Floyd pig) floating in the distance, I like Pink Floyd so this director must have good taste. Or Michael Caine’s character smokes pot, so he must be a rebel but also a good guy. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Children of Men was pretty good, but it’s this kind of “character development” that just bothers me for some reason. Sure, it’s easier than crafting a scenario or history (or interaction with various characters) that molds this character and gives motive to his actions, but what’s really gained?
I expected to see Godard be the winner here. He was certainly more revolutionary and genre-shattering, but I find Truffaut’s films much more relatable and humane. To be fair, though, I’ve only seen two Godards (Breathless and My Life To Live) compared to 14 Truffauts.
I also agree with Gringo Tex that much of Truffaut’s 70s work is undervalued. Everyone focuses on 400 Blows & Jules and Jim, but personally I like Bed & Board and Two English Girls just as much, if not more. Still haven’t seen The Story of Adele H. or The Green Room yet, though.
Now I’m off to watch Shoot the Piano Player for the third time.
Bizarre, I was about to write, “my brains says Godard; my heart says Truffaut” when I saw that Robert wrote that above. I guess that’s a common sentiment.
////I meant was the insincerity by which Godard attempts to make his characters relate to the audience.\\\
Well now you’re saying it was his intent – which is better.
His characters are kind of plastic, but that works for me because it pushes the narrative back and brings the allegory into better view.
That seems incredibly unfair. “Hey, this character likes music I like so, the director, and/or writer, must be evading any ‘real’ character development.” Can’t director’s put music in their films anymore without it being attacked as laziness, and “easier?”
Anyway, Godard is not trying to make his characters relatable, sans maybe the plight of the lead in Vivre sa Vie, a film that completely destroys the notion that Godard based his entire career on references to pop culture, and various films (which isn’t a valid criticism anyway, any film ever made references something else), by the way, as does most of his filmography. So, I don’t really know how he bases an entire career on something he doesn’t actually base his entire career on. And even if he did it’s still not fair to criticize him. Ozu based his entire career on the dissolution of the family… does his central focus on similar themes in every film make him less of a director? No. Absolutely not.
Anyway, Godard uses “characters” as voices for ideas, not as people to be loved, or hated. He’s looking in a completely different direction, and it’s not really just, or fair to criticize for doing so. It would be like criticizing Antonioni for having too many ennui laden characters. That’s the whole point.