So, my fellow film connoisseurs…
I humbly ask for you assistance. I’ve seen a handful of Godard films up to this point: Contempt, Pierrot Le Fou, Breathless, Alphaville, A Woman Is A Woman, Made In USA, and finally Vivre Sa Vie.
What am I missing? I mean, Godard… he’s pretty revered to say the least. I understand the guy experimented with film, but hey, so do I – but I usually toss those experimentations out then try to make something good with whatever I maybe came across. People that I’ve spoken with seem to like Godard because he passed on his experimentations as his art…… and that’s where I first start to wonder.
I don’t see much of a heart in his stories either which makes it even harder. Really, stories seem like a secondary concern to him, preceded by style moreso; he usually just goes with a simple guy and a girl formula (occasionally a gun too).
I’m all for commending experimentation, but not as the final product…
Iunno, Someone give me something. We’ll see if any of you fine folks can help me see what I’ve been missing all this time.
Well, where do you think conventions come from? Experimentation. Why is experimentation important? Because it can prove innovative and valuable in the shaping of art. Sure, I see what you mean; be experimentive but polish it up for the final product, but doesn’t Godard do that?
Take Vivre sa Vie which really isn’t an experimental film, it’s pretty conventional for Godard, but it’s also a great film because he works within the restrictions of accessible cinema and accomplishes a minimalist masterpiece. Pierrot le Fou and Made in USA are just two products of his deconstructionalist approach (here’s a recent discussion thread on Made in USA), so these are closest to what you’re describing with experimentation, but these are also well-formed, thought-out films as well. Take Detective for example, which is so similar to Fassbinder’s excellent Beware of a Holy Whore in approach and direction, not to mention some wonderful colours and composition, it almost seems like the same filmmaker directed both.
Of course, not all of Godard’s catalog is great. La Chinoise is a politically-intent, but ultimately empty attempt, at deconstruction. I’m not a huge fan of Alphaville either, because it strikes me as a contrived, vacuous morality play too intent on Orwell, than less obvious possibilities. Breathless is another film that I’m not entirely fond of. As a debut it’s fine, and I can see why it’s caught on with cinephiles, but it’s just uninteresting to me and predictably done.
Whatever one’s opinion, Godard has undeniably been influential on film as a whole. He is a filmmaker that takes awhile to sink in, but once one’s grown accustomed to his style, there’s a lot to appreciate.
For a starter, see the films on a Cinematheque, not on dvd — 2nd, begin with Contempt, is it that unconventional?
You’ve seen enough of his films to say he doesn’t click with you now – take a break for a few years and if you aren’t still curious, then Godard didn’t work for you.
“La Chinoise is a politically-intent, but ultimately empty attempt, at deconstruction.”
it is interesting though, if not a complete success, wouldn’t you agree?
Godard is more about ideas than story. Don’t confuse that for style over substance though. Maybe Godard’s early films relied heavily on style—although a fascinating, revolutionary style in his best work—but Godard’s films do more than just tell ‘simple stories’. I’d suggest taking Robert Peabody’s advice. My introduction to Godard was Weekend, and i really enjoyed it, but some of his more experimental films just didn’t sit right with me at all when i first saw them in my late teens. They went over my head. I returned to Godard in my mid 20’s, and boy what a difference 5 years made in terms of general appreciation.
it’s hard to exaggerate the man’s influence on film. A lot of the techniques he introduced throughout the 60’s are still used today.
It seems like you do understand him. Just because you don’t understand the reason he is held in such high regard by some doesn’t mean that you don’t “get” him. It means you have a different opinion. Just because he is a “canon” director, does not mean that you have to have to have the same beliefs toward him as most others. You should obviously respect his contribution to film, but if you don’t like him or what he did beyond that, fuck ’em.
Remember Godard’s famous truth @ 24fps?
Truth is found at the edge of a medium’s limitations. This is partly what makes Godard the greatest of filmmakers: he pushes the limits of the medium.
Yes, the story can be secondary to the ideas and that makes for a conceptual struggle for the viewer resulting in conflict or dissonance.
What the viewer wants is resolution of conflict in the filmic ordering of reality and not to feel dissonance because things are left “undone’.
Actually, the fact that he includes a heartfelt story at the core of the movie is one of the few reasons I have patience with Breathless. If it didn’t have that, that movie would have been… well, Made in USA, only in black and white (which in this case would be so much worse!).
But just because he strives towards pushing the envelope, doesn’t necessarily mean that he succeeds every time. The ONLY way to understand Godard is by remembering that story is not the first priority, but that isn’t to imply that Godard is inhuman, he makes mistakes even if his objective is noble and unique. Just sayin’, heh.
@ DC La Chinoise is a politically-intent, but ultimately empty attempt, at deconstruction.
@ Joks _it is interesting though, if not a complete success, wouldn’t you agree?
Deckard should have to explain “deconstruction” because that would make the film way more interesting.
I think La Chinoise has at its core a heartfelt story – in fact that was the dominant perception of my experience.
The only intellectual consideration or question was about violence, which was left open ended. Old people (status quo) are against it, but what do the young have to make revolution with but violence?
Take Vivre sa Vie which really isn’t an experimental film
It was Godard’s most experimental film, as he purposely constrained himself with a big, heavy camera. Rossellini (otherwise a fan and very proud of his influence on Godard) found the stylistic constraint so arbitrary and pointless that he accused Godard of “Antonionism.”
I don’t see much of a heart in his stories either which makes it even harder.
Of the films you’ve seen, Contempt, Pierrot Le Fou, Alphaville, A Woman Is A Woman, and Vivre Sa Vie are primarily documentaries about his love for Anna Karina. Few directors have ever revealed their hearts so openly on the screen, so your assessment mystifies me.
Ah man, I just did a fairly elaborate explanation of it here if you’re willing to go scrolling for it, heh. Maybe I’ll attempt to get into it on this thread sometime in the future, but I’m braindead at this point. I do agree though that La Chinoise was a heartfelt story and I don’t really have any disagreement with the intention behind it necessarily, just aesthetically, personally I felt it could’ve been done more effectively, it kinda derailed itself a few times more than I thought was absolutely necessary, but to go deeper into it would require me to get into specifics, which I’m too tired to do at the moment – but I will soon, heh.
i don’t see a heartfelt story in La Chinoise, just an interesting concept and structure.
then again, it has been 10 years since i last saw it.
“It was Godard’s most experimental film, as he purposely constrained himself with a big, heavy camera.”
Perhaps so, but would it really be called “experimental” or just an “unnecessarily cumbersome/complicated way of doing something simple”? Heh, just sayin’.
don’t see a heartfelt story in La Chinoise
Not sure it was the story but more the “essence of youth” that was heartfelt.
This was for me was the surprising thing about the gestalt of the film: the way in which the elements of the film produced that essence. All the intellectual stuff drifted away after the film ended.
It was right there in the last incongruent scene – revolution is serious stuff, right?
1. The corrosive nature of popular culture
2. The separation of the sexes.
Robert: i’m not really disagreeing with you. I haven’t seen the film in years. I’ll have to give it another look. But from what i remember, i couldn’t quite figure out his take on the youth. how seriously he was taking them. There is an element of parody to them correct? It has been a while.
I think the parody happens because he puts Moa-ism in the hands of these bourgeois kids who are home from college for the summer.
……their sincerity as they innocently imitate revolutionaries.
It was like children imitating adults – they can get the surface effects correct and still not be an adult, but they don’t know that.
Godard is one of the world’s most interesting filmmakers because he’s so uneven. It’s hard to think that the same filmmaker that made Week End could have made Passion, or Band of Outsiders.
There’s one thing that hasn’t been mentioned that is, to me, the most interesting thing about Godard’s cinema; language. Films like Detective, and Made in U.S.A. have some of the most complex usage of dialogue and language in all of cinema. Which, from what I’ve heard, seems to be an enormous part of the experience in Film Socialisme.
It’s almost difficult to understand Godard if you don’t, assuming you’re not fluent in French, read up on exactly how he uses words, and puns, and the dialogue in his work.
I feel like his second wave was what produced his strongest ideas. Check out “Hail Mary”, “First Name: Carmen” and “King Lear”.
What I originally didn’t get about Godard is his intentions.
He’s not trying to tell a story. His films I’ve seen are about film. He deconstructs genre cliches and analyzes them, then repurposes them with postmodern cultural perspectives. Then he complains that stupid supply and demand interfere with his artistic vision. He’s all about expanding the notions of what a film is supposed to be.
He produces the sort of movies you get more from discussing than from watching.
Of course, all I’ve seen is Breathless, Contempt, and Pierrot le fou. So it’s likely what I said doesn’t apply to his later films.
“Remember Godard’s famous truth @ 24fps”
What does it mean?
“he pushes the limits of the medium.
Examples from some of his well-known films please?
“Godard is more about ideas than story.”
Is full-length ‘narrative’ film the best way to convey his ideas? Why not…write (a magazine article) or make at least a short film?
^so, the implied assumption is that you don’t need narrative to have ideas???
“Is full-length ‘narrative’ film the best way to convey his ideas?”
Obviously, yes. Why wouldn’t it be?
Do you need narrative to “have ideas”?
Furthermore, just to throw a monkeywrench in the gears, how ’bout a quote from one of my coworkers: “Ideas are nothing. Action is something.” That would still apply to Godard because what Godard shares with all of us here is ideas; what Godard has that not so many of us have is that he made a lot of movies off of those ideas. At least, that is one way of thinking about it. So, really the question I am asking is, “What of it?” or “So what?” about ideas… mostly because that very concept is, I believe, at the heart of whether one appreciates Godard or not.
In order to answer my own question to make it less frivoless, I myself have been becoming increasingly impatient over time with ideas. I’ve sat and talked and talked and talked and discussed and talked some more for 24 years of my life. I’ve heard thousands of ideas from many very intelligent (and a few dumb but inspired) individuals. Many of us spend a lot of energy and time on this board discussing ideas. But what use is any of it if we do not make something of it?
I think this covers both questions:
An idea isn’t “something?”
Just keep watching Breathless. You’ll get it.
I realize how that sounds, but cliches exist for a reason.
Something is anything. There’s a tile in my apartment. It is one of many identitical ones. Do you care?
(I admit I’m being quite facetious here, but this is an idea I’m thinking of exploring, even if just, er, intellectually, as I simultaneously try to work out how to “turn my ideas into reality” — loaded sentence, eh?)