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CAHIERS DU CINEMA - GODARD'S TOP TEN LISTS

Justin Biberkopf

about 5 years ago

From “Godard on Godard,” these are the top ten lists Jean-Luc Godard made up when he was a critic:

1956
Mr. Arkadin
Elena et les Hommes
The Man Who Knew Too Much
Bus Stop
Slightly Scarlet
The Saga of Anatahan
Un Condamne a mort s’est echappe
Fear (Rossellini)
Bowhani Junction
My Sister Eileen

1957
Bitter Victory
The Wrong Man
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Hollywood or Bust
Les Trois font la paire (Guitry)
A King in New York
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz
Sawdust and Tinsel
Saint Joan

1958
The Quiet American
Journey into Autumn
Bonjour Tristesse
Montparnasse 19
Une Vie
Man of the West
Touch of Evil
L’Eau vive (Villiers)
White Nights
Les Temps des oeufs durs (Carbonneaux)

1959
Pickpocket
Deux Hommes dans Manhattan (Melville)
Les Rendez-vous du diable (Tazieff)
Moi, un noir (Rouch)
La Tete contre les murs (Franju)
Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe (Renoir)
Hiroshima, mon amour
Les Quatre cent coups
Les Cousins
Du cote de la Cote (Varda)

1960
Les Bonnes Femmes
The Savage Innocents
Give a Girl a Break (Donen)
Sansho Dayu
Moonfleet (Lang)
Nazarin
Poem of the Sea (Dovzhenko)
Psycho
Le Testament d’Orphee
Tirez sur le pianiste

1961
Two Rode Together (Ford)
La Pyramide humaine (Rouch)
Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier (Renoir)
Les Godelureaux (Chabrol)
Paris Nous Appartient (Rivette)
Rocco and his Brothers
Exodus (Preminger)
Lola (Demy)
Era Notte a Roma (Rosselini)
The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse

1962
Hatari!
Vanina Vanini
Through a Glass, Darkly
Jules et Jim
Le Signe du Lion
Vivre sa Vie
The Flaming Years (Dovzhenko)
Sweet Bird of Youth (Brooks)
Une Grosse Tete (de Givray)
Ride the High Country (Peckinpah)

The Ten Best American Sound Films:
Scarface
The Great Dictator
Vertigo
The Searchers
Singin’ in the Rain
The Lady from Shanghai
Bigger Than Life
Angel Face
To Be or Not to Be
Dishonored

1963
Proces de Jeanne d’Arc (Bresson)
The Exterminating Angel
The Birds
The Chapman Report (Cukor)
Adieu Philippine (Rozier)
Donovan’s Reef (Ford)
Muriel
The Nutty Professor
Irma la Douce
Two Weeks in Another Town (Minelli)

The Six Best French Films since the Liberation:
Le Plaisir (Ophuls)
La Pyramide humaine
Le Testament d’Orphee
Le Testament du Docteur Cordelier
Pickpocket
Les Godelureaux

1964
I Fidanzanti (Olmi)
Gertrud
Marnie
Man’s Favorite Sport?
The Red Desert
A Distant Trumpet (Walsh)
Love with the Proper Stranger (Mulligan)
Cheyenne Autumn (Ford)
La Ragazza di Bube (Comencini)
L’Amour a la chaine (de Givray)

1965
The Enchanted Desna (Dovzhenko)
Winter Light
Journal d’une femme en blanc (Autant-Lara)
Young Cassidy (Ford)
Shock Corridor
Gun Hawk (Ludwig)
Vidas Secas
Yoyo (Etaix)
Lilith (Rossen)
The Unworthy Old Peter and Pavla (Forman-Allio)

I find these fascinating…. Any thoughts?

sacredc​hao

about 5 years ago

I find it interesting that he lists a few Bergman films, seeing as how Bergman thought him “a fucking boor.”

Justin Biberkopf

about 5 years ago

He shows wide ranging taste. I guess Godard looked for what we might call “pure cinema.” But yes, many of his choices are more sedate and “conservative” than his own films.

Steve Oerkfit​z

about 5 years ago

A few lightweight films there. Man’s Favorite Sport, Irma La Douce, Chapman Report, Donovan’s Reef. Seems to be kind to directors he’s fond of. Surprised he liked Exodus considering his support of the Palestine people and supposed anti-semitism.

wonder6​789

about 5 years ago

Steve Oerkfitz,
support of the Palestinian people has nothing to do in his case with anti-semitism.

Justin Biberkopf

about 5 years ago

My Sister Eileen really surprised me. But then, he loves musicals, as shown by A Woman is a Woman and Pierrot.

I wish it was easier to see films by Jean Rouch and Dovzhenko, not to mention some of the even more obscure ones.

And as far as “Yoyo” goes, your guess is as good as mine.

NIGHTSH​IFT

about 5 years ago

Thanks much for sharing. Kinda curious selection he got there. I noticed the absence of Japanese films, but great to see Scarface and Ride the High Country on his list.

Steve Oerkfit​z

about 5 years ago

@Wonder6789-I know that. But Godard has been accused of anti-semitism in the past. I didn’t mean to imply that they necessarily go hand in hand. But they often do.

Bobby Wise

about 5 years ago

i dont put too much stock in these lists. they’re old for one, and there wasn’t much critical writing to back up his opinions on them. i bet if you asked him about these lists now he’d disown a majority of his selections.

Justin Biberkopf

about 5 years ago

Noel, you’re welcome. I like Godard on Godard, I think it’s a great book. Yeah, you’re right, no Kurosawa, just one Mizoguchi. He did like Hawks’ Scarface a lot, and he really liked his westerns. Never made one though.

Bobby, he did write extensively about some of these directors/films. I guess his most in-depth piece is his essay on The Wrong Man. The thing about year-end best-ofs is they tend to represent films that you really enjoyed going to. Maybe some of those lightweight ones were dates with Anna K.

He did identify Shock Corridor, Marnie, The Birds, Sanso Dayu, Bonnes Femmes, The Exterminating Angel, Mr. Arkadin, Pickpocket, A Man Escaped as important films, and I think those choices have stood the test of time.

Bobby Wise

about 5 years ago

now that i look again, its a pretty obscure list. half of these films i’ve never heard of.

Justin Biberkopf

about 5 years ago

After he had been making his own films for a few years, his lists became even bolder and more eccentric.

Kenji

about 5 years ago

Godard rated Mizoguchi extremely highly, comfortably the best from Japan, and praised Ugetsu to the skies, paid homage at his tomb- the relative lack of Mizo is mainly due to the years involved (although at Venice in 54, Sansho a latecomer in this list)

David Ehrenst​ein

about 5 years ago

Here’s why Godard Like “My Sister Eileen” so much.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBBoQxLQ9Rk

Justin Biberkopf

about 5 years ago

Thanks for finding that, David. There is something charming and almost Parisian about it, and it’s even reminiscent of A Woman is a Woman.

I’ve been meaning to revisit this thread because, ever since I collected all these lists in one place, I’ve been making a concerted effort to track down and watch as many of these movies as I can. Here are the ones I’ve seen so far:

Slightly Scarlet — comes down as a mix of Flamingo Road, Written on the Wind, with a dash of Key Largo. Dwan is a crasser version of Sirk, Sirk with hand guns. Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl are two of the most flaming red heads in history. The long shots of cars driving by the shore with blue sky and blue sea seem to have influenced Godard in Contempt and Pierrot le Fou. Fun.

The Wrong Man – the visual and dramatic economy of this film are so strong it could almost be a silent film without losing anything. It’s the essence of how to tell a story with images.

Du cote de la Cote – Agnes Varda’s charming, sensual love letter to the Cote d’Azur. There are many visual jokes that Vigo or even Frank Tashlin would have loved. Again, some of this seems to come back in Contempt.

Sweet Bird of Youth – an acting tour de force. The long tango between Newman and Page in their hotel suite could be a blueprint for all of those lengthy bedroom scenes in early Godard. Pretty subversive for 1960. The whole film reeks of the booze-sweat from a hot swampy night in a southern backwater town. Tennessee Williams was in a unique position to recognize the threat (and hypocrisy) latent in the strange marriage of political graft and Christian family values; some should have revived this play on Broadway four years ago.

Muriel, Gertrud, Touch of Evil, and of course his own Vivre Sa Vie are perennial favorites.

Justin Vicari

about 5 years ago

Exodus. Beautiful cinemascope, beautiful color. Preminger was a master at very deep but natural-looking color. There’s an early shot of the shoreline at Gaza with a jalopy parked in the middle of it, as a voice which turns out to be a tour guide’s talks about all the ancient ruined civilizations that resided there. The subliminal message is that our culture (the car) will one day be in rubble, and this must have given Godard a big clue as to how to tell the story of Contempt. This movie is also, probably, ten times better than Leon Uris’s bestselling novel, simply because you can put living passions right on the screen, and who are better passions that Eve Marie Saint, Paul Newman, and Sal Mineo? Godard once said that “bad” books made the best movies, and I think he was right about that.

Doinel

about 5 years ago

Damn, I didn’t know anyone else liked Love with the Proper Stranger. Why is it OOP?

Zachary Phillip Brailsf​ord

about 5 years ago

Does anyone think it wrong of Godard as a director to put his own film on the list? I mean, sure Vivre sa Vie has been really hailed by everyone, but should he have been a little more modest and said something like, “Because I made this film, I can’t necessarily review it”? I don’t know. Ebert didn’t review Beyond the Valley of the Dolls when he wrote it, so…

But, hey, it’s great that he has a lot of good movies on there, most notably, for me, being those of Bergman’s Silence trilogy, which is the best trilogy of films I’ve ever seen (although Through a Glass Darkly tends to feel a little more weak than the other two).

Savvy

___ _____

about 5 years ago

I wonder what his lists would be for this decade.

Justin Vicari

about 5 years ago

Doinel, about half of these titles are sadly out of print or unreleased. I have been collecting and watching as many as I can, and can say that Godard has not steered me wrong yet. Every film that he likes is intelligent, well-made, and perhaps most surprising, fiendishly entertaining.

This decade, I think there’s a greater divide between movies of entertainment and movies of artistic merit. One of the cool things about these lists, imo, is how Hollywood and Europe comfortably share the same ground.

Justin Vicari

about 5 years ago

I also watched The Quiet American. Excellent moody political film by Mankiewicz; fatalism steeped in gorgeous high-contrast black and white cinematography. For those turned off by the dialogue-heavy Barefoot Contessa, this film offers more trademark Mankiewicz writing — I want to say he doesn’t just write dialogue, he sculpts it in mid-air. But with characters as intriguing, shifting, and heartbreaking as these, I didn’t mind. Godard even addresses the issue of whether Mankiewicz is too literary for the cinema.

Polaris​DiB

about 5 years ago

“Does anyone think it wrong of Godard as a director to put his own film on the list? I mean, sure Vivre sa Vie has been really hailed by everyone, but should he have been a little more modest and said something like, “Because I made this film, I can’t necessarily review it”? I don’t know. Ebert didn’t review Beyond the Valley of the Dolls when he wrote it, so…”

I go back and forth on this issue. I think if you are a good enough critic that you can recognize the flaws and skills of your own work with a somewhat objective (never fully objective, that doesn’t exist) detachment, then it is perfectly okay, and Godard’s criticism skills were basically his filmmaking skills, so I don’t have a problem with it in this case. I think it only becomes a problem when the ego of the director gets in the way of both the work s/he’s trying to promote* and when it eventually proves not to stand the test of time, but Vivre sa Vie seems to be standing on its own now.

*Actually, I watched Made in USA last night and, as my fourth Godard experience, it still kind of shows me that when you watch a Godard film you are watching something so intensely Godard that it’s almost not worth trying to discuss on any other merits. I don’t know, I think the only thing that leaves me cold about Godard films is Godard himself. Otherwise I just see his movies as cinematic proofs the way mathematical proofs are constantly reworked through different theories in science. Made in USA, for instance, is an attempt to build sound the same way the shots are built within cinema, and to make a film noir in the brightest and most primary colors. It works really well, but you can feel Godard behind the camera as he does it.

—PolarisDiB

Wildfir​e

about 5 years ago

Well, we know he doesn’t like Michael Moore or Tarantino (or Cannes). See this interview here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2005/apr/29/2

‘Yet he continues to study film and experiment as energetically as ever. He is brutally dismissive of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and of the spate of other recent films attacking globalisation, warmongering and US cultural imperialism. “They say they are attacking Bush, but they are not doing it in movie terms, but in words.” He calls Moore (in his idiosyncratic English) “just a Hollywood reporter man”, and compares him unfavourably with the great cinéma vérité documentary-maker Frederick Wiseman. He even suggests that Moore’s work may actually have helped Bush. “It’s not enough to be against Adolf Hitler. If you make a disastrous movie, you’re not against Adolf Hitler.” (Whether he has actually seen Fahrenheit 9/11 is not in any way apparent.)

Nor is Godard especially flattering about the legions of admirers who make reference to him in their own movies or even name their companies after him. Quentin Tarantino, for example, calls his production company A Band Apart, in deference to Godard’s 1964 classic, Bande à Part. “He says he admires me, but that’s not true,” Godard muses, then makes a cryptic remark about the torture and humiliation of prisoners by US guards in Iraq. "What is never said about Tarantino is that those prisons we are shown pictures of, where the torture is taking place, are called “reservoir dogs”. I think the name is very appropriate." …….

He sounds equally disenchanted with film festivals. “In the beginning I believed in Cannes, but now it’s just for publicity. People come to Cannes just to advertise their films, not with a particular message. But the advantage is that if you go to the festival, you get so much press coverage in three days that it advertises the film for the rest of the year.” ’

Justin Vicari

about 5 years ago

Regarding Vivre sa Vie on his list, he put a lot of himself into that movie, it was his first film that really risked deep feeling, and I think he was right to acknowledge it. He places it at number 6, after Hawks, Rossellini, Bergman, Truffaut and Rohmer. Notice how 1959, the year the New Wave broke, is all French, a very personal acknowledgement of nationalistic triumph.

It’s hard not to look back and see Tarantino’s love/affinity for scenes of torture as a way of preparing us to lie down and accept Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. Torture should never be escapist entertainment.

Wildfir​e

about 5 years ago

Second that, Justin.

sandwic​hes

over 4 years ago

Pretty interesting list. Anyone know where I can find some of his writing on film? What has he been up to lately as a critic, other than dismissing Spielberg and Michael Moore.

Alexand​er Robino

over 3 years ago

“Torture should never be escapist entertainment.”

Well put, Justin!