HomeEntertainmentIn memoriam: Jean-Luc Godard, 1930-2022

In memoriam: Jean-Luc Godard, 1930-2022

“At the Cinémathèque I discovered a world which nobody had spoken to me about. They’d told us about Goethe, but not Dreyer… We watched silent films in the era of talkies. We dreamed about film. We were like Christians in the catacombs.”

Jean-Luc Godard, 3 December 1930 – 13 September 2022

Sad to say, another short video tribute post on the site this week. Jean-Luc Godard, a towering figure in the Nouvelle Vague and international film culture, has died aged 91. As a writer, director, critic and cinephile, Godard’s ideas about film have shaped the cinematic imaginations of several generations. And he adored silent cinema.

Few sound-era directors have been as playful with, and as devoted to, the art of the intertitle as Godard was. Here is a beautifully illustrated blogpost dedicated to his exploration of text, and graphic design on screen. I still remember being agog after seeing the opening titles of Tout Va Bien (1972) in college: not conventional credits, but a series of cheques written to each department. A critique of cinema as a commercial artform, embedded into one of his most political films, made with Jean-Pierre Gorin. The filmmaking collective they formed together was called the Dziga Vertov Group, in honour of the director of The Man With the Movie Camera.

Fondly, I remember this short comic interjection, a tribute to silent comedy by way of the fantasies of René Clair, in one of my most beloved films of all time. Another film that burst my brain open in college – Agnès Varda’s Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)

Godard’s films always balanced comedy, commentary, cool and deep, deep seriousness. And he was sincerely serious about cinema. There is no moment in any film as often quoted to convey the power of the projected image as Anna Karina watching Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc in Vivre sa Vie (1962). It remains intensely moving.

In 1980, Godard told Le Monde:

“Silent cinema, which was popular because it showed things without saying them, was very powerful… With speaking cinema, you had to stop seeing, thinking, imagining… Hitchcock made you die of anxiety by showing a row of bottles and not a row of corpses. He needed not an incredible power, but an image before, and after. There we see the truth. It makes justice. It is. Clear, no need to say, it shows. Seeing the story rather than telling it. Cinema is the only place where it can be done. “

Jean-Luc Godard (Le Monde, April 30, 1980)

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