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in memory of Jean-Luc Godard, contemptuous experimenter and total filmmaker

He died at the age of 91 Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most important directors of all time, total filmmaker, experimenter and inventor of forms that have changed the history of cinema. Born in Paris …

He died at the age of 91 Jean-Luc Godard, one of the most important directors of all time, total filmmaker, experimenter and inventor of forms that have changed the history of cinema. Born in Paris on December 3, 1930 into a wealthy bourgeois Protestant family of Swiss origin, the father was a doctor and the mother came from a family of bankers. Godard completed his studies in a Swiss college and in his hometown where, after high school, he attended the Sorbonne obtaining, in 1949, a diploma in ethnology. In the meantime, he frequented the many film clubs born after the war, met the critic André Bazin and many future directors like him (then still critics) such as François Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jacques Rivette.

In the early 1950s, he stood out for his radical film criticism in magazines such as Arts ei Cinema notebooks by Bazin himself. His first article on Cinema Gazetteentitled Joseph Mankiewiczand in 1952 it is the Cinema notebooks under the pseudonym of Hans Lucas where he published three articles: a short review on Rudolph Maté, a more committed review on The other man by Alfred Hitchcock and an essay entitled Defense and illustration of classic cutting which demonstrates his global vision of the arts such as literature, cinema and painting. However, as for many directors of the time, even for Godard, film criticism was only a formative and passing interlude, an activity to be abandoned on the threshold of maturity to devote oneself to making films at the premiere. person, a thing for young people.

Photo: Jacques Haillot / Sygma / Sygma via Getty Images

The first feature film dates from 1959 and is a film that will become the absolute manifesto of New wave French, one of those films for which in the history of cinema there is a before it’s a after: Until the last breath. The feature film, born from an idea put aside by Truffaut and whose original title is Breathlesswas shot in just four weeks on the streets of Paris on a shoestring budget and using a handheld camera, encoding decisive transgressions compared to the French “cinéma de papa” of the time: disjointed editing, actors speaking directly to the public, glances in the car. Godard’s cinephilia, who obsessively evokes American genre films of the 1950s, and contributes to making the film, awarded in Berlin for the best direction and capable of making them the protagonists John Paul Belmondo And John Seberg immortal icons, a fundamental crossroads for the birth of modern cinema.

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The 1960s were characterized for Godard by great artistic effervescence, with essential works such as It’s my life (Living knows the ways1962), with the muse Anna KarineAnd Contempt (Contempt1963), with Michael Piccoli, Brigitte Bardot and a memorable sequence at the Villa Malaparte in Capri. From this period (1964) is also another of the most famous Godardian films: Strips apart, set in a cold and autumnal Paris, tells the story of two friends, played by Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur, who meet by chance a young girl, beautiful and naive, played by Anna Karina, who will influence their lives in the short and long term. long term. term. . The splendid sequence shot at the Louvre, where they run like crazy through the immense spaces of the museum will be repeated many years later by Bernardo Bertolucci in his movie The Dreamers – The Dreamers, where the protagonists Eva Green, Louis Garrel and Michael Pitt repeat the race to the Louvre by identifying with Franz, Arthur and Odile, precisely the three carefree young people who roam Paris with an old convertible SIMCA and spend their days between a course of English and a bistro where to have a drink and fantasize about their future. During these years, Godard was also interested in the erotic content of the contemporary image: posters of actors, advertisements, comic strips, glossy magazines. From this point of view, films like Agent Lemmy Beware: Alphaville Mission (1965), The 11 o’clock bandit (1965), Two or three things I know about her (1967).

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Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot in Contempt. Photo: Marceau-Cocinor / Concordia Films / Georges de Beauregard / Carlo Ponti / Sunset Boulevard Collection / Corbis via Getty Images

In the years immediately following questions his very nature as an authormarry the Marxist ideals of fierce criticism of the consumer society and evaluates the possibility of creating a truly revolutionary cinema, by basing the Dziga Vertov Group, a collective based on total revisionism. The cinema becomes the place where to carry out a severe criticism of the civilization of consumption and the commodification of human relations, but also where one can reflect on the same status of the image as the “natural” carrier of an ideology. The problem of praxis becomes a constant in the “political” phase of Godard in the films The Chinese And Week End – A woman and a man from Saturday to Sunday (both still dating from 1967).

Since the mid-1970s, Godard has explored the potential of new technological means, in which video and electronics merge with cinema, while among the most significant films of the 1980s are Passion (1982), Name Carmen (1983) and I salute you marie (1985), scandalous and apocryphal reinterpretation of the story of the Virgin Mary. In 1988, the capital and monumental project was designed for Canal Plus History(ies) of cinemawhich will last until 1997 and from the experience of which will be born four volumes with all the interpretative and iconographic materials which will be published in 1998. With the film new wave from 1990 and with alas for me in 1993, Godard manages to write the whole screenplay without using a word of his own but by having the characters say other people’s sentences in order to leave room for the images which, with their internal music, create a perfect geometry.

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Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP via Getty Images

In the last phase of his career, more spaced out in terms of production continuity, he still made his own works with the most contemptuous and uncompromising experimentalism. In 2001 praise of love was selected at Cannes, while in 2010 he released Socialist films on the occasion ofHonorary Oscar, which Godard will not withdraw. In 2014 Farewell to the language won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, while The Image Book in 2018 he won a special Palme d’Or.

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“He had his own way of working. You never followed a real script, he kept everything in his heart and in his mind. At home, however, we spent hours and hours creating my characters, bringing them to life. They were splendid years, despite the fact that the character of Jean-Luc was not the simplest”his life and adventure companion Anna Karina said of him, while Bertolucci, who venerated him for much of his life and made false papers to reward him with the Golden Lion in Venice for Name Carmenputting an end to his fast from great prizes in the feasts, he described it thus, with a phrase which renders very well and in a tactile and dark way his instinctive and inexhaustible sensitivity: And Godard, who made two or three films a year, was the author who best represented us, with his somewhat Calvinist severity and his ability to hold the world and what flowed in the palm of his hands..

Godard
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Read also: Farewell Jean-Luc Godard: the giant of French cinema and father of the New Wave was 91 years old

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