Friday, August 27, 2010

My Man Godard

On Wednesday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 2011 recipient of the honorary lifetime achievement Oscar will go to French filmmaker icon Jean-Luc Godard.

To many people Godard (now 79 years old) is not only the best known French director alive today but perhaps the most emblematic of the Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave) movement, due to his film "Breathless" (1960) which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Godard, like many of his contemporaries (which included Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, and the man who made what is considered the first Nouvelle Vague film, Claude Chabrol) got his start as a critic, writing for the now legendary Cahiers du cinema. They were a bunch of young film enthusiast who quite frankly, changed the way we look at film today by introducing new concepts to the language of cinema. One example is giving us the "auteur theory".

Of all the French filmmakers of the 1960s Godard was probably the most political. His films always had a heavy leftist slant to them. He championed Marxism. Many, rightfully so, view him as a radical.

My own personal experience with Godard has been a rocky relationship. He is one of the few acclaimed filmmakers I am most critical of. I feel we should honor the great artist of cinema. We should always show an eagerness to see what new adventures they have in store of us. But Godard has usually been difficult for me to digest. I find him pretentious. I feel he is not as "mature" in his world view as say Ingmar Bergman (who was not a Godard fan) or Andrei Tarkovsky. He seemed like a kid shouting for attention. His ideas sometimes borderline on juvenile.

But, despite that, deep down, I have a small amount of admiration for the man. I feel he is a worthy recipient of a lifetime achievement award. In fact I would even say it is long overdue. I may not enjoy every Godard film I have seen, but, the man deserves credit for changing the way we view films. He clearly has been an influence on several American filmmakers. Looking over his work, he has left us with an indelible vision. Like any great filmmaker, his films have a personal stamp. We can tell when we are in Godard's presence.

Unfortunately I have only reviewed one Godard film on this blog, "La Chinoise" (1967) one of my least favorites of his films. Though I did comment on the anniversary of "Breathless".

Believe it or not but Godard has never been nominated for an Oscar before. Clearly a sign of the Academy's ignorance. Five of his films however, were nominated for the palme d'or at the Cannes Film Festival.

More amazing is Godard is actually the first of his contemporaries to receive a lifetime achievement award. Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol, Jacques Rivette, Claude Lelouch and Alain Resnais have not been awarded one. What exactly is the Academy waiting for?

In honor of Mr. Godard's honorary award I am going to list my ratings for all of the Godard films I have seen so far. If there are some titles you haven't seen or heard of, please check them out, despite whatever my rating may be.

1. "Breathless" (1960) *** 1\2 (out of ****)

2. "A Woman Is A Woman" (1961) ** 1\2 (out of ****)

3. "My Life To Live" (1962) *** (out of ****)

4. "Le Petit Soldat" (1963) ** (out of ****)

5. "Les Carabiniers" (Released in U.S. 1967) *** (out of ****)

6. "Contempt" (1963) *** (out of ****)

7. "A Band of Outsiders" (1964) ** 1\2 (out of ****)

8. "A Married Woman" (1964) ** (out of ****)

9. "Pierrot le fou" (1965) ** 1\2 (out of ****)

10. "Masculine Feminin" (1966) *** (out of ****)

11. "Two or Three Things I Know About Her" (1967) * (out of ****)

12. "La Chinoise" (1967) * (out of ****)

13. "Week End" (1967) * (out of ****)

14. "Tout va bien" (1972) **** (out of ****)

15. "Passion" (1982) ** (out of ****)

16. "First Name; Carmen" (1983) *** (out of ****)

17. "King Lear" (1987) ** (out of ****)

18. "Keep Your Right Up" (1987) * (out of ****)

19. "Nouvelle Vague" (1990) *** (out of ****)

20. "In Praise of Love" (2001) * 1\2 (out of *****)

21. "Notre Musique" (2005) **** (out of ****)