Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Godard: Fraud, Cinema, and The New Wave

“Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.”

                  - Jean-Luc Godard.

When the French New Wave launched itself upon what had become a complacent world of movies, the very nature of cinema would be changed forever. One of the figures at the forefront of this movement was Jean-Luc Godard, who would become one of the major influences of filmmakers in the later half of the 20th century.

Jean-Luc Godard was born on December 3, 1930 in an elegant Parisian neighborhood but would spend most of his childhood living with his family in Switzerland. Then in 1946, Godard moved to Paris to study engineering at the Lycee Buffon. It was at this time that Godard began to focus less on his studies and devout himself to his love of film. In 1949 he began frequenting the single most important place to see films in postwar Paris, the Cinematheque Francaise.

In June of 1950 in the magazine La Gazette du Cinema, Jean-Luc Godard, would make his debut as a writer with a short article on director Joseph Mankiewicz. Over the next ten years, Jean-Luc Godard would work tiressly on perfecting his theories and philosophies on cinema. The seeds had been planted and revolution was about to spring forth

The world of Hollywood moving making had grown stale and too formulaic. The ways of old Hollywood studio system were about to be burned to the ground, the barbarians were at the gate. What Bob Dylan did to change the art of song writing, Jean-Luc Godard would do for film-making and he made his intentions known with his first feature, Breathless.

Released in 1959, A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), though not the first "New Wave" film is consider by many critics to be the quintessential film of the movement. At the time of the films release Sight and Sound magazine called it 'the group's intellectual manifesto'. . . It's loose style, use of rough jump cuts, and use of a hand held camera as well as its rebellious nature and attitude would make it one of the biggest influences of the American independent cinema that was to come.

Through most of the 1960's Jean-Luc Godard would continue making revolutionary pieces of cinematic art. Most of these monumental works would star his then wife, the beautiful Anna Karina. These films include Le Petit Soldat(The Little Soldiers), which was band in France for its depiction of torture used by both the French and Algerians during the Algerian War. Une Femme est Une Femme (A Woman Is A Woman), which was Godard's tribute to American musicals. Vivre Sa Vie(Her Life to Live), and Bande a Part (Band of Outsiders). Another important Godard film of this period was Le Mepris (Contempt), which starred Bridget Bardot, and is consider by some to be Godard finest all around film.

By the mid-sixties the political climate in France was chaotic and this would influence the direction of Godard's film-making. In films like Pierrot Le Fou, Masculine Feminine, La Chinoise, and Weekend, Godard's personal-political philosophies would be at the forefront. It was also during this period that tensions would grow between he and fellow director Francois Truffaut, critics and audiences began to dismiss Godard and the rest of the 'New Wave', and Godard would he himself break from the very thing he helped create in order to follow his own muse.

Jean-Luc Godard continues to make high quality artistic cinema in spite of the fact he is approaching the age of eighty. In the decades that followed his period of revolution in the late sixties and early seventies, Godard continued on changing the form and style of cinema. From documentaries to experiments with home movie making, Godard had never ceased to confound and provoke audiences and critics. For him, anything short would have been a disappointment.

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