Categories
DVD & Blu-ray

Godard The Essential Selection

One of the pillars of French , director Jean-Luc Godard helped transform conventions of European and world cinema.

Along with former critics and movie obsessives at Cahiers du Cinema, such as Francois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol, after a series of shorts, he made the leap into directing features.

With techniques such as shooting on location, jump cutting, and breaking the fourth wall, he presented characters with a bold freshness that had an immediate impact on French and global cinema.

The five films presented in this set span a period of great change in the world from 1960 to 1965 (looser sexual attitudes, youthful rebellion, nuclear tensions), which was the most exciting and memorable of Godard’s career. These films are so fun to watch, almost as fun was playing video games with Elo Boost services.


So much has been written about his landmark debut Breathless (1960) – the french translation is À bout de souffle meaning ‘out of breath’ – that it is hard to find something new to say.

The story of two lovers on the run (Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg) is a familiar one – e.g. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) or Badlands (1973) – but Godard brings a delightfully spontaneity to it here.

The influence on a later generation of filmmakers was the way it defiantly broke conservative ideas of a ‘well made film’, thus sending a message that it was OK to shatter those notions in the way that Citizen Kane (1941) had done before it.

For newcomers, look out for the loose narrative structure, use of locations, radical editing and perhaps have a listen to my 2010 interview with Pierre Rissient, who was an assistant director on the film.

Extras:

• Introduction by Colin McCabe (5 min)
• Godard, Made in USA (51 min)
• Room 12. Hotel de suede (79 min)
• Jean-Luc according to Luc (8 min)
• Jefferson Hack Interview (8 min)
• Tempo Godard Episode (17 min)
• Jean Seberg Featurette (12 min)
• Trailer (3 min)
• Posters


His next feature, A Woman Is a Woman (1961) – or Une femme est une femme – was a very different story, but told with equal verve and panache. If US gangster films inspired his debut, then this was a vibrant homage to the US musical.

The story involves a love triangle between a dancer (Anna Karina), her lover (Jean-Claude Brialy) and his best friend Alfred (Jean-Paul Belmondo).

Shot in glorious colour and widescreen by his regular DP Raoul Coutard, it embodies the playful side of Godard, with frequent bursts of music, stares at the audience and even a reference to Truffaut’s Shoot the Piano Player (1960).

Yet there is a slight melancholy here, perhaps reflected by his private personal worries over Karina, which foreshadows some of his later work.

Extras:

• Anna Karina interview
• Introduction by Colin McCabe (4 min)
• Photo Gallery
• Posters


The third film in this collection is Contempt (1963), where he managed to double-down on his earlier innovations and embrace a post-modern narrative of a film within a film.

Godard’s outer story is of a screenwriter (Paul Javal) married to a glamorous actress (Brigitte Bardot) and his troubles working on a film version of Homer’s The Odyssey, with a famed director (Fritz Lang) and a Hollywood producer (Jack Palance).

The screenwriter’s personal and professional meltdown on-screen also seemed to reveal Godard’s life off of it, with his wife Karina (not in the film) and U.S. producer Joseph E. Levine.

Although frequently gorgeous to look at, with some iconic images, there is something of a sour quality to it, which suggests that the French auteur was gradually losing faith in the American cinema he adored as younger man.

Extras:

• Introduction with Colin McCabe (6 min)
• Once Upon A Time There Was… Contempt (53 min)
• Contempt…tenderly (32 min)
• The dinosaurs and the baby (61 min)
• Conversation with Fritz Lang (15 min)
• Trailer (3 min)


In 1965 Godard made two films which both represent his further disillusionment with mainstream cinema and the wider world, which reeling from the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War and the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The dystopian sci-fi setting of Alphaville (1965) may have seemed an unlikely one for Godard, but it was perfect. He broke new ground, but also returned to his love of US crime dramas. Think of Blade Runner (1982) shot in black and white on a lower budget.

A perfectly cast Eddie Constantine plays a detective trying to find a missing agent and to destroy the central computer that is controlling the population of Alphaville (which includes the perennial Anna Karina) under a totalitarian system.

It is possibly his most daring film thematically, with small details indicating a distrust of right and left ideologies of the Cold War and how the tools built by man can lead to self-destruction. Note the clever art direction and Raoul Coutard’s stunning black and white photography.

Extras:

• Anna Karina interview
• Introduction by Colin McCabe (5 min)
• Posters
• Trailer


The fifth and final film of this box set is Pierrot le Fou (1965), which offers a similarly bleak view of the world, except this is a virtual remake of Breathless in glorious colour with Belmondo and Karina playing a couple on the run.

Given his status in world cinema by this time, one could sense his desire to break free from the shackles of the French new wave. When Belmondo’s character leaves a stifling dinner party to go on the run with his nanny, we may suspect where this tale is heading.

Except that we don’t really – whereas the lovers in Breathless went out of Paris and back again, here the couple exit Paris for a more nihilistic journey down South.

Paradoxically, this is Godard’s most visually ravishing film filled with dazzling colours that counterpoint the unpredictable behaviour of its characters.

Like in Contempt, Godard seems attracted to the dazzle of Hollywood filmmaking and simultaneously repulsed by the nation that gave birth to it: a report from Vietnam is heard on the car radio, Belmondo openly mocks US sailors on the beach.

The visual beauty of Southern France is cleverly juxtaposed with the inner emotional torment of the leads, as the offscreen hell of colonial wars in South-East Asia rumble on. (Remember that France was the original colonial power in Vietnam before the US arrived).

All this points to a gradual shift in his career as he embraced more explicitly political filmmaking with Weekend (1967) and Wind from the East (1969). Perhaps his work was always tinged with politics, yet Pierret le Fou seem to mark the end of his early phase.

It was just the first chapter of a remarkable career which still hasn’t ended, with his last feature Goodbye to Language (2014) premiering at Cannes two years ago. However despite his prolific career, he never quite recaptured the magic of these early films.

The new Studiocanal Blu-ray box set presents these classic films in a neat bundle, whilst the BFI Southbank in London is hosting a Godard season until March 16th and Le Mepris will have an extended run in selected UK cinemas.

> Buy the Godard Essential Selection on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Jean-Luc Godard at Wikipedia

Categories
Interesting

Godard Loop

A 26 minute video essay explores the visual motifs of Jean-Luc Godard.

Produced by Michael Baute and edited by Bettina Blickwede, it consists of images found throughout his 60 year career.

There are more videos of the individual Godard motifs on their blog, Keyframe.

[vis The Daily MUBi]

> Jean-Luc Godard at Wikipedia and TSFDT
> Keyframe

Categories
News

Meetin’ WA

In 1986 Jean Luc-Godard interviewed Woody Allen for a short film called Meetin’ WA.

Filmed around the release of Hannah and Her Sisters, the French director asks questions though a translator.


Meetin' WA (1986)

Nonetheless, it’s a notable meeting of two cinematic minds and they cover some interesting subjects including:

  • The cinematic and literary use of titles
  • The differences approaches of Allen’s longtime DOPs Gordon Willis and Carlo Di Palma
  • Allen’s writing process
  • The ‘terrible influence’ of television on movies
  • Shots of houses in Hannah and Her Sisters (this one seems to stump Woody)
  • The inevitable disappointment of making a movie

Given the media storm that would engulf Allen in 1992, the opening question now seems ironic:

JLG: Are you afraid of the press?
WA: No, the press has always been good to me

> Meetin’ WA at the IMDb
> Jean-Luc Godard and Woody Allen at Wikipedia

Categories
Cinema Interviews Podcast

Interview: Pierre Rissient on Breathless

Breathless (A Bout De Souffle) is being re-released in UK cinemas to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its original release.

One of the key films of the French New Wave, it is the story of Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a small-time criminal on the run, and Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg), an American who sells the International Herald Tribune along the boulevards of Paris.

With its loose narrative, location shooting, improvised dialogue, jump cuts, deliberately mismatched shots and literary references, it remains a landmark film.

It gave French and European cinema a much needed shot of inspiration when it first came out in 1960, with audiences and critics responding to its energy and artistic verve.

Pierre Rissient was the assistant director on Breathless and for the past fifty years has been a key figure in the film world: a critic, publicist and consultant to film festivals, he has helped champion directors as diverse as Joseph Losey, Jules Dassin, Anthony Mann, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Zhang Yimou, Clint Eastwood, Quentin Tarantino, Werner Herzog, Jane Campion and Abbas Kiarostami.

I recently spoke to Pierre about the re-release of Breathless and you can listen to the interview here:

[audio:http://filmdetail.receptionmedia.com/Pierre_Rissient_on_Breathless.mp3]

You can also download this interview as a podcast via iTunes by clicking here

Breathless is currently showing at selected UK cinemas and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 13th

> Breathless at the IMDb
> NY Sun profile of Pierre Rissient from 2008
> Learn more about the French New Wave at Wikipedia
> Find out if a cinema near you is showing Breathless via Google Movies

Categories
blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

Blu-ray: Pierrot le fou

One of the key films of the French new wave, Pierrot le fou (1965) is Jean-Luc Godard‘s landmark drama about two lovers who go on the run.

Based on Lionel White‘s novel Obsession, it is the story of Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a young intellectual married to a rich Italian, who is utterly disillusioned with his luxurious bourgeois existence. When his new babysitter for his young daughter turns out to be his former lover, Marianne (Anna Karina) he sees a chance to escape.

When he and Marianne leave for the south of France, they confront criminals, petrol attendants, and American tourists as they discover more about themselves and become a kind of existential Bonnie & Clyde.

Godard here returned to the territory of A bout de souffle (1959), but this is arguably a more complex and challenging work which features musical numbers, as well as allusions to painting, literature and cinema itself.

The striking use of colour is just one of the many visual treats, as is the breaking of the fourth wall with characters looking into the camera and some innovative editing.

The Blu-ray comes with the following extras:

  • Introduction by Colin McCabe, Godard expert
  • Godard, Love and Poetry: Documentary on Godard (53 mins)
  • Documentary film analysis by Jean-Bernard Pouy (106 mins)
  • Trailer
  • German TV Advertisement
  • Posters (5)
  • BD Live
  • Booklet: Analysis of the movie by Roland-Francois Lack, Senior Lecturer in French and Film at University College London.

The technical specs are:

  • Cert: 15
  • Region B
  • Feature Running time: 105 mins approx
  • Blu-ray Feature Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
  • Colour PAL
  • Feature Audio: DTS Master Audio Dual Mono
  • English language
  • Video: 24p 1080
  • Disc Type: BD50
  • Cat no: OPTBD0826
  • RRP: £24.99

Pierrot le fou is out on Blu-ray now from Optimum Home Entertainment as part of The Studio Canal Collection

Buy Pierrot le fou on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
>Pierrot le fou at the IMDb

Categories
Interesting The Daily Video

The Daily Video: Meetin’ WA by Jean-Luc Godard

A 26 minute short film about Woody Allen by Jean-Luc Godard from 1986.


Meetin’ WA (1986)
by Tomsutpen
[Link via SPOUTblog]
> Woody Allen at the IMDb
> Find out more about Jean-Luc Godard at Wikipedia