Monday, 18 September 2017

Jean-Luc Godard: The Original Auteur

When one thinks of an auteur director, who is the first that comes to mind? Martin Scorsese? The Coens? Pedro Almódovar? Though these three would all make an iconic filmmakers list, the word “auteur” would have a different meaning, if it existed at all, if it were not for Jean-Luc Godard. He matches both radical themes and eccentric characters with unconventional cinematography – breaking diegesis left, right and centre. During a time when the French film industry could only be described as “Le Cinema du Papa”, Godard rebelled in a massive way, disregarding the traditions of lavish sets, rigid scripts and willowy, upper-class characters; he had his own way of telling a story.

Born in 1930’s Paris to wealthy parents, Godard first began his quest into filmmaking when he co-founded a Gazette du cinema in 1950. A year later, his parents had cut off his financial support and left young Godard with little money but big ideas. Along with contemporaries André Bazin, Jacques Rivette and François Truffaut, Godard began his foray into experimental cinema, forming the nucleus of what we now call “French New Wave directors” or cahiers du cinéma. He dabbled in documentaries and short films before finally making his most successful and iconic feature film: Á bout de souffle.

Roughly translated as "Breathless", Godard’s first feature film, co-written by Truffaut, was released in 1960. It was praised for its uniqueness and innovation; never before has a director used the jump cut so prolifically. He uses back-to-basics filmmaking, abandoning sets in favour of real locations. He rarely uses anything but natural lighting and handheld cameras and intentionally breaks the spell of cinema. He has no problem with revealing cinematic artifice; at one point, our hero, Michel Poiccard is humming a tune while the shot cuts several times despite tune remaining intact. Poiccard also uses direct address. Here Godard uses abstract realism. His themes reflect the existential boredom suffered by the youth of the time, explored through his non-motivated dialogue and fragmented narrative.

Keyframe presents the online debut of Godardloop, a multi-part video essay on the films of Jean-Luc Godard. Produced by Michael Baute and edited by Bettina Blickwede, this video explores a treasure trove of imagery found in dozens of Godard’s features and shorts, grouping them among several distinct themes. 47 films spanning 50 years of filmmaking are transformed into a stream of images that attest to an inimitable talent: an artist who can transform the world simply by the way he looks at it through his camera.

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