- (1930- )Director and screenwriter. Jean-Luc Godard was born in Paris and spent his childhood in Switzerland before returning to Paris to attend lycée. In 1940, when Germany initially defeated France, he obtained Swiss citizenship and returned to Switzerland. He went back to Paris after World War II and studied ethnology at the Sorbonne. He frequented the Cinémathèque française and ciné-clubs in the late 1940s along with colleagues who would also later become part of the Nouvelle Vague or New Wave.In the early 1950s, Godard wrote regularly for La Gazette du cinéma with Éric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette, and François Truffaut. Godard began acting in Rivette's short, Quadrille (1950). In 1952 he published influential essays in the Cahiers du cinéma, often under the pen name Hans Lucas. He directed his first film, the short documentary Opération Béton, in 1954, and followed with the short films Une femme coquette (1956), Tous les garçons s'appellent Patrick (1957), Une histoire d'eau (1958) with Truffaut, and Charlotte et son Jules (1959).Godard's first feature film was the loosely scripted À bout de souffle (1960). Based on a story idea by Truffaut, the film was a landmark for the Nouvelle Vague, and some historians see this film, along with Truffaut's own Les 400 coups (1959), as the starting point of the movement. The star of A bout de souffle, Jean-Paul Belmondo, became a film icon. The film won the Prix Jean-Vigo for its cinematography and its use of jump cuts, unusual camera mounts, fragmented narratives, and incongruities between sound and image. Because of these elements, A bout de souffle had a dramatic influence on later films.In 1960, Godard made Le Petit soldat, a film that presented a less than flattering picture of French colonial practices in Algeria. The representation of torture alarmed French censors, who blocked its release until 1963. Le Petit soldat is also noteworthy in that it was the first of several films to feature Godard's former wife Anna Karina. Other Godard films starring Karina include Une femme est une femme (1961), Vivre sa vie (1962), which won the Special Jury Prize at Venice, Les Carabiniers (1963), Le mépris (1963), Bande à part (1964), Une femme mariée (1964), Alphaville (1965), which won a Golden Berlin Bear, Pierrot le fou (1965), Masculin, féminin (1966), and Made in U.S.A. (1967).Apart from criticism of the Algerian War, there is also a clear undercurrent of anticonsumerism and a critique of the establishment in many of Godard's films, including Deux ou trois choses que je sais d'elle (1967), La Chinoise (1967) — which won the Special Jury Prize at Venice—and Week-end (1967). Commentators have noted that all three films seem to foreshadow the political upheavals of May 1968, which followed shortly thereafter.Other political films of Godard's include his 1968 documentary, One Plus One, which investigates American and European counter-cultures, including the Black Panthers and the Rolling Stones. The producers revised the film so that the concluding song is played in its entirety and retitled it Sympathy for the Devil. Godard, interestingly, disassociated himself from the revised version.After May 1968, Godard departed from what he called "bourgeois" films and teamed up with Maoist Jean-Pierre Gorin to form the leftist Dziga Vertov Group, named after the filmmaker Denis Arkadievitch Kaufman. Godard and Gorin codirected Pravda (1969), Un film comme les autres (1968), Le Vent de l'est (1969), Vladmir et Rosa (1971), and Tout va bien (1972), a feature starring Jane Fonda and Yves Montand.In the 1970s, Godard directed experimental videos. He collaborated with Anne Marie Miéville on Numéro deux (1975) and Comment ça va? (1978). In 1979, Sauve qui peut (la vie) marked Godard's return to cinema proper, and it inaugurated a fairly long run of critically acclaimed films. Sauve qui peut (la vie) and Godard's next film, Passion (1982), were both nominated for Golden Palms at the Cannes Film Festival and the César Awards for Best Director and Best Film. His film Prénom Carmen (1983) won the Golden Lion at Venice and the controversial Je vous salue, Marie (1985) was nominated for a Golden Berlin Bear.Godard also directed Détective (1984), Soigne ta droite (1986), King Lear (1988), Nouvelle Vague (1990), Allemagne année 90 neuf zéro (1991), Hélas pour moi (1993), JLG/JLG—Autoportrait de décembre (1994), Forever Mozart (1996), Éloge de l'amour (2001), and the multilingual Notre Musique (2004), among other films. He was given an honorary César award in 1987 and another in 1998 for his acclaimed series on the histories of film, Histoire(s) du cinéma.Godard's filmmaking has evolved in a number of ways over the course of his career. During the Nouvelle Vague, he was known for his innovative, on-the-street shooting style, his use of the handheld camera, and the rough, unpolished feel to his films. In this respect, he embodied the movement's reaction against the overly polished, almost stilted filmmaking of the previous decade and heralded the move toward a new, more experimental cinema. On the surface these films often seem to be experimental imitations of American B movies, but closer analyses reveal a high degree of complexity, including complex discourses on time, history, social class, and, it has been argued, the Algerian War, at the time a censored topic.The events of May 1968 and the experimentation that followed created a definitive break with the Nouvelle Vague. The narrative films that emerge after this period are much more classically realist, although they lose nothing of the harshness of the scrutiny of his gaze. These in turn have been followed by more and more experimental explorations in film, from experiments in form, as with Je vous salue, Marie (1990), to experiments in genre, such as JLG/GLJ (1994).Godard remains one of France's most enigmatic and revered film-makers. Through all of its transformations, his cinema has never lost the thing that makes it distinctly his, his ethnographic gaze. His films, from Vivre sa vie (1962) to Éloge de l'amour (2001), are all pointed explorations of individuals in society, and somehow, the question of social class is always just under the surface. Godard's 2004 film, Notre Musique, marked a return to the exploration and condemnation of war, although, as might be expected, it is an antiwar film in radically altered form.
Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. Dayna Oscherwitz & Mary Ellen Higgins. 2007.
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Godard, Jean-Luc — born Dec. 3, 1930, Paris, France French film director. He wrote film criticism for the influential journal Cahiers du cinéma before impressing audiences with his first feature film, the improvisatory and original Breathless (1960), which… … Universalium
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