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TIFF Cinematheque - Godard Forever

22 Jan 2014

GODARD FOREVER PART 1

The first part of a Jean-Luc Godard retrospective entitled GODARD FOREVER PART 1 runs from Jan 23rd to Feb 13th at the Bell Lightbox.  The film series includes Godard’s first breakthrough film A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (BREATHLESS) and ends with his apocalyptic WEEKEND. These films are the more accessible and ‘happier’ films compared to his more difficult films that he made during his later years.

For complete details and program listing, please check the TIFF Cinematheque website at:

www.tiff.net

Capsule Reviews for Selected films in this series are provided below courtesy of screeners provide by TIFF Cinematheque.

CAPSULE REVIEWS:

 

 

 

 

A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (BREATHLESS) (France 1960) ****

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

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Godard’s first film that made a name for himself as part of the Novelle Vague for its bold visual style and the use of jump cuts especially during the extended death run at the end of the film.  Shot in stunning black and white by Godard’s regular cinematographer Raoul Coutard, A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (more accurately translated as the last breath, referring to Michel’s last breath after his death run) tells the story of criminal Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who is on the run after shooting a policeman in the countryside.  He is completely in love with an American girl, Patricia (Jean Seberg) who sells the New York Herald Tribune at the Champs Elysee.  Michel and Patricia hang out together in Paris while he attempts to get money back from a loan.  But she eventually gives him up to the police in one of the typical Godard reasonings that make no sense.  Still, A BOUT DE SOUFFLE is an unforgettable exercise in style and cinema and a film that demands to be re-seen every decade.

ALPHAVILLE (France/Italy 1962) ****

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

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This is the strange adventure of American Agent Lemmy Caution.  Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) enters the space city of under the name of Mr. Johnson, a journalist.  His aim is to find a missing person and destroy the city of ALPHAVILLE.  But he falls in love with Natacha von braun (Anna Karina), the missing person’s daughter.  This is film noir meets sci-fi with a touch of Kafka.  Cinematographer Raoul Coutard shoots Paris with lightings that make it look strange and futuristic.  The Godard touch is everywhere again in this film, despite it being sci-fi.  His philosophical musings are apparent and hilarious during the questioning of Mr. Johnson in the control room of Alpaha60.  Franois Truffaut’s regular Jean-Pierre Leaud has a cameo in the film as a waiter in a hotel.  Also a strange film, but by no means uninteresting!

UNE FEMME EST UNE FEMME (A WOMAN IS A WOMAN) (France 1961) ****

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

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Who says Jacques Demy owns the rights to colorful French musicals?  In UNE FEMME EST UNE FEMME, Godard has a go at the musical with extremely pleasant results.   His traits of colorful word credits, relationship arguments, philosophical musings and humour are ever present as well.  The film centers on the relationship of striptease dancer Angéla (Godard’s wife Anna Karina) and her lover Émile Jean-Claude Brialy). Angéla wants to have a child, but Émile isn’t ready. Émile’s best friend Alfred Lubitsch (Jean-Paul Belmondo) also says he loves Angéla, and keeps up a gentle pursuit. Angéla and Émile have their arguments about the matter.  In the film’s best segment, as they have decided not to speak with each other, they pull books from the shelf and, pointing to the titles, continue their argument.  The film also has surprise guests such as Jeanne Moreau taking her break from filming JULES ET JIM.  Of course, the film has a fairytale ending in which the couple live happily ever after.  This is Godard’s most delightful film!

LE MEPRIS (CONTEMPT) (France/Italy 1963) ****

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

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One of Godard’s best films, LE MEPRIS, based on the Italian novel Ghost at Noon by Alberto Moravia tells of the contempt a couple, playwright Paul Javal (Michel Piccoli) and his wife Camille (Brigitte Bardot) have for each other at the end of their relationship.  The setting is both indoors and outdoors with the famous critically praised extended apartment sequence and the gorgeous scenery of Capri.  Paul is hired to rewrite the script of the film produced by American Jeremy Prokosch (Jack Palance) who has a crush on Camille and not afraid of showing it.  LE MEPRIS is a very layered film with the story of Homer’s Odyssey being filmed reflecting the characters on film who reflect also the failing relationship of then Godard and his wife Anna Karina.  In the film, Bardot dons a black wig and rattles off lines that are filled with metaphors.  If all this is not enough to satisfy audiences, the performances of the then in demand, Piccoli, Bardot, Palance and also famous Fritz Lang (who plays the director) are an additional bonus.  Raoul Coutard, who also worked on A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (BREATHLESS), shoots the film in incredibly bright colors, from the sets to the scenery to the wardrobe.

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT7P7ijpAPY

LE PETIT SOLDAT (THE LITTLE SOLDIER) (France 1960) ****

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

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One of the most serious of the Godard films, the story of 26-year old soldier Bruno Forestier (Michel Subor) has him blackmailed by French Intelligence to assassinate Palivoda in exchange for a safe passage for him and Veronica Dreyer (Anna Karina) to Brazil.  It the war between the French and the FLN (National Liberation Front of Algeria).  Both sides supposedly never use torture as a means of extracting information.   But Godard’s film has extended scenes of torture used by both sides that resulted in the film banned in France for 3 years.  Shot in stunning black and white by Godard’s regular cinematographer Raoul Coutard, the film also examines the logic, thinking and resulting actions of Bruno.  LE PETIT SOLDAT is a complex film effectively executed by Godard.

VIVRE SA VIE (France 1962) ****

Directed by Jena-Luc Godard

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VIVRE SA VIE starring Godard’s wife Anna Karina is a black and white film odyssey of Nana, an enthusiastic stage actress who moves to Paris with the hope of becoming a famous actress, on stage on in film.  Unfortunately, luck is not on her side- vocation and relationship-wise.  She ends up as a prostitute forced to accept every single client she gets.  But Godard’s film is surprisingly not depressing but full of joie de vivre.  Besides his film providing the know-it-alls about being a prostitute in the city, his film contains entertaining musings on the philosophy of life.  He film is divided into parts into parts consisting of phrases on what Godard is going to show on film.  Though the film has a shock ending, VIVRE SA VIE is more exhilarating than anything else resulting in another delightful entry with a great score by Michel Legrand into this TIFF series.