The most stylistically innovative and politically engaged director of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard is one of the most important artists of modern times. Achieving international renown with his feature debut A bout de souffle (Breathless), he set about redefining notions of what cinema could be with films that were exhilaratingly inventive, irreverent and provocative. This selection of features, interviews and reviews from the archives of Sight & Sound and Monthly Film Bulletin gathers together criticism and analysis by many of Godard’s most eloquent and insightful advocates.
Part 1: the breaking of the wave
French cinema: the old and the new
In the first Sight & Sound article ever to mention the name of Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Marcorelles offered a fascinating portrait of French film culture in the 1950s, and tentatively raised hopes for a second golden age in French filmmaking.
All the Boys Are Called Patrick reviewed by MFB Staff
Charlotte et son Jules reviewed by MFB Staff
In an update on the state of French cinema, Louıs Marcorelles saw his hopes for a creative renaissance coming to fruition thanks to the filmmaking of the Cahiers du cinéma critics.
A Bout de souffle reviewed by Peter John Dyer
Une Histoire deau reviewed by MFB Staff
Une Femme est une femme reviewed by Tom Milne
Jean-Luc Godard and Vivre Sa Vie
Sight & Sound’s first interview with Godard was by Tom Milne, conducted at the 1962 London Film Festival screening of Vivre sa vie at the National Film Theatre in London; Milne also provided an astute analysis of the work in question.
Le Petit Soldat reviewed by Tom Milne
Les Carabiniers reviewed by A.S.
Le Mepris reviewed by Philip Strick
Bande à part reviewed by Tom Milne
Jean-Luc Godard ou la raison ardente
In another characteristically erudite dissection of a new Godard movie, Tom Milne recognised that the director’s rapidly developing style was taking him into new, rich, multilayered levels of meaning that left his contemporaries looking distinctly old-fashioned.
Alphaville reviewed by Tom Milne
Pierrot le fou reviewed by Penelope Houston
Masculin feminin reviewed by Jack Ibberson
Two or Three Things I Know About Her reviewed by Jan Dawson
One or two things
When Jean-Luc Godard found himself making two features simultaneously, he wrote to explain his predicament and, in passing, offered some thoughts on politics and prostitution, sex and a secret ambition, actors and the Americanisation of French life.
La Chinoise reviewed by Mike Wallington
Weekend reviewed by G.O.M.
Godard’s Weekend: totem, taboo and the Fifth Republic
Weekend, made before May 68, brought an end to the first series of movies Godard made before he radically changed tack. A decade on, with the benefit of hindsight, Davıd Nicholls revisited a remarkably dark satire on 60s France.
Part 2: from May ’68 to Chairman Mao
Godard and the USA
To tie in with the American release of La Chinoise, Godard embarked on a tour of US universities. Claire Clouzot – granddaughter of director Henri-Georges Clouzot – was there to observe the director’s encounters with students eager for political change.
In the picture: One Plus One
In 1968 Richard Roud was invited to watch Godard shooting his first British film on location.
Sympathy for the Devil reviewed by Richard Roud
Le Gai Savoir reviewed by Jan Dawson
British Sounds reviewed by MFB Staff
See You at Mao
In America to raise funds, Godard spoke to students about British Sounds – released in the US as See You at Mao. Joseph McBride encountered a radically politicised director.
Le Vent d’Est reviewed by Pete Brooker
Vladimir et Rosa reviewed by Nigel Gearing
A terrible duty is born
The films Godard made as half of the Dziga Vertov Group disappointed some of his fans, but in tracing the development of the director’s handling of politics from Two or Three Things… to Le Vent d’est Colin L. Westerbeck Jr found much to admire.
One PM reviewed by Jan Dawson
Godard is dead, long live Godard/Gorin
With Tout va bien, Godard and Gorin attempted to make a political film for the kind of large audience his films used to attract. Richard Roud proclaimed it a magnificent success.
Tout Va Bien reviewed by Jan Dawson
Letter to Jane reviewed by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Part 3: rethinking France, rethinking television
Jean-Luc Godard: 2 into 3
In welcoming Godard’s fresh start in 1980 with Sauve qui peut (la vie), Jill Forbes took the opportunity to revisit two of his innovative television series made during the 1970s with his partner Anne-Marie Miéville.
Numero Deux reviewed by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Mıchael Witt has painstakingly reconstructed a lost compilation film Godard screened in Rotterdam in 1981 to accompany talks on the cinema he’d originally given in Montreal.
Part 4: second breath, second wave
In the cinema it is never Monday
To coincide with the release of Godard’s Passion – described by its creator as “a bit difficult” – Gideon Bachmann compiled a collection of comments the director had recently made about the film, and indeed about the cinema, music and art.
Sauve Qui Peut (La Vie) reviewed by Gilbert Adair
Passion reviewed by Gilbert Adair
To win a prize in Venice
The premiere of Prénom Carmen in Venice in 1983 proved pleasingly controversial, with the Italian critics taking against the film, only to be ignored by the jury. By Don Ranvaud.
Prénom Carmen reviewed by Gilbert Adair
Hail Mary/the Book of Mary reviewed by Robert Brown
Jean-Luc Godard: his crucifixion and resurrection
To coincide with the release of Hail Mary, Raymond Durgnat composed a characteristically idiosyncratic, erudite and esoteric survey of Godard’s career to date, formulating his ideas in the magpie style favoured by his subject.
Detective reviewed by Tom Milne
King Lear reviewed by Raymond Durgnat
Nouvelle Vague reviewed by Dominic Faccini
Part 5: representing the world, re-presenting cinema
It will be worth it
For those baffled by Godard’s “profound mistrust of rationality and language”, Michael Temple provided an illuminating guide to the formal omplexities and thematic concerns of the complete version of the director’s long-awaited Histoire(s) du cinéma.
All you need is love
When former S&S editor Nick James bravely took the opportunity to interview Godard about Èloge de l’amour, he found the great man in an unexpectedly affable mood.
Èloge de l’amour reviewed by Amy Taubin
Notre Musique reviewed by Ginette Vincendeau
I, a man of the image
Notre musique was Godard’s typically oblique response to the aftermath of the Bosnian war and the situation in Palestine. Mıchael Witt offered some insight into the film and in an interview with the director learned more about its making.
The old soldier
Like many of his later works, the essayistic Film socialisme saw Godard contemplating history. Gabe Klınger made a foray into the director’s own past to help put it in context.
Film Socialisme reviewed by Brad Stevens
Goodbye to Language reviewed by Nick Pinkerton
The Image Book reviewed by Erika Balsom
Part 6: histoire(s) de JLG: reassessments and points of view
Godard, that breathless moment
When A bout de souffle was made, Daid Thomson was a film student and member of the National Film Theatre. In 2000, he recalled what it had been to face a fast-flowing stream of Godard movies in the 1960s.
Theory and practice: the criticism of Jean-Luc Godard
In 1972, Godard on Godard, a collection of the director’s criticism, translated by Tom Milne, was published in the UK. Jonathan Rosenbaum responded by tracing the connections and continuities between Godard’s writing and his films.
Paris match: Godard and Cahiers
In 2001, to mark a major BFI retrospective, Geoffry Nowell-Smıth examined how Godard had been influenced by the cultural climate of 50s Paris, and what made his films feel so fresh.
Jean-Luc Godard: a man of the 60s
In 2016, to coincide with the BFI’s most recent Godard retrospective, Kent Jones successfully took up the challenge of attempting to define exactly what it was that made the hard-to-categorise auteur so important and so unlike anyone else.