Anniversary Post: Jean-Luc Godard at 85

[Okay, it’s another one of those days that I really don’t like my options for the anniversary post. And it just so happens that it is Jean-Luc Godard’s 85th birthday. I keep forgetting that he is still alive. So I’m rerunning Jean-Luc Godard from last year. Check the Afterword for something else. -FM]

Jean-Luc GodardThe great filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard is 84 years old today. I know, last year I referred to him as overrated. I’ll stand by that. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t great. It’s a general thing anyway. I think the French “New Wave” have been hopelessly overrated. This is probably due to the fact that most of them were film writers so they were in a position to plug themselves — which they did. But generally, give me Robert Bresson over any of them. And generally Alain Resnais over Godard or Truffaut.

Above all, I have never been able to get into À Bout de Souffle, or Breathless as it is commonly known in English. But I’m not one to especially appreciate cinematic technique when it isn’t combined with compelling characters, plot, or theme. I’m willing to admit that I’m missing something, but the film seems to me very sloppy, never clear what it is trying to say. And it has the plot of Dillinger, with less interesting characters.

Godard got more interesting the more political he became. I’ve always been very fond of Alphaville and later still La Chinoise and Week End. His later work also shows more wit, even when he’s being serious. But it is hard to show any of this here. So consider just a minute from Alphaville. I think you can see a direct line from this to Jon Jost:


In the film Alphaville, the lead character is tested with a joke. I wish it were available on YouTube. It is told totally deadpan, and yet is funny as hell:

One day a tiny man entered a North Zone cafe and said, “I want a cup of very hot, sweet coffee,” adding: “I shan’t pay, because I fear no one.” He drank his coffee, he left. He drank his coffee and didn’t pay. The cafe owner said nothing, he was afraid of scandal. But when the tiny man repeated the trick a few times, the cafe owner said: “I’ve had it, I’ll get a tough guy to beat up the tiny man if he comes back.” So, on the fourth day, when the tiny man said, “I want a cup of very hot, sweet coffee,” the tough guy goes to him and says: “So you’re afraid of no one?” “That’s right.” “Well, neither am I.” “Well,” says the tiny man, “make that two cups of coffee. Very hot and very sweet!”

6 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Jean-Luc Godard at 85

  1. Wikipedia had some interesting things for today, like University of Leipzig opened as did the first synagogue in the US.

    But you already did an anniversary post, is this bonus posting?

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