Jean-Luc Godard: three cult films in the history of cinema

Among the dozens of films by Jean-Luc Godard, three have entered the history of cinema, all shot in the 1960s: “A bout de souffle”, “Le contempt” and “Pierrot le fou”.

“Breathless” (1960)

This is Godard’s first low-budget feature film.

It tells the story of a thug who, after stealing a car and killing a policeman, is tracked down by the police. He tries to convince his American girlfriend to go to Italy.

“It’s a crazy experience, no spots, no make-up, no sound! But it’s so against Hollywood ways that I’m going natural”summarized Jean Seberg, star, with Jean-Paul Belmondo, of this film, standard of the New Wave.

We find in germ the constituent elements of the following films of “JLG”: cultural references, heady music, shocked assembly, foreign accents, bars, cars, hotels…

The couple’s stroll on the Champs-Elysées, selling the New York Herald Tribune, chatting to him, cigarette in mouth, has entered into legend. The film will know a posterity like no other and will receive the Jean-Vigo Prize in 1960. Godard will have the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival the same year.

“The Contempt” (1963)

The wife (Brigitte Bardot) of a screenwriter (Michel Piccoli) breaks away from her husband and confesses to him the contempt he inspires in her. It is the sixth film of “JLG” and its greatest success.

During filming, “BB” is harassed by the paparazzi. The producers want at all costs to strip her on the screen. Jean-Luc Godard partially gives in. He adds to the film a sequence that has become iconic, where Bardot, lying naked on a bed, questions Piccoli: “And my buttocks, do you like my buttocks?”.

Adapted from Alberto Moravia’s novel, the film owes a great deal to a rare lyricism in Godard who was able to count, in addition to an exceptional cast (featuring the filmmaker Fritz Lang), on the score by Georges Delerue, the color photograph of Raoul Coutard and the decor of Malaparte’s villa by the sea, in Capri.

It is undoubtedly one of the most intimate films of Godard, then married to Anna Karina. They separated in 1965.

“Crazy Pierrot” (1965)

Godard films Anna Karina for their sixth film together. While the New Wave declines, he masters his art better than ever and indulges in a narrative and visual fireworks display, where the primary colors burst in each image: blue, yellow, red.

When it was released, the film was banned for those under 18 for “intellectual and moral anarchism”.

“O stupidity of censorship! Serious people abhor Godard”, wrote, in this year 1965, Françoise Giroud in L’Express. She adds: “The story of the film? I don’t know. There must be one, but it doesn’t matter. A man loves a woman, what more do you want? His name is Ferdinand. She calls him Pierrot. Together, they run towards the sun, towards the sea, towards the heat…”. Towards the drama too.

One of the lines, said by Anna Karina, has remained famous: “What can I do? I don’t know what to do…”.

Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino or Leos Carax were influenced by this film, wandering placed under the sign of Rimbaud.

And the other movies?

Jean-Luc Godard shot around 125 films, long and short, fiction and documentary, which had a mixed reception, to say the least, between those who loved it and those who hated it.

We can mention, among his main feature films, “The little soldier”, “A woman is a woman”, “Live her life”, “Alphaville”, “Masculine feminine”, “La chinoise”, “Sauve qui peut ( life)”, “First name Carmen”, “Hail Mary”, “Detective”, “Farewell to language”, etc…

But none has acquired the aura of these three great films of the 1960s, one of the richest in French cinema.


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