Retrospective on film maker Jean-Luc Godard
"Film history can now be divided into pre-Godard and post-Godard." ---- Director François Truffaut
"Godard had exceeded and deeply influenced all people..." ---- French thinker Gilles Deleuze
Film maker Jean-Luc Godard is one of the most important auteurs of the French New Wave. His works are experimental, breaking the conventional mode and daring to express political opinion. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of French New Wave Cinema, 31 classics showcasing his works at different periods will be shown from September to November to salute the film master.
Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and curated by Mr Law Waiming, the "Repertory Cinema 2009" series features Jean-Luc Godard as its second programme. Works of the French film master from 1957 to 2004 will be screened from September 4 to October 4 and November 6-29 at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive, the Lecture Halls of the Hong Kong Science Museum and the Hong Kong Space Museum.
The films to be screened include his debut feature "Breathless"; masterpieces "My Life to Live" and "Contempt"; sci-fi film "Alphaville"; the first Hong Kong screening of "A Married Woman"; the joyful "A Woman is a Woman", crime movies "Band of Outsiders" and "Pierrot Goes Wild"; political films "Two or Three Things I Know About Her", "La Chinoise", "Week End", "Sympathy for the Devil (One Plus One)", "British Sounds", "All's Well" and "Here and Elsewhere"; the controversial"Hail Mary"; works in the new style "Slow Motion" and "Passion"; autobiography "JLG/JLG - Self-portrait in December", "First Name: Carmen" and "Keep Your Right Up" as well as a documentary on film history "Chosen Moments of Historie(s) of Cinema".
To tie in with the screenings, a seminar to be conducted in Cantonese is scheduled at 5pm on September 20 at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum. Admission is free.
Godard was born in 1930 to a wealthy Parisian family. While studying anthropology at the Sorbonne, he was a frequent visitor to the Cinemathéque and became friends with directors Eric Rohmer, Jacques Rivette and François Truffaut. He contributed regularly to"Gazette du Cinéma" and "Les Cahiers du Cinéma"and his film critiques were always illuminating. His representative essays "Towards a Political Cinema", "What is Cinema?", "Montage, My Lovely Worry", and "Defense and Illustration of Classical Construction" became the foundations of Godard's style and aesthetics.
He made a number of fictional short films in the 1950s. His first film "Operation Concrete" in 1954 was based on his experience as a dam construction worker. The short piece "All the Boys are Called Patrick" (1957) was a rare romantic humorous detour to his early works. "A Story of Water" (1958) was originally Truffaut's semi-documentary romance; Godard re-edited the footage to become a new 13-minute film with his signature style.
His debut feature "Breathless" (1960), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, was a great hit and became one of the most influential films of the last century. The film distinctly expresses the French New Wave's style. Godard breaks away from a superficial gangster story with new film theory. The movie is made up of innovative techniques such as jump cuts and tracking shots filmed with a hand-held camera in a natural setting. It won the Silver Berlin Bear (Best Director) at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1960.
His masterpiece, "My Life to Live" (1962) was the pinnacle of the co-operation between Godard and his then wife Anna Karina. In the form of 12 anecdotes, Godard's technique is so novel that each anecdote carries a different style and feeling of a down-and-out woman’s life. The film won the Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival 1962. Also featuring the dazzling Karina, "A Woman is a Woman" (1961) may well be the jolliest and funniest among Godard’s films and it won the Silver Berlin Bear (Best Actress) and Special Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1961.
Godard excels at depicting love and female sentiment. "A Married Woman" (1964) was permeated with a literary and artistic atmosphere. "Contempt" (1963) was his first big-budget film and one of his important works. With luxurious props and strong colour contrast, the blond beauty Brigitte Bardot is as elegant as a Greek goddess. The movie contains deliberate parallels with Godard's rocky marriage.
The touching sci-fi action movie "Alphaville" (1965) was regarded as Godard's last "rebel" masterpiece which tells a story conventionally before he entered his revolutionary period. Although the film is a blend of American film noir, crime movie, science fiction and satire, Godard masters them with such expertise that the work exemplifies the peak of his creativity. The film won the Golden Berlin Bear (Best Film) at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1965.
Godard converts his expertise in crime movies into a tragedy of eloped lovers in "Pierrot Goes Wild" (1965) and creates a collage of the contradictory world of youth with a revolutionary, creative spirit. A moment's error brings lifelong regret to three youngsters. In "Band of Outsiders" (1964), Godard tries to imitate low-budget US crime movies in this highly experimental and impromptu piece.
Politics are never far from the surface in Godard's films. In 1967, in response to that turbulent epoch, he started his new creative phase with three political films: "Two or Three Things I Know About Her", "La Chinoise" and "Week End". When he was commissioned to make a film on the Rolling Stones, he spliced loose footage of black revolutionaries stating their mission into the documentary "Sympathy for the Devil (One Plus One)" (1968).
After the May Revolution in Paris, Godard started a new phase by infusing socialism into his films. He had founded the Dziga Vertov Group with Jean-Pierre Gorin to shoot anti-capitalist and class struggle documentaries at various locations. Starring Yves Montand and Jane Fonda, “All’s Well” (1972) depicts post-Western society during the 1960s, the workers’ movements and social unrest. The film won the Interfilm Award of the Forum of New Cinema at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1973.
During the 1980s, Godard left the reactionary Maoist/Leninist ideals and returned to the more traditional way of filmmaking. Yet, the modern romance "Hail Mary" (1985) was a controversial piece to churchgoers. With Isabelle Huppert giving a knockout performance and his technique of showing the protagonist's emotions in "Slow Motion" (1980), the film once again proved Godard's extraordinary skill in rewriting cinema language.
"JLG/JLG - Self-portrait in December" (1995) and "First Name: Carmen" (1983) contain autobiographical elements. In the former, the 65-year-old Godard tries to depict his work and thinking together with the things that interest him: music, film, literature and philosophy, while in "First Name: Carmen", he plays a film director and criticises the commercialised film industry.
Into the 90s, Godard emphasised the aesthetics of composition and reflected the contemporary through history and myth. "Chosen Moments of Historie(s) of Cinema" (2004) is a look back on 20th century film history, from the perspectives of art, politics, film and TV, celluloid and digital video.
All the films are either in English or have English subtitles. "All's Well", "Number Two", "First Name: Carmen", "Hail Mary", "Detective", "Woe is Me" have been classified as Category III and only ticket holders who are aged 18 and above will be admitted.
Tickets priced at $50 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients.
For programme information and ticket discount details, call 2734 2900 or visit www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp. Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009 or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Ends/Thursday, August 20, 2009
A still of the film "Breathless" (1960).
A still of the film "My Life to Live" (1962).