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WTH Happened to Godard in the 70s [TALKING IMAGES]

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WTH Happened to Godard in the 70s [TALKING IMAGES]

#1

Post by St. Gloede »

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Well, hello ...

In 1967, Jean-Luc Godard made a film called Weekend, famous for its beautiful long tracking shot of a traffic jam and the collision that caused it.

To many fans of Godard's work up to this point it is as if he was one of the casualties, or more potent: that this car crash is an apt metaphor for the next 12 years of his career.

But why?

Why do even ardent Godard fans, including those who followed and loved his work in the 80s, 90s, and throughout the 21st century hate or dismiss his 70s work?

Why did he lose mainstream appeal?

Why did he go from participating in Cannes to protesting Cannes and getting the festival shut down.

What happened?

In this episode we will try to answer this very question, and look at how the one of the worlds most esteemed "auteurs" went on to become a "collaborator".

We will look at the two partnerships that defined his career in the 70s, namely the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective the Dziga Vertov Group, and his long time partner and collaborator Anne-Marie Mieville.

We will also discuss 3 of the films he made in this period in great detail:
  • Wind From the East
  • Tout va Bien
  • Numero Deux
You can listen here:

Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/3GhRXnb6OzOnfae2Uvkvus
Sounder - https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... -the-1970s
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#2

Post by St. Gloede »

And to get you all involved in the conversation:

What was your first reaction to seeing Godard's 70s work?

How many have you seen?

If you have not seen any of Godard's 70s work, why? What are your biggest fears or assumptions?

Why do you think this period is so ignored?

Is it really that different from his 60s work when we think about it? If we actually merged La Chinoise with Two or Three Things I Know About Her, aren't we almost there with the Dziga Vertov films?

-

And feel free to add in reviews/thoughts on any of the films you have seen as well as:

Agree or Disagree with what we are actually saying.
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#3

Post by blocho »

A brief quibble about Weekend, the only Godard movie I really like. If my memory is correct (and it might not be), it didn't open with that famous long tracking shot. I think it opened with a scene featuring a hilariously childish argument between the most annoying French bourgeoisie I've ever seen.

Again, not much of a Godard fan, but I do have a friend who once described Godard to me as "not only one of the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century but one of the best people of the twentieth century."
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#4

Post by OldAle1 »

I may or may not listen to this soon but my first few thoughts as to why the 70s work is comparatively neglected are all pretty obvious ones -

* less funny
* less cinematically beautiful - some of it's on SD video, all of it is lower-budget than his most high-profile 60s work
* more difficult
* (more) overtly political

As to the films I've seen -

Le gai savoir (1969)
Tout va bien (1972)
Numéro deux (1975)
Ici et ailleurs (1976)

I only remember the earliest of these two at all well as I saw them around 5 years ago; the 1975/6 films I saw back in the 90s I think. As to what I think of them, dunno, I always find Godard at least interesting but there are many times I don't really understand him, and many of the films I saw long ago I remember seeing in really terrible condition, particularly Numéro deux which I think was shot partly on video to begin with. I have the Godard/Gorin box set (from Arrow? can't be bothered to look) which I'll get to one of these days. Going through all of JLG's work, or all that I can, is definitely one of those large projects I've dreamed of, but there are so many such projects and I don't know that my interest in him is as high as it is in a lot of other filmmakers these days.

*I would argue that the 70s period starts with Le gai savoir in 1969, and some might argue begins with Un film comme les autres or Sympathy for the Devil in 1968 as they are the first films after he declared "End of Cinema" in Week End - but I haven't seen the Un film comme... and barely remember Sympathy so can't argue this point very well, and really I don't feel confident enough in my Godard knowledge overall to make a big deal out of it. But certainly Le gai savoir seems to belong more to the 70s than the 60s in his corpus of work.
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#5

Post by St. Gloede »

blocho wrote: October 21st, 2020, 4:26 pm A brief quibble about Weekend, the only Godard movie I really like. If my memory is correct (and it might not be), it didn't open with that famous long tracking shot. I think it opened with a scene featuring a hilariously childish argument between the most annoying French bourgeoisie I've ever seen.

Again, not much of a Godard fan, but I do have a friend who once described Godard to me as "not only one of the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century but one of the best people of the twentieth century."
I was wondering how to phrase that. I know it doesn't "open" with it, but it "the first act". Any suggestion.

*Fixed.
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#6

Post by Teproc »

blocho wrote: October 21st, 2020, 4:26 pm A brief quibble about Weekend, the only Godard movie I really like. If my memory is correct (and it might not be), it didn't open with that famous long tracking shot. I think it opened with a scene featuring a hilariously childish argument between the most annoying French bourgeoisie I've ever seen.

Again, not much of a Godard fan, but I do have a friend who once described Godard to me as "not only one of the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century but one of the best people of the twentieth century."
Your friend really has a very low opinion of 20th century humans it seems. tehe
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#7

Post by St. Gloede »

OldAle1 wrote: October 21st, 2020, 4:27 pm I may or may not listen to this soon but my first few thoughts as to why the 70s work is comparatively neglected are all pretty obvious ones -

* less funny
* less cinematically beautiful - some of it's on SD video, all of it is lower-budget than his most high-profile 60s work
* more difficult
* (more) overtly political

As to the films I've seen -

Le gai savoir (1969)
Tout va bien (1972)
Numéro deux (1975)
Ici et ailleurs (1976)

I only remember the earliest of these two at all well as I saw them around 5 years ago; the 1975/6 films I saw back in the 90s I think. As to what I think of them, dunno, I always find Godard at least interesting but there are many times I don't really understand him, and many of the films I saw long ago I remember seeing in really terrible condition, particularly Numéro deux which I think was shot partly on video to begin with. I have the Godard/Gorin box set (from Arrow? can't be bothered to look) which I'll get to one of these days. Going through all of JLG's work, or all that I can, is definitely one of those large projects I've dreamed of, but there are so many such projects and I don't know that my interest in him is as high as it is in a lot of other filmmakers these days.

*I would argue that the 70s period starts with Le gai savoir in 1969, and some might argue begins with Un film comme les autres or Sympathy for the Devil in 1968 as they are the first films after he declared "End of Cinema" in Week End - but I haven't seen the Un film comme... and barely remember Sympathy so can't argue this point very well, and really I don't feel confident enough in my Godard knowledge overall to make a big deal out of it. But certainly Le gai savoir seems to belong more to the 70s than the 60s in his corpus of work.
I think you are quite right with your quick points there. His work with Mieville is smaller and focused on video art, while his work with the Dziga Vertov Group is generally extremely niche agitation propaganda, at a much lower budget - and of course every film from this period is also, at least in part, an essay.

I may disagree somewhat on the humour and the beauty - Tout va Bien (which, mind you, was his most mainstream, with massive stars, etc.) looks great, and I'm really digging the early Dziga Vertov Groupe too (seeing the blu-ray version of Wind From the East) though it is less conventionally pretty. In terms of humour, you can find tons in the early part of the 70s. Hell, the Joy of Learning is almost all humour (from my memory), though how "funny" it is can be argued. I do think there is a lot of continuation of his humour from La Chinoise, 2 or Three Things I Know About Her and Weekend though.

However, when you get to his collaborations with Mieville there is a completely different tone. I quite enjoy it, and I love their experimentation with form, but it is certainly less "funny".

-

A Film Like Any Other works quite well as a starting point as the Dziga Vertov Group was involved (despite listed under JLGs name) and it is such a bizarrity. It is literally just people discussing politics in a field - with the one interesting thing being that the faces are obscured. It is not unwatchable. The discussions can be interesting, and the way the faces are hidden is interesting (and you can look for the few times they mess up and you can see part of a face :lol: )

But it is easily one of his weakest, he wasn't even on the set certain days, and he cared so little that when he sent it abroad he trolled his fans worse than with Film socialism ...

Sympathy For the Devil does fit in as well, especially in the half not focused on the Rolling Stones, but more of an oddity here.
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#8

Post by blocho »

Teproc wrote: October 21st, 2020, 4:48 pm
blocho wrote: October 21st, 2020, 4:26 pm A brief quibble about Weekend, the only Godard movie I really like. If my memory is correct (and it might not be), it didn't open with that famous long tracking shot. I think it opened with a scene featuring a hilariously childish argument between the most annoying French bourgeoisie I've ever seen.

Again, not much of a Godard fan, but I do have a friend who once described Godard to me as "not only one of the greatest filmmakers of the twentieth century but one of the best people of the twentieth century."
Your friend really has a very low opinion of 20th century humans it seems. tehe
He was prone to making outrageous statements. Other examples include:
- There has never been an interesting American movie.
- All theft should be legal.
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#9

Post by Teproc »

Was your friend a character from Pickpocket who somehow broke out of the screen?

Or, wait, was Pickpocket actually a documentary about them?

They sound infuriating but kind of fascinating.
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#10

Post by matthewscott8 »

A lot of the point of art is to subvert revolutionary instinct, either by giving people with revolutionary instincts something harmless to drain their energies into, like a soundproof room to scream into, and calling them artists, or giving people a pseudo cathartic experience where they can observe and participate in a fake release, someone on a screen feels the same way they do so the world is ok, and calling them cinephiles. Godard actually started to viscerally call for action in the 70s so he didn't fit within that system anymore. Now he's back to making stuff which makes people just feels smart and profound again, he is no longer shunned from the ciné hall.
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#11

Post by St. Gloede »

matthewscott8 wrote: October 21st, 2020, 6:12 pm A lot of the point of art is to subvert revolutionary instinct, either by giving people with revolutionary instincts something harmless to drain their energies into, like a soundproof room to scream into, and calling them artists, or giving people a pseudo cathartic experience where they can observe and participate in a fake release, someone on a screen feels the same way they do so the world is ok, and calling them cinephiles. Godard actually started to viscerally call for action in the 70s so he didn't fit within that system anymore. Now he's back to making stuff which makes people just feels smart and profound again, he is no longer shunned from the ciné hall.
Now this is a take we should have had in the episode (really hope you join in one of these days, Matthew!).

Honestly, this is probably the most biting comment I have seen on this forum for a while, and it has so much truth and punch within it.
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#12

Post by Teproc »

It's not like Godard's work was reaching the people it needed to to incite revolution though. He did try, but (as we touch upon in the episode), I don't see Le vent d'Est starting any revolution ever, because only intellectuals want to see it, perhaps to feel "smart and profound" as you'd say. This is what makes Tout va bien quite interesting, as it is a genuine attempt to make something more accessible and still revolutionary in nature.
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#13

Post by prodigalgodson »

matthewscott8 wrote: October 21st, 2020, 6:12 pm A lot of the point of art is to subvert revolutionary instinct, either by giving people with revolutionary instincts something harmless to drain their energies into, like a soundproof room to scream into, and calling them artists, or giving people a pseudo cathartic experience where they can observe and participate in a fake release, someone on a screen feels the same way they do so the world is ok, and calling them cinephiles. Godard actually started to viscerally call for action in the 70s so he didn't fit within that system anymore. Now he's back to making stuff which makes people just feels smart and profound again, he is no longer shunned from the ciné hall.
Nicely put.

This thread made me realize I haven't seen anything from Godard's 70s! Tout va bien and Sympathy for the Devil at least are definitely on the watchlist.
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#14

Post by Torgo »

Not appealing to me
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#15

Post by St. Gloede »

I wrote up reviews on the 3 films discussed, as well as Here and Elsewhere, which I couldn't stop myself from also diving back into. Overall, very fruitful rewatches for me.

Tout Va Bien (1972, Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Pierre Gorin) 8.5 - 8.5
Le vent d'est AKA Wind From the East (1970, Dziga Vertov Group) 9 - 9.5
Numéro deux (1975, Jean- Luc Godard) 8.5 - 8.5
Ici et ailleurs AKA Here and Elsewhere (1976, Jean-Luc Godard, DVG) 8.5-8.5

The interesting thing here is that I had almost the exact same experience as when I saw these films for the first time (likely a decade ago for each). The only difference is that portions hit harder as I have more context of what happened in May 1968 and general political theory, etc. than I had then, and that I ended up taking each of the films more seriously because of this.

Note: The content will overlap somewhat with what I am saying in the podcast.

Tout Va Bien (1972, Jean-Luc Godard & Jean-Pierre Gorin)

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I think there are two things that are interesting here - especially as they are in contrast:

1. The clarity in contemplation/massaging: Almost all Godards are irreverent, sarcastic and essentially mocking themselves - every line can be taken in so many different ways - nothing is ever "serious". This film caught its breath and allowed for serious introspection.

1.5. It was particularly interesting that it let the boss, the union rep and the workers each state their case with clarity - and focusing exclusively on them while doing so. I.e. almost no "funny business". We assess their words, their motives/interest, their cause, etc. and even more interesting: the dialogue was quite fair - i.e. the boss essentially gives one of the best liberal defenses against socialism (rising living standards, collaboration driving progress, etc.), the union rep gave a very strong case for organizing together and following through on the actual plans - and was allowed to pinpoint the hypocrisy of the "rebels", i.e. never participating in actual union activity, etc. and the workers (albeit shown, sympathetically, to be lacking words of expression/understanding) allowed us to see how dehumanized/alienated they felt, and how tired they were of waiting for improvements - and their frustration at how poorly they could express themselves.

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1.75. It was also interesting to see the dissection of the "intellectuals", who let us be honest, are the most likely to see the film - and how they struggled with their lives, emotions, views and just lacked systematic understanding - the ability to process and even communicate with each other. Jane's comments re: placing their relationship in the context of work is particularly poignant.

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2. The technical/form based experimentation, i.e. dialog not corresponding to what we are shown, faces blocking others, certain conversations being summarised as we see them happen. The detached camera. The high degrees of meta - especially opening/ending and summarizing the creation of "a film" in itself.

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It is very much a Godard film, and the latter showcases what he was doing in the 70s, and even more so in the 80s (with was essentially all form, almost no ideology - at least by comparison) - but where most of Godard's political work in the late 60s and 70s comes off as bizarre experimentation, theatre and surrealism - soaked in essayist material most people just can't relate to - Tout va bien sought to be conventional and approachable enough to work for a larger audience - which of course it also had the ability to do with Montand and Fonda.


Le vent d'est AKA Wind From the East (1970, Dziga Vertov Group)

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Honestly, I loved it just as much as last time. It breaks down all cinematic conventions, to the point that violence is expressed with a bucket of blood, and makes an interesting premise that essentially boils down to narrative/character focused cinema being a product/instrument in upholding the status quo.

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What a sad world it would be if narrative cinema was pushed aside, though I also really wish there were more films like this. It is beautiful, hypnotic and an active debate - including a partial deconstruction. To me this is the ultimate anti-film, making it an absolute must see for all film buffs interested in form.

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My main issues would boil down to the ideology - it pushes the message that you should not simply throw out slogans or read up theory, but apply it, simplify it, evaluate it - but so much of the film, including what comes after, is just this. Which may be intentional, but it is so hard to tell here. I also have to say that the argumentation is quite poor, i.e. the argument against worker autonomy is that the principle is not from Marxism but Anarcho-Syndicalism, and leaves it at that ...

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Again though, a surprise was how much clearer it was politically than I understood it last - and that it is obvious that it has a very specific target group, i.e. young Marxists/students - as opposed to Tout va bien, which has a broader appeal. I also think it is kinda hilarious that after, seemingly, denouncing films with characters and narratives JLG almost immediately made the latter - which while not exactly narrative character driven cinema 101, was certainly far more conventional/traditional than what he had made for a long time.


Numéro deux (1975, Jean- Luc Godard)

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I had completely forgotten the majority of the content. I remembered the family focus, the "there was a factory and we build a landscape around it" (beautiful), but I somehow thought it was far more poetical - I had also forgotten the degree of nudity and sexual content - and that it is described as both a porn and a political film at the beginning. It should tell you a little bit about me/my tastes that my main memory, and still my main focus on this viewing, is its experimentation with form - and not the content/messaging/analysis itself - though they are of course all interconnected.

I am genuinly amazed at the simple tools Godard uses to maintain interest and tension in long narrative sequences. His intro is him standing, face in the dark, - and an identical visual of the TV next to him, with a projector spinning in the opposite direction - and the main sound being the reels spinning. This combination of disjointed sensual experiences are immediately captivating, and the way the elements work together and inform each other is something Godard would continue to develop.

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Staying on tension and presentation, we are often viewing split screens, often not even a split screen but two TVs, in the dark, showing images from the same scene, such as two characters carrying out a conversation. It not only works in that it still contains the narrative, but it adds additonal visual excitement/tension, and more importantly for Godards, separates you from the scene and places you in a position of evaluation - the same is done in split screens, or when scenes are juxtaposed on top of each other - even when there is just one screen we are always at a distance, the action taking place in a TV or a minimized frame within the frame.

(And yes, Numero Deux works quite well with this consistent dual screen video art)

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And that leads us to the content itself, an essay on family, on marriage, on sexual relations, of gender roles, of dominance, of violence, of work - and this comes through in a strikingly nuanced and stark way - where you feel both tenderness and distance, toxicity, etc. The distance and fragmentation allows us to get perspective, while the nudity and sexual elements are also held at bay, and deconstructed to the point that it is almost stripped of erotica.

I would say that the graphic sex, including a blowjob performed of a flaccid penis (and the nudity of the grandparents as well) - has several interesting functions - perhaps leading into the factory vs. landscape debate, where it from scene to scene and sometimes even simultaneously can feel dead and forced, and natural and sensual - and the kind of banality to it, the kind of violent expression and the more natural teaching of sex to their children (which may be disturbing to many) creates such a mix of sensory experiences - especially when coupled with the world around them - which they seem completely distanced from - once again ties in with the complex and uncertain material of the essay itself.

Interesting note: This was his first collaboration with current partner and long time collaborator Anne-Marie Miéville (she is listed as writer and not director/producer, though the film itself implies she's the latter as well).


Ici et ailleurs AKA Here and Elsewhere (1976, Jean-Luc Godard)

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I honestly remembered this as far more sarcastic and humorous, making me quite surprised at just how sombre and heartfelt it actually ended up being. I think Here and Elsewhere cemented how Miéville influenced Godard. We see the start of the kind of experimentation they would engage in over the coming years, but more so it is an assessment of Godard's previous work, and most importantly a look at "Here and Elsewhere", centering the Palestine conflict against the apsthetic French, and exploring, the relationship of media, television, etc.

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It uses footage from a never completed Dziga Vertov Groupe film, where Godard and Gorin travelled to Palestine and documented guerilla fighters - however, the majority were killed by Israeli forces early in filming. The fact that almost all are dead, and Godard's own look at his and Gorin's ethics, gives the film a very real punch, while the essay elements reminds us of how far, yet how near the conflict is.

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Ticking in at just 53 minutes this is one of the shortest full-length films JLG ever did, but it still carries a lot of strength.
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#16

Post by beavis »

nice write up!! good to see a less reductive than usual approach to this Godard period

I've seen 61 Godard films when I count shorts and count Histoire(s) du Cinema as their seperate entries (although I rated it as a single unit)

1 - À bout de souffle 1960 - 3,5
2 - Une femme est une femme 1961 - 3
3 - Les sept péchés capitaux 1961 - 3,5
4 - Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux 1962 - 4
5 - Le mépris 1963 - 4,5
6 - Le petit soldat 1963 - 3
7 - Ro.Go.Pa.G. 1963 - 2
8 - Les carabiniers 1963 - 4
9 - Bande à part 1964 - 5
10 - Une femme mariée: Suite de fragments d'un film tourné en 1964 1964 - 4
11 - Les plus belles escroqueries du monde 1964 - 3
12 - Pierrot le fou 1965 - 3,5
13 - Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution 1965 - 3,5
14 - Paris vu par... 1965 - 3
15 - Masculin féminin 1966 - 4
16 - Made in U.S.A 1966 - 4
17 - Week End 1967 - 4,5
18 - La chinoise 1967 - 3,5
19 - 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle 1967 - 4
20 - Loin du Vietnam 1967 - 4,5
21 - Le plus vieux métier du monde 1967 - 3
22 - Sympathy for the Devil 1968 - 4
23 - Le gai savoir 1969 - 4
24 - Amore e rabbia 1969 - 4
25 - Le vent d'est 1970 - 3,5
26 - Pravda 1970 - 3,5
27 - British Sounds 1970 - 3
28 - Vladimir et Rosa 1971 - 2,5
29 - Lotte in Italia 1971 - 4
30 - Tout va bien 1972 - 3
31 - Letter to Jane: An Investigation About a Still 1972 - 2,5
32 - Numéro deux 1975 - 2,5
33 - Ici et ailleurs 1976 - 2,5
34 - Sauve qui peut (la vie) 1980 - 3
35 - Passion 1982 - 4
36 - Prénom Carmen 1983 - 3,5
37 - Je vous salue, Marie 1985 - 3,5
38 - Détective 1985 - 3
39 - King Lear 1987 - 4
40 - Soigne ta droite 1987 - 3,5
41 - Aria 1987 - 3,5
42 - Puissance de la parole 1988 - short
43 - Histoire(s) du cinéma: Toutes les histoires 1989 - 4
44 - Histoire(s) du cinéma: Une histoire seule 1989 -
45 - Nouvelle vague 1990 - 4
46 - Allemagne 90 neuf zéro 1991 - 3
47 - Les enfants jouent à la Russie 1993 - 3
48 - Hélas pour moi 1993 - 4,5
49 - Je vous salue, Sarajevo 1993 - short
50 - Histoire(s) du cinéma: Seul le cinéma 1994 -
51 - Histoire(s) du cinéma: Fatale beauté 1994 -
52 - Histoire(s) du cinéma: La monnaie de l'absolu 1999 -
53 - Histoire(s) du cinéma: Une vague nouvelle 1999 -
54 - Histoire(s) du cinéma: Les signes parmi nous 1999 -
55 - Histoire(s) du cinéma: Le contrôle de l'univers 1999 -
56 - De l'origine du XXIe siècle 2000 - short
57 - Éloge de l'amour 2001 - 3
58 - Ten Minutes Older: The Cello 2002 - 3,5
59 - Film socialisme 2010 - 2,5
60 - Adieu au langage 2014 - 2,5
61 - Le livre d'image 2018 - 2,5

I came to Godard as most do, through his popular / highly rated nouvelle vague work first, and really liked it. Lucky for me I am also interested in politics and in experimental cinema, so i was able to go along on his journey of rejecting the trust in Images while coming to terms with his political leanings (to sum it up a bit too... strongly). It is his current phase i struggle the most with, as he seems to repeat his experimentations on form quite a bit while adding nothing new to it, and content wise it just is hard to get along with everything (if it is even possible to fully get it at times).

BTW
His short for Aria is one of the most beautiful things he has made, and a big part of my rating for that movie.
Hélas pour moi is for me the pinaccle of "experimental/late Godard", althoug it seems Je vous salue, Marie is a more popular choice for most Godard fans...(not sure)
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