I remember the day in my freshman year of college when I discovered the work of Jean-Luc Godard. I gathered up all the change I had and made copies of every article about him I could find in the university library. This was in 1978, years after his classic first act as a director of radically structured but still charming and likeable films and near the end of his second act as the politically obsessed collaborator with Jean-Pierre Gorin. His third act began while I was in college.
In 2010 I saw his “Film Socialisme” at the New York Film Festival. Wes Anderson was seated in the row in front of me and James Toback just a few seats to his side. I ran into Anderson in my ‘hood a few years later and reminded him that Toback had fallen asleep and we agreed that this represented the range of responses to Godard: either he held you with rapt attention or you fell asleep.
I struggled with many of his later films too but studied them carefully like the rabid devotee I still was, something his detractors suspected anyone who still liked his work must be. Like obits in the NY Times and elsewhere say, he was cranky and difficult and if the 2017 biographical film about him “Redoubtable” is to be believed, he could be a real asshole too. But he was always an artist and created a huge body of work that will continue to be seen and loved and hated for years to come. I mean just check out this filmography!
Over the next weeks and months I’m going to revisit many of Godard’s films and also watch ones I still haven’t seen and I’ll be documenting my discoveries here. I hope I can introduce some new people to his work and share my joys with others who find it to be an inexhaustible source of stimulation and pleasure.
Rest in peace, Jean-Luc Godard.