Jean-Luc Godard to be celebrated by BFI with major 3 month season
Born in 1930, and active as a critic from 1950 before making his first feature À bout de souffle in 1960, Jean-Luc Godard is a seminal director who has influenced filmmakers as diverse as Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch, Bernardo Bertolucci
At BFI Southbank
BFI Southbank will mount an extensive season dedicated to one of the most innovative film directors in the world, the godfather of the French New Wave Jean-Luc Godard, from Friday 1 January – Wednesday 16 March; the season will include over 100 examples of his vast and varied output, including feature films, short films, self-portraits, experimental TV productions and a number of rarities. The season will be structured chronologically so audiences can appreciate the evolution of Godard’s craft over the past five decades. One of the highlights of the season will be an extended run of the BFI re-release of Le Mépris, back in selected cinemas across the UK from Friday 1 January. Plus, on Saturday 16 January the star of many of Godard’s early films and Godard’s former wife Anna Karina, will introduce a screening of Le Mépris (1963), a film said to be about their relationship, and take part in Q&As following Vivre sa vie (1962) and Bande à part (1964), both of which she starred in and will also play on extended run during the season. Karina will also take part in the BFI’s regular Screen Epiphanies series, introducing a screening of Singin’ in the Rain (1952) on Sunday 17 January.
Season event highlights:
Saturday 16 January, 15:10 – SCREENING: Bande à part + Q&A with Anna Karina
Saturday 16 January, 17:50 – SCREENING: Le Mépris + intro with Anna Karina
Saturday 16 January, 20:40 – SCREENING: Vivre sa vie + Q&A with Anna Karina
Sunday 17 January, 12:30 – BFI SCREEN EPIPHANY: Singin’ in the Rain + intro with Anna Karina
Wednesday 6 January, 18:10 – TALK: Laura Mulvey & Michael Witt on Jean-Luc Godard
Tuesday 12 January, 20:20 – TALK: ‘Le Mépris’ and Godard’s Philosophical Cinema
Wednesday 13 January, 20:30 – TALK: Jean-Luc Godard as Architect
Wednesday 10 February, 18:20 – TALK: Nicole Brenez on Godard as Experimental Filmmaker
Monday 22 February, 18:30 – TALK: Albertine Fox on Godard as Sound Artist
Born in 1930, and active as a critic from 1950 before making his first feature À bout de souffle in 1960, Jean-Luc Godard is a seminal director who has influenced filmmakers as diverse as Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch, Bernardo Bertolucci and the subject of another BFI Southbank season during January, Quentin Tarantino. Godard conceived his semi-improvised, location-shot first feature À bout de soufflé (1960) – based on a treatment by François Truffaut – as a manifesto for a new type of filmmaking. Drawing on a deep knowledge of film history, he set out to do everything that cinema had done up to that point, but differently. The film won Godard the first of many major awards – The Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival – and helped establish the French New Wave as a bold new style in filmmaking.
Iconic Nouvelle Vague features being screened in part one of the season during January will include Pierrot le fou (1965); stunningly photographed by Raoul Coutard,Godard’s tale of ‘the last romantic couple’ follows Pierrot (Jean-Paul Belmondo) as he abandons the routine of his comfortable Paris existence for adventure on the road with lover Marianne (Anna Karina). Extended run titles will be Vivre sa vie (1962), Bande à part (1964) and Le Mépris (1963). Vivre sa vie is a Brechtian social fiction which follows Nana (played by Anna Karina) as she learns how to be a sex worker, and was based on a popular sociological study of contemporary prostitution. Bande à part also stars Karina, this time alongside Claude Brasseur and Sami Frey, as an incompetent trio of amateur crooks whose plan to burgle a rich old lady goes tragicomically wrong. The tone of the film is light and includes two classic examples of the sheer fun of making movies: the infamous Madison dance scene and a sprint through the Louvre. Le Mépris is a sumptuously stylish study of a rocky marriage and fraught professional relationships starring Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli. Seen as Godard’s most emotionally involving film, it was also his most successful. It was the seventh best performing film at the box office in France in 1963, but it was the one and only time that Godard worked with the backing of an American studio.
Other highlights of the January programme will include screenings of Le Petit soldat (1960), at once political thriller, existential drama and love story, Godard’s exuberant tribute to the Hollywood musical Une Femme est une femme (1961), the romantic sci-fi adventure Alphaville (1965), and Made in USA (1966), in which Anna Karina stars as a woman attempting to discover who has murdered her lover. There will also be a rare opportunity to see films outside Godard’s New Wave oeuvre including One Plus One (aka Sympathy for the Devil) (1968), in which Godard followed The Rolling Stones as they recorded their seminal album ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, Le Gai savoir (1968), the structure, essayistic form and first-person narration of which anticipate his later audio-visual essays, and Vent d’est (1969, an experiment in collective filmmaking which began as a ‘Marxist western’ and ultimately became a manifesto for the Dziga Vertov Group’s project to ‘make political films politically.’
Part two of the season in February covers a period of extraordinary diversity and radical changes in Godard’s methods and artistic output. Following collaborations with Jean-Pierre Gorin including Lotte in Italia (1970), Vladimir et Rosa (1970), Tout va bien (1972) and Letter to Jane (1972), Godard
embarked on the most significant and long-lasting creative partnership in his career. Working with his current partner Anne-Marie Miéville, not only did his political philosophy take a new turn – focusing less on abstract revolutionary principles and more on the everyday experiences of life under capitalism – but also the very tools of his art changed. Godard and Miéville enthusiastically embraced video technology as a fresh way of seeing the world and of thinking with images and sounds. Films such as Numéro deux (1975) and Comment ça va? (1976) saw Godard and Miéville combine film and video techniques to produce a wide-ranging essay that announces the key themes of their subsequent work, including the sexual politics of work and the family and the ideological domination of the mass media.
There will be a rare opportunity to see Godard’s experiments with television in the late 1970s - Six fois deux (1976) was a six part series which used the screen less as a window than as a blackboard for the analysis of contemporary communication processes, often using a video pen to write directly over the imagery; the ambitious a twelve part series France tour détour deux enfants (1979) was a poetic study on childhood, school, TV, French language, and society. But Godard did not abandon cinema, he simply reinvigorated it with this new audiovisual dialogue, which exploded into life in the 80s with a series of brilliant features that are as richly suggestive and as sensuously captivating as anything he produced in the 60s. Features from the 1980s being screened in the season will include Passion(1982) starring Isabelle Huppert and Jerzy Radziwilowicz, a lateral take on the Carmen story First Name: Carmen (1983), a return to noir for the first time sinceMade in USA Détective (1985) and King Lear (1987), which Godard presented as a ‘study’ of the source material, and features William Shakespeare Jr. the Fifth (Peter Sellars) on the trail of traces of his ancestor’s work in an age of cultural amnesia.
The concluding month of the retrospective in March will focus on Godard’s historical films and videos, and the astonishing creativity and vitality of his most recent work. Godard devoted considerable time in the 1990s to completing Histoire(s) du cinema (1998), his landmark eight-part study of cinema history, and of the history of the twentieth century through cinema. Other projects during the 1990s included Godard’s response to the conflict in ex-Yugoslavia via a number of works including For Ever Mozart (1996) and Hail, Sarajevo (1993), and Godard explored the new Europe of the early 1990s in Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (1991). In 1995, as part of the cinema centenary celebrations, the BFI commissioned Two Times 50 Years of French Cinema (1995), a short history of French cinema, which is by turn melancholic and uplifting, nostalgic and yet inventive.
JLG/JLG: December Self-Portrait (1995) was a unique spin on the autobiographical genre, in which Godard composed a fascinating self-portrait of the artist at work in his mid-sixties. The season will also include a Self-Portraiture Programme; Godard has appeared in many of his own films throughout his career, sometimes just as a voice, sometimes as an actor playing a role, but most often as himself. This programme will include a number of such appearances includingCamera-Eye (1967), Farewell to the TNS (1996) and It Was When (2010). Since 2000, besides producing numerous further video essays and feature films, including In Praise of Love (2001), Our Music (2004) and Film socialisme (2010), Godard staged a major exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in 2006, and as his recent 3D feature Adieu au langage (2014) demonstrates, he remains at the age of 85 as vital, inventive and unpredictable a creative force as ever.