Tag Archives: Jean-Luc Godard

XL Popcorn – Two or Three Things I Know About Her

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 878/1009Title: Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle (Two or Three Things I Know About Her)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1967
Country: France

If I include a short, this is the 8th film that I have seen by Jean-Luc Godard – at this point these really are crossing films off for the sake of crossing them off rather than getting hopes dashed. There aren’t too many directors that I have seen more movies by, which puts Godard in the weird position as one of my most watched auteurs.

I am not going to go too deep into this film for my post because I feel like I have said my peace about his style in other entries and I don’t want to repeat myself too much. There are probably two real points of interest that I got from this watch that feel unique among his filmography that I have watched so far.

First, there is the ambiguity of the ‘Her’ in the title. Watching this, the straight forward conclusion is that ‘her’ refers to one of the two women who we see most – who have been driven to prostitution to pay their bills in an increasingly capitalist society. Being a gendered language (which is more the rule than the exception, I know that English is different in that) ‘her’ can also take on other meanings such as Paris herself, various political ideas or the utilitarian architecture of the suburbs.

The there is the continuous fourth-wall breaking, not including Godard’s whispered narration which sadly did not induce an ASMR response in me. It would be more interesting for me to have these moments of the characters addressing the camera if it didn’t always have to go overtly philosophical. There’s a moment early in the film where a child talks about a dream they had involving twins where his 6 year old deduces that these twins must represent a separated Vietnam – because children obvious think this way and the boy clearly wasn’t having trouble remembering what the script said. This moment wasn’t a complete fourth-wall break, but given how ridiculous the words and sentiment were, it might as well have been.

One more Godard on the list. Just one more. It’ll be another year or so before I close the book on this director – remains to be seen if I ever watch him again once I have no real obligation to.

XL Popcorn – My Life to Live

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 758/1007Title: Vivre sa vie: film en douze tableaux (My Life to Live)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1962
Country: France

It has been over a year since my last Godard film and I’m finally feeling ready to try him out again. Vivre sa vie is the second oldest of his eight films that appear on the 1001 list (his debut Breathless being the oldest) and is one of the many to star his muse (and first wife) Anna Karina. It’s also an 80 minute film that felt more like a two hour film.

On the surface of it, Vivre sa vie sounds like an interesting idea. A story of a woman who left her family to become an actress who resorts to prostitution to support herself, all told over the course of twelve brief vignettes. The problem is that two of them are dominated by other media (one has a prolonged clip from The Passion of Joan of Arc and the other a reading from a work by Edgar Allen Poe) and large sections are dominated by the favoured topic within French new wave: philosophy.

I look back on this and think about another French film from the 1960s about a prostitute that I actually enjoyed – Belle de JourSure different directors have their different styles, but at the core they have a lot of similarities and I just find Buñuel to be the more engaging storyteller. The best thing about Vivre sa vie is the sudden ending that seems to come from nowhere. It still has shock value some 57 years later, but after the rest of the film it’s a shame that this abruptness is a welcome relief.

Two more Godard films left and I am really starting to wrestle with the idea of getting them out of the way before I hit the final stretch. I thought, at some point, I would be able to find one of his films that I would finish off and be able to say that I liked it. I’m still holding out some hope for Pierrot le fou and Two or Three Things I Know About Her, but that hope is dwindling fast.

XL Popcorn – Le Mépris

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 682/1007Title: Le Mépris (Comtempt)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1963
Country: France

Here we are again with Jean-Luc Godard and I am left feeling a philistine for, once again, feeling no real interest in what I just watched. With all of his films that I’ve previously watched, I always end up feeling like this was time wasted on something that feels so incredibly shallow – and Le Mépris isn’t an exception.

Okay, so that’s a bit over the top. I had huge hopes for this in the first half an hour. I thought that Le Mépris might turn out to be Godard doing a sharp take on film making and, in the beginning, it felt like that. Fritz Lang (playing himself) has such a presence in the opening scenes, where he’s screening the dailies of his latest film, that I thought this could be something interesting.

Then came all the relationship drama between Camille (Bridget Bardot) and Paul (Michel Piccoli) which completely let the air out of the film. We just spend the rest of the film in a circular argument where Camille keeps baiting her husband how today is the day that she fell out of love with him and she refuses to tell him why.

We’re never able to leave this topic for nearly an hour and it just turns this film into a beautiful set of moving images. I mean, just look at the cinematography – so many individual shots in this film are works of art. But therein lies the problem, at least for me, a film that is pretty to look at and without much lying underneath the surface just doesn’t interest me.

There are still three more Godard films to watch and, by the looks of it, I am left with some of the lesser acclaimed ones to appear on the 1001 list. With all lists like this there is the chance of you finding things you dislike, however the films of Godard are at the point now where I am making myself watch this for the sake of list completion rather than the idea that I might end up enjoying them. Who knows, I might be turned around later – but for now I think I need more than 6 months before I put myself through another one of these.

XL Popcorn – Alphaville

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 652/1007
Title: Alphaville
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1965
Country: France

I still have four Jean-Luc Godard films to watch. I still have to let that sink in as, yet again, I have watched yet another one of his films and not only did I not get it but it sent me to sleep. It’s not unusual for me to feel sleepy if I watch a film in the afternoon – I’m someone who probably should nap more – however I usually find a way to snap myself out of it. With Alphaville I found myself giving into it.

There’s no denying that the setting in Alphaville is interesting. A dystopian world ruled by a computer where people are executed if they show any sort of emotion? Sure, I’m there. It’s very much an Orwellian world with a few extra steps and some weird execution scenes in a swimming pool.

Thing is, there is so much that should have worked for this film. I love a good genre film and who wouldn’t want to watch a film about a spy sabotaging an evil computer who runs things based purely on logic. It just needs to be, oh I don’t know, better paced and less confusing. Maybe even have it so that the spy seems semi-competent – I have no idea how he ends up succeeding in the end as he has the subtlety of a gas explosion.

I don’t mind the fact that nothing really seems too futuristic or this featuring some of the slowest car chases that I have ever seen – but there is nothing there to support it. At least not for me.

With there being four more Godard films to watch I really don’t hold up much hope for my suddenly changing my mind about him. I feel that if I don’t find myself engaged or at least moved by a dystopian sci-fi flick like this then what can he really do to get me to become a fan?

XL Popcorn – Masculin Féminin

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 606/1007
Title: Masculin Féminin
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1966
Country: France

So here I am with my third Godard film out of the eight entries on the 1001 list (after Week End and Breathless). It is also, if the internet is to be believed, the least acclaimed of the eight. I figured that it might be a good idea to see this having been less than impressed by two of his more beloved offerings.

This is, as the ratings would have predicted, my least favourite of the three. Even though this has the best looking male lead that I have seen so far. I am trying to find a positive in a film that is drowning in ennui, youthful arrogance and the ultimate French stereotype of a menage. At least in this film it goes one further with it being a menage a quatre rather than being a menage a trois.

Look. It took me 5 months before I wanted to go back to French cinema and boy was I rewarded with Wages of Fear and The Sorrow and the PityI think that I have just got to come to terms with the fact that I just don’t like Godard films.

No. Not yet. I still have some interesting looking films of his to come like Alphaville, Le mépris and Pierrot le fou. Maybe I’ll find some enjoyment in those… or at least something to talk about other than general chauvinism.

XL Popcorn – Week End

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 587/1007
Title: Week End
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1967
Country: France

The phrase ‘oh my god, what the fuck am I watching’ rarely leaves my mouth when I am watching a film by myself and yet it spontaneously erupted from me some 20 minutes in this film. It also kept coming to mind for the remaining 80 minutes.

I guess this is my fault for watching two Godard films in a row. I mean, if I didn’t get on with Breathless (which is meant to be his best) then why do another one so soon. Maybe because he has 8 films in this list and I am woefully behind.

Honestly, the title of Week End doesn’t seem to fit this. If it had been called Accident after the abundance of car crashes in this film it would have made more sense. I kinda wonder if Godard had a friend with a scrapyard who fell on hard times and needed to loan out or set fire to most of his stock

There are parts that are so bizarre that they become enjoyable (such as the singing man in the phone box) but on the while this film is actually quite baffling. It’s just missing that signature clown flipping a pancake in slow motion.

I always thought I had a high tolerance to arty cinema (I mean, hello, I adored La Belle Noiseuse), but I think we might need to make an exception for some of these French films from the 1960s.

Actually, you know what this film made me miss? Les Demoiselles de Rochefort there was an older French film that I really enjoyed. Also, it made me miss the enjoyable surrealism of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

Maybe I just don’t like Godard? I have 6 more films to go to see if this idea tracks at all.

XL Popcorn – À Bout de Souffle

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 586/1007
Title: À Bout de Souffle
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Year: 1960
Country: France

I don’t know how I can call myself a cinephile when this is the first time I have ever seen a film by Jean-Luc Godard. So many people talk about him as being this ‘great director’ and about À Bout de Souffle as being this great debut film. So it was high time that I crossed this off of my list.

After watching a film like this I always enjoy looking at some of the retrospective reviews. For many it is ranked alongside Citizen Kane as one of the most influential film debuts of all time. Also, À Bout de Souffle is one of those key films of the French New Wave and a favourite of Quentin Tarantino.

With the exception of Cléo de 5 à 7 I still have not found a French New Wave film where I understand all the hype. It’s the narrative style, the jump cuts and the general feeling of ennui. Just leaves me cold if I cannot enjoy the central character – and I really did not like Michel in this. What an insufferable arse with a Humphrey Bogart complex.

It’s interesting to see this film when it comes to film history. However I just found it monumentally empty. I think that the character of Michel is meant to come off as cool and detached, as is the style of these French New Wale male protagonists, but in this day and age he’s just a bit of a pig. A pig that murdered a policeman in the opening sequence.

Probably one of those things where I expected more from the film I guess. Hey ho. There’s still 400+ of these to wow me I guess.