Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard

Jean-Luc Godard has died. That generation has been going - is he the last one left? It is getting close. He was one of the big ones - for me, he is close to the most important film maker of all time. For me, he is close to the best film maker of all time - though no one could pass Ozu. But importance? You can make a case for some of the filmmakers in the silent era - Griffith, Murnau, Lang, Eisenstein, Chaplin - they made the form. But after that? He was a public figure as well as a filmmaker, and he set the agenda for art films for the last 60 years. Sometimes, he did this as much as a figure to define cinema against as what cinema was - but he was still there, at the center of it, making films, talking about films, demanding viewers and readers respond to films.

I responded to his films. He was one of my introductions to art films - back in the 80s, I saw Aphaville, and was caught. It was mind-blowing - beautiful, strange, funny - and for all its difficulty, and his reputation for difficulty, readily accessible. I saw Breathless not too much later and enjoyed it just as much. His 60s films, at least, are usually like this - there is plenty to hang on to as you work through their intricacies. They are still among the most enjoyable films of all time. Alphaville, Breathless, Pierrot le Fou, Vivre Sa Vie, Week End, Contempt - all rich, gorgeous works, entertaining, challenging, inventive, everything. His later films, admittedly, are harder sledding - but they are still gorgeous, and the more recent ones, leaning into the collagist aesthetic he has always embraced, are quite enjoyable as well, in their somewhat more specialized way. 

So - he was instrumental in forming my taste in films, in defining what I thought film could do. I may have been predisposed to artsy films, but he gave me art films that I could sink my teeth into. He made films that remain completely satisfying, at every level, that deepen every time I watch one of them. He was one of the greatest of them all - for me, it's Godard and Ozu at the top, no mistakes. I will miss him. That generation - the New Waves, French, English, Japanese and so on - are almost all gone. And Godard was the center of that generation, and now he is gone.