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25 Remote Warehouse Biography- Entertainment and Performing Arts

Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard

by

Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Chapter One

"WE DO NOT THINK WE ARE THOUGHT"

In the second edition, dated June 1950, of a thin newspaper-like magazine published in Paris, La Gazette du cinéma, a nineteen-year-old writer made a modest debut. Jean-Luc Godard's article, simply titled "Joseph Mankiewicz," was a short and breezy overview of that director's career, though, as in the following reference to the director's recent film, A Letter to Three Wives, it was devoted less to his Films than to Mankiewicz himself: " 'One can judge a woman's past by her present,' Mankiewicz says somewhere: this letter to three married women is also three letters to the same woman, one whom the director probably loved."

In an eight-paragraph jaunt, the young writer lightly sketched a conception of the cinema that was as intensely personal as it was revolutionary: he suggested that films are one with the world offscreen. Casually, and without any theoretical fuss, he treated films as something more than creations that bore the mark of their makers; he considered them inseparable from the lives of their creators.

Godard's piece on the front page of the next issue of La Gazette, "For a Political Cinema," is as provocative now as it seemed at the time. In it, he put forth an aesthetic framework that daringly overrode basic ideological distinctions in the name of specifically cinematic values.

One afternoon, at the end of the Gaumont newsreel, we opened our eyes wide with pleasure: young German Communists were marching in a May Day celebration. Suddenly, space was only the lines of lips and bodies, time only the raising of fists in the air . . . By the sole force of propaganda that was animating them, these young people were beautiful.1

Godard compared these young people to St. Sebastian and to the youths in classical Greek sculpture: the state of possession, albeit an intellectual one, that resulted from the thrall of ideology seemed to him to resemble religious devotion and thus to confer on its subject a transcendent serenity. He added that in Soviet films, "the actor infallibly returns to what he originally was, a priest. The Fall of Berlin and The Battle of Stalingrad are coronation masses." Godard treated expressions of Communist and Christian faith as equivalent, and admired the similar power of Nazi propaganda films, which had so recently been pressed upon Parisian moviegoers by German occupiers:

We could not forget Hitler Youth Quex, certain passages of films by Leni Riefenstahl, several shocking newsreels from the Occupation, the maleficent ugliness of The Eternal Jew. It is not the first time that art is born of constraint.

Godard praised these films not for their political message but for their psychology: they depicted people under the influence, and it hardly mattered whether that influence was political or religious. He took all fanaticisms to be alike and to be equally beautiful. Without equating the far left and the far right politically, Godard equated them aesthetically.

The essay ends with an exhortation: "French filmmakers in search of scripts, how have you unfortunate souls not yet filmed the assessment of taxes, the death of Philippe Henriod [sic], the wonderful life of Danielle Casanova?" Henriot, the Minister of Information in the Vichy government and a frequent and familiar orator on French radio under occupation, was killed in 1944 by Resistance fighters. Casanova, the founder of a Communist youth newspaper in the 1930s, was a Resistance fighter who died at Auschwitz. Godard endorsed as equally cinematically fertile the actions of a collaborator, of a resister, and ordinary parliamentary infighters, and he took the adventures and anecdotes that arose in the course of contemporary and recent history to be the cinema's natural subject. The passions to which the characters in such films would bear witness were those that belonged to the real world, as verified by the reality from which they derived. The cinematic fictions that the young Godard dreamed of arose from the documentary impulse.

Moreover, his idealistic depiction of the young fanatic was a touching, if oblique, self-portrait. He was leading a life of singular and exalted purpose: his monomaniacal fervor was ignited by movies, and he gave remarkably definitive expression to it in the following issue of La Gazette.

The October 1950 edition featured a brief note by "H.L."Hans Lucas, "Jean-Luc" in German, a pseudonym that Godard occasionally adopted through 1955on a documentary film about Alexander Calder's mobiles. One mercurial sentence sums up with a self-revealing clarity the adolescent Godard's relation to the cinema: "At the cinema, we do not think, we are thought."2 This observation was less an avowal of passivity than of the will to self-transformation through movies. It indicates Godard's consuming submission to cinema and the extent to which he experienced it as a personal epiphany, indeed a transfiguration. Godard had reached the essence of the experience at once, and conveyed it in an unabashed confession. In a single aphorism, he broke down the barriers of aesthetic distance and contemplation that separate the cinema, its viewers, and its makers. At the earliest stage of his work, Godard's existence and that of the cinema were already fused.

These three articles delineate a coherent and comprehensive cinematic philosophy, one which Godard would realize and rework in a wide variety of forms in a filmmaking career that began in 1954 and continues to this day. The ideas that they sketch are the unity of the filmmaker with the film, the inseparability of both from the social world at large, the credence of a devout moviegoer in the reality of the world as presented in the cinema, and the aesthetic fecundity of this fanatical submission. The viewer who was "thought" at the cinema was Godard himself; the filmmaker who was one with his film would be Godard himself; and his films would be the seemingly infinite variations on the theme of his singular faith in the cinema and in its ability to preserve and to reflect both the reality of the filmmaker and of his times through the intersection of personal stories and political history.

But each of these principles came with a price tag. Godard's submission to the cinema risked alienation from life. Films conceived as the expression of fanatical devotion to the cinema risked becoming a closed circuit of self-satisfied self-reference to the exclusion of reality. The identification of the film and the filmmaker risked the creation of a cult of personality that would detract attention from the filmmaker's work. And the avidly omnivorous, ideologically indeterminate recording of political currents ran the risk of detachment and ambiguity. Over time, Godard would recognize all of these risks and, in his work and his life, would attempt to confront and to overcome them.

THE STORY OF Jean-Luc Godard's work is one of a conversion to the secular religion of art and, specifically, to the art of cinema. For this art form, for this sort of passion, the holy city was, and remains, Paris.

The movies started in France, with the work of the Lumière brothers,3 and the special relationship of Paris to the movies is in large part due to that city's central role in French civilization. For France, Paris is three things in one: it is the country's New York, Washington, D.C., and Hollywoodthe cultural, political, and cinematic capital. The three domains are much more strongly interconnected in France than in the United States, and activity in any one of the three fields is quickly reflected in the other two. As a result, in France the movie business has also been, all along, both a strain of high art and a sensitive political barometer.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805080155
Author:
Brody, Richard
Publisher:
Holt McDougal
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts - Movie Directors
Subject:
Biography-Entertainment and Performing Arts
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts
Subject:
Individual Director (see also BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY/Entertainment & Performing Arts)
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
20090631
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
approx. 30 bandw illus. throughout
Pages:
720
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 in

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Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard New Trade Paper
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Product details 720 pages Holt McDougal - English 9780805080155 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "It is due to the cinema's past universality and present blockbuster mentality that mass appeal would seem to hold the measure of an artist's achievement. What is truly remarkable is that Godard ever had a public at all. Now, as always, he makes movies to suit himself." (read the entire Harper's review)
"Review" by , "Everything Is Cinema is better than a biography, it is a novel. And a great novel, in which one discovers the story of a man who almost picked the wrong art form, a struggling writer who became an immense filmmaker."Bernard-Henri Lévy, author of
"Review" by , "[S]erious-minded and meticulously detailed . . . account of the lifelong artistic journey...of one of the most influential filmmakers of our age".
"Review" by , "Richard Brody's biography of Godard — arguably the most important, enigmatic, and exciting filmmaker of the second half of the 20th century — effortlessly weaves intellectual history, a personal saga, and an authoritative reading of the films themselves into a seamless web. It virtually crackles with intelligence, and is a must read for anyone interested in cinema."
"Review" by , "Full of lucid analysis and human context, Richard Brody's book performs a heroic act in rescuing Godard and his growing shelf of works from the prison of myth and theory, from the cult of youth and the cult of the '60s, restoring him to his place as an engaged, hard-working artist."
"Review" by , "Godard changed the movies as much as the American masters he grew up on: Welles, Hawks, Hitchcock, and the rest. He is as original as Picasso — but unlike Picasso, he has been denied the biography he has always deserved. This is it. Just at the moment when the New Wave turns fifty, Richard Brody has given us Everything is Cinema, a remarkable book which describes with sharp intelligence a great and elusive artist's times, intellect, passions, and work."
"Synopsis" by , A “serious-minded and meticulously detailed . . . account of the lifelong artistic journey” of one of the most influential filmmakers of our age (The New York Times)

When Jean-Luc Godard wed the ideals of filmmaking to the realities of autobiography and current events, he changed the nature of cinema. Unlike any earlier films, Godards work shifts fluidly from fiction to documentary, from criticism to art. The man himself also projects shifting images—cultural hero, fierce loner, shrewd businessman. Hailed by filmmakers as a—if not the—key influence on cinema, Godard has entered the modern canon, a figure as mysterious as he is indispensable.

In Everything Is Cinema, critic Richard Brody has amassed hundreds of interviews to demystify the elusive director and his work. Paying as much attention to Godards technical inventions as to the political forces of the postwar world, Brody traces an arc from the directors early critical writing, through his popular success with Breathless, to the grand vision of his later years. He vividly depicts Godards wealthy conservative family, his fluid politics, and his tumultuous dealings with women and fellow New Wave filmmakers.

Everything Is Cinema confirms Godards greatness and shows decisively that his films have left their mark on screens everywhere.

"Synopsis" by , A “serious-minded and meticulously detailed . . . account of the lifelong artistic journey” of one of the most influential filmmakers of our age (The New York Times)

When Jean-Luc Godard wed the ideals of filmmaking to the realities of autobiography and current events, he changed the nature of cinema. Unlike any earlier films, Godards work shifts fluidly from fiction to documentary, from criticism to art. The man himself also projects shifting imagescultural hero, fierce loner, shrewd businessman. Hailed by filmmakers as aif not thekey influence on cinema, Godard has entered the modern canon, a figure as mysterious as he is indispensable.

In Everything Is Cinema, critic Richard Brody has amassed hundreds of interviews to demystify the elusive director and his work. Paying as much attention to Godards technical inventions as to the political forces of the postwar world, Brody traces an arc from the directors early critical writing, through his popular success with Breathless, to the grand vision of his later years. He vividly depicts Godards wealthy conservative family, his fluid politics, and his tumultuous dealings with women and fellow New Wave filmmakers.

Everything Is Cinema confirms Godards greatness and shows decisively that his films have left their mark on screens everywhere.

Richard Brody, a film critic and editor at The New Yorker, is also an independent filmmaker who lives in New York City. Everything Is Cinema is his first book.
When Jean-Luc Godard wed the ideals of filmmaking to the realities of autobiography and current events, he changed the nature of cinema. Unlike any earlier films, Godards work shifts fluidly from fiction to documentary, from criticism to art. Godard himself also projects shifting imagescultural hero, fierce loner, shrewd businessman. Hailed by filmmakers as aif not thekey influence on cinema, Godard has entered the modern canon, a figure as mysterious as he is indispensable.

In Everything Is Cinema, critic Richard Brody has amassed hundreds of interviews to demystify the elusive director and his work. Paying as much attention to Godards technical inventions as to the political forces of the postwar world, Brody traces an arc from the directors early critical writing, through his popular success with Breathless, to the grander vision of his later years. Brody vividly depicts Godards wealthy conservative family, his fluid politics, and his tumultuous experiences with women and fellow New Wave filmmakers.

Everything Is Cinema shows decisively the lasting mark that Godard has left on cinema.

"Richard Brodys Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard is a story of transformation, a painstaking account of a lifelong artistic journey . . . [A] meticulously detailed book . . . Everything Is Cinema works its way methodically through Godards career, beginning with his days as a young cinephile in the early 1950s, writing for Parisian film journals like La Gazette du Cinéma and, later, the newly founded Cahiers du Cinéma. Brody explains that Godards entree into the French film industry, via writing criticism, was 'revolutionary and didactic': Godard and his contemporariesamong them future filmmakers of the nouvelle vague including François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette and Maurice Schérer (better known to filmgoers as Eric Rohmer)educated themselves by making pilgrimages to screenings at the Cinémathèque and the Cine-Club du Quartier Latin, where they might see three or four films a day."Stephanie Zacharek, The New York Times 
"An honest, intelligent, and often eloquent treatment of a major motion picture artist . . . a roller coaster of exciting ideas. Like a Godard film, the journey [is] worth it."Jeanine Basinger, The New York Times

"Richard Brodys Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard is a story of transformation, a painstaking account of a lifelong artistic journey . . . [A] meticulously detailed book . . . Everything Is Cinema works its way methodically through Godards career, beginning with his days as a young cinephile in the early 1950s, writing for Parisian film journals like La Gazette du Cinéma and, later, the newly founded Cahiers du Cinéma. Brody explains that Godards entree into the French film industry, via writing criticism, was 'revolutionary and didactic': Godard and his contemporariesamong them future filmmakers of the nouvelle vague including François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette and Maurice Schérer (better known to filmgoers as Eric Rohmer)educated themselves by making pilgrimages to screenings at the Cinémathèque and the Cine-Club du Quartier Latin, where they might see three or four films a day."Stephanie Zacharek, The New York Times 

"Admirable . . . Exactly the sort of scrupulous and passionate work significant movie figures deserve and almost never receive."Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times

"The increasing availability of the works of Jean-Luc Godard on DVD makes this the perfect moment for Richard Brody's massive, ambitious new biography of the French Nouvelle Vague pioneer . . . Brody seamlessly integrates the oft-told storythe transformation of Godard and his fellow Cahiers du Cinéma critics into auteurs of the most glorious national cinema of the postwar periodwith reams of new material he has gathered over seven years of research. He seems to have missed no one, interviewing Godard himself, all three of his wives including his frequent star Anna Karina, his Maoist collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin, and literally dozens of people who were in the room or on the set at important moments in Godard's life. He is attentive to the ideological hair-splitting and political extremism of the Gorin yearsa mad, molten period largely lost to legend until now. To his credit, Brody doesn't glide over Godard's occasional anti-Semitic remarks or his problems with women (Karina maintains that being slapped in public by him simply constituted proof of his love), or the deterioration of his relationship with François Truffaut. However, geniuses all have their flaws, and Brody goes to great length to contextualize these without excusing them, the better to unmask and explain this famously inscrutable artist and his work. All in all, Brody has given us the most satisfyingand epicmovie biography of the year so far."DGA Quarterly

"Perhaps the most impressive thing about Brody's Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard is that it's 700 large-format pages long, yet winds up seeming too shorta tribute to both the author and his 77-year-old subject . . . Brody's main strength, apart from the fact that he's never boring, is his ease in clarifying the intricacies of French politics and philosophy as they interact with Godard's evolution. Sometimes these two specialties even come together, bristling with Godardian paradox: 'Breathless was both a work of existential engagement with the worldan engagement that was constant, essential, and involuntary, inasmuch as it was a collage of preexisting materialand therefore also a work of Sartrean bad faith, made by a thinker who did not think but wa

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