Following the upheavals of 1968, Jean-Luc Godard threw himself into filmmaking with a renewed sense of purpose, collaborating with the ‘Dziga Vertov’ group on a series of explicitly political films, then experimenting with television and video in the mid-70s, before his triumphant return to the mainstream with Sauve qui peut la vie (Slow Motion /Every Man For Himself) in 1979. The films and videos he has made since then are arguably works of an even greater originality and wider scope than those of the 1960s, and though challenging, essential viewing for anybody interested in cinema as something more than mere entertainment for the masses.
JLG/JLG – autoportrait de décembre
A sixty minute cinematic self-portrait, filmed mostly in the director’s own home, in which he watches films, reads, writes, engages in business, plays tennis, and reflects on the state of cinema and the world. A funny and often moving film that fulfils Godard’s ambition to create something akin to a painter’s self-portrait.
(Number Two, 1975)
A technically brilliant but highly-challenging experimental film on the subject of modern family life, examining the relationship between love, work, sex, gender and children through the observation of a young family in a social housing complex in France. Images originally shot on video and then transferred to film are shown, often simultaneously on the screen, leading to multiple interpretations of the story.
Sympathy For The Devil / One Plus One
In the summer of 1968, as revolution rocked the streets of Paris, Godard travelled to London to film the Rolling Stones in the recording studio, as well as a number of politically provocative fictional scenarios. The result is this fascinating historical and musical document from the heart of the 1960s counterculture.
(Our Music, 2004)
A disparate group of foreigners gather for a literary conference in the battle-scarred city of Sarajevo, among them a Palestinian poet, a Spanish novelist, an aging film director (played by Godard), a French diplomat, and a young Israeli journalist. A haunting study of war, suffering and the duality of human nature.
This extraordinary re-imagining of Shakespeare’s tragedy is by turns hilarious, bizarre and moving. Set in a post-apocalyptical future in which a character called William Shakespeare Jr, the Fifth, is on a quest for his ancestors’ lost plays, this is an examination, among other things, of the fragility of great art in a cultural wasteland and the necessity to continue making it in the face of human cruelty and indifference. The cast includes Norman Mailer, Molly Ringwald, Burgess Meredith, Woody Allen and Godard himself.
Je vous salue, Marie
(Hail Mary, 1985)
Triggering a storm of protest at the time of its release, including an official denunciation by the Roman Catholic Church, Godard’s Hail Mary relocates the story of the Virgin Birth to present-day Switzerland. Beautifully shot, thought-provoking, sometimes comical; this is a perceptive look at modern spirituality and sexual politics.
Éloge de l’amour
(In Praise of Love, 1991)
Shot in a combination of luminous black and white and saturated digital video, this visually ravishing reflection on the role history and memory play in shaping human consciousness is as uncompromising and contentious in regard to modern culture – particularly Hollywood – as it is captivating to look at. Bruno Putzulu stars as an author researching a project looking at the different stages of love: union, passion, separation and reconciliation. →read the full synopsis and review
Alain Delon stars as a drifter lured by an attractive businesswoman into an ill-fated relationship with tragic consequences. Sublime cinematography, transcendent natural scenery, philosophical dialogue and a complex, layered soundtrack beguile and mesmerize in a variation on the theme of ‘the return.’ An enigmatic, elusive film that, like most on this list, requires more than one viewing to fully appreciate its deeper meanings.
Sauve qui peut (la vie)
(Every Man For Himself / Slow Motion, 1979)
Described by Godard himself as his “second first film,” this wonderfully acted, cinematically inventive, satirical drama about three characters trying to come to terms with their disordered lives was the director’s return to the mainstream after almost a decade of work in non-narrative video and its rapturous reception reaffirmed his place at the forefront of contemporary cinema.
Histoire(s) du cinema
(1988 - 1998)
A decade in the making, this dazzling 8 part video essay is a highly personal account of the history of the cinema by one of its greatest practitioners. Weaving together film clips, newsreel, stills, text, overlapping dialogue, music and brooding narration, Godard creates a poetic meditation on the lasting power of the medium and its interaction with the upheavals and catastrophes of the 20th century.