In consideration of Jean-Luc Godard’s prolific output, incomparable importance, and the decisive schism in his career that occurred in 1967/68, we have drawn up two lists covering his work. The first assesses the celebrated early years when
cinephiles around the world awaited each new Godard release with eager anticipation. Cool, audacious, innovative, funny, intellectual and sexy: the films of this period – from À bout de souffle (Breathless, 1960) to Week End (1967) – are still those for which Godard is best known and which have come to define him in the public mind.
Deux ou trios choses que je sais d’elle
(Two or Three Things I Know About Her, 1967)
This penetrating meditation on the increasing dominance of consumer culture in 1960s France centers around Juliette (Marina Vlady), a housewife who spends one day a week selling her body on the streets in an attempt to escape her drab suburban existence. Godard and cinematographer Raoul Coutard create stunningly effective cinematic moments out of the most inauspicious of everyday events.
The children of Marx and Coca-Cola come under the spotlight in Godard’s revealing portrait of youth culture in mid-60s Paris. Jean-Pierre Leaud stars as a young idealistic, would-be writer, infatuated by real life Yé-yé singer Chantal Goya. Cinema-vérité-style interviews on the subjects of love, politics and consumerism, punctuate the action.
Disillusioned by their suburban lifestyles, a group of middle-class students, led by Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky), form a small Maoist cell and plan to change the world by any means necessary. Godard’s spectacularly stylized exploration of revolutionary politics set the tone for the social upheaval to come.
Science-fiction and film noir collide in the bizarre city of Alphaville where free thought and individualist concepts like love, poetry, and emotion have been eliminated. Can secret agent Lemmy Caution fulfill his mission to kill Professor Von Braun and destroy the evil computer Alpha 60?
Anna Karina teams up with a couple of petty crooks played by Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur in this freewheeling crime caper thriller set in and around the streets of Paris. This is one of Godard’s most playful movies, full of off the cuff invention and memorable set pieces.
An idyllic weekend trip to the countryside turns into a never-ending nightmare of traffic jams, revolution, cannibalism and murder as French bourgeois society starts to collapse. Week End marked the end of Godard’s extraordinarily productive first period and set the tone for the more politically oriented work to come.
À bout de souffle
In one of the most audacious directorial debuts in film history, Godard redefines the rules of cinematic storytelling in this thrilling homage to American gangster flicks which immortalized Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg and continues to influence film and fashion to this day.
Brigitte Bardot gives her best performances in Godard’s emotionally raw account of a marital break up set against the intrigues of the international film industry. With its beautiful soundtrack by Georges Delarue and sumptuous Mediterranean colours, it has the weight and resonance of classical tragedy.
Vivre sa vie
(My Life To Live, 1962)
Twelve Brechtian chapters chronicle the life and death of a young woman, beginning as a cinema vérité documentary and ending as a Monogram style B movie. A fierce critique of consumerism in which people become just another commodity to be bought and sold, and a heartbreaking love letter from Godard to Karina.
A triumphant summation of everything Godard had so far achieved, this pulp-noir anti-thriller has been described as cinematic Cubism. Shot in dazzling primary colours and loaded with references to literature, painting, other movies and pop culture, Pierrot Le Fou is, amongst other things, about the struggles of the artist, the Vietnam War, and the death of romance.