Jean-Luc Godard

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Jean-Luc Godard
BirthplaceParis, France
Film critic, director, actor, cinematographer, screenwriter, editor, producer

Godard, Jean-Luc

(zhäN-lük gôdär`), 1930–, French film director and scriptwriter, b. Paris. He wrote criticism for a number of Parisian cinema journals in the early 1950s before embarking on his filmmaking career. Godard is probably the most influential of the French New Wave directors. His highly personal films are marked by a freewheeling approach to style, content, genre, continuity in time, and story structure, and he initiated techniques that broke with traditional film narrative. In his first feature film, Breathless (1959), he introduced a number of innovative features. These include the jump cut, editing scenes so that only the beginning and end of an action are shown; the use of written material, interviews, and other documentarylike techniques to confuse the boundary between fiction and fact; and the introduction of himself as a character and commentator. Films of the next decade, such as Contempt (1963), Pierre le Fou (1965), La Chinoise, and Weekend (both: 1967), are openly essayistic in form and less concerned with character and story than with ideas and analysis of social issues. The 15 films made from 1959 to 1967 form the main basis of his reputation as one of the late 20th-century's great filmmakers.

Increasingly interested in and devoted to Marxist and Maoist philosophies, Godard for a period subsumed his identity into that of a filmmaking collective. After some years of inactivity, he returned in 1980 with Every Man for Himself and has since directed such films as Hail Mary (1985) and Hélas pour Moi (1994), both of which explore the possibility of the divine playing a role in everyday contemporary life, and Forever Mozart (1996). His eight-part Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1988–98) is an extremely personal meditation on the history and nature of cinematic art. Godard's 21st-century films include In Praise of Love (2001), a mournful study of the precarious nature of historical memory in a mass-media age, the three-part Notre Musique (2004), which uses the structure of Dante's Divine Comedy to examine humanity's thirst for destruction and document the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the 3D Goodbye to Language (2014), an evocative visual essay that defies meaning, and The Image Book (2018), a five-part multilanguage collagelike film essay on the (primarily grim) 20th and 21st cent.


See his autobiographical film, JLG/JLG (1994), and Godard on Godard (1968; tr. 1972, repr. 1986), a collection of early writings; R. Brody, Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard (2008); C. MacCabe, Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy (2004); studies by T. Mussman, ed. (1968), C. Barr (1970), R. Roud (1980), C. MacCabe (1981), Y. Loshitzky (1995), W. W. Dixon (1997), K. Silverman and H. Farocki (1998), and D. Sterritt (1999); Two in the Wave (documentary, dir. by E. Laurent, 2009).

Godard, Jean-Luc


Born Dec. 3, 1930, in Paris. French motion picture director and scenario writer.

Godard is one of the founders of the movement in French motion pictures called the new wave. He is an ethnographer by education. He began to work in motion pictures in the 1950’s, gaining renown through the film Breathless (1959). In the films Le Petit Soldat (1960), My Life to Live (1961), Les Carabiniers (1962), Alphaville (1965), Pierrot le fou (1965), and others, the director sought to prove the impotence of individuals pitted against capitalist society and the futility of their efforts to oppose it. Godard’s heroes (or, by definition of the new-wave theorists, his antiheroes) are alienated from the bourgeois world, but they also repudiate socialism, preferring their own anarchic, individualistic concept of personal freedom. The rhythmically impulsive montage, the frequent use of a hand-held camera and unposed shots, which create the impression that the film is a documentary of events, and the use of collage methods, borrowed from modernistic painting, create the peculiar style of the director’s films. At the end of the 1960’s, Godard made films in which he sought to reflect acute problems of contemporary life (Made in USA, La Chinoise, Weekend, One Plus One, Truth, Le Vent d’est, and others), but the deliberately underscored equivocation of Godard’s ideological position, which is an expression of typically petit bourgeois anarchistic rebelliousness that in most cases is coupled with outright anticom-munist tendencies, devaluates the social and artistic importance of these efforts.


Collet. J. Jean-Luc Godard. [Paris. 1968.]
Eberhard. K. Jan-Luc Godard. Warsaw, 1970.