If you are a Jean-Luc Godard fan or a cineaste, “Breathless” is an important film worth owning in your cinema collection. In the context of importance of cinema and its historical contribution to La Nouvelle Vague, “Breathless” is the feature film that launched Godard’s career and for that, I’m so grateful that The Criterion Collection has given fans a wonderful release. Highly recommended!
© 2007 Pretty Pictures and Vauban Productions. 2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408
YEAR OF THEATRICAL FILM RELEASE: 1960
DURATION: 87 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Widescreen: 1:33: 1, Black and White, Monaural in French with English Subtitles
COMPANY: The Criterion Collection
RATED: PG (Action, Smoking and Slang Humor)
RELEASE DATE: February 25, 2014
Directed and screenplay by Jean-Luc Godard
Story by Francois Truffaut
Produced by Georges de Beauregard
Music by Martial Solal
Cinematography by Raoul Coutard
Edited by Cecile Decugis, Lila Herman
Jean-Paul Belmondo as Michel Poiccard
Jean Seberg as Patricia Franchini
Daniel Boulanger as Police Inspector Vital
Jean-Pierre Melville as Parvulesco
Henri-Jacques Huet as Antonio Berrutti
Jean-Luc Godard as Informer
There was before Breathless, and there was after Breathless. Jean-Luc Godard burst onto the film scene in 1960 with this jazzy, free-form, and sexy homage to the American film genres that inspired him as a writer for Cahiers du cinéma. With its lack of polish, surplus of attitude, anything-goes crime narrative, and effervescent young stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, Breathless helped launch the French New Wave and ensured that cinema would never be the same.
Every director has their beginning but for Jean-Luc Godard, his 1960 film “À bout de souffle” a.k.a. “Breathless” was the beginning of a cinema revolution and bringing the world closer to nouvelle vague, the French New Wave.
Godard is a unique director who attracted attention for his innovative editing and his use of jump cuts, his style of not giving his talent a script until the morning of and using improvisation and utilizing film techniques that most directors would never do. In fact, his filmmaking even infuriated his producer because instead of using a full day to shoot a film, sometime he was in the mood to do only 12 minutes. But then again, Jean-Luc Godard is not your typical director and in 1960, no one knew what to expect from him.
Many looked at him as a rebel as he wanted to challenge the conventions of traditional Hollywood cinema and for those who watched his films evolve year after year, the more we get to see Godard in his characters but also his political ideologies as well.
But “Breathless” was a film that helped change cinema. For decades, many followed the Hollywood tradition and sure, Jean Renoir did something unique and special decades earlier with “The Rules of the Game” (unfortunately, no one at the time was ready for the film until three decades later and people acknowledge that his film was ahead of its time) but it was “Breathless” that inspired young directors and showed them that directors, auteurs can do something different.
From the use of jump cuts to capturing Paris with a hidden camera, the film and its director was hailed for its innovation and it was the beginning of the French New Wave. Interesting enough, although the film made Jean-Luc Godard a popular name, the director himself was not as thrilled by all the attention and popularity of “Breathless” that led him to create “Le Petit Soldat” (The Little Soldier) which was highly political and banned in France for three years. Regardless of whether or not Godard enjoyed the success of the film, the film was unique and an inspiration to many filmmakers.
For over 40 decades, “Breathless” has been regarded as a film that cinema fans must watch and eventually own and in 2007, The Criterion Collection released “Breathless” in a 2-disc DVD set, followed by a Blu-ray release in 2010. For February 2014, with the Criterion Collection now focused on Blu-ray+DVD combo releases, “Breathless” has received another release.
In “Breathless”, Michel Poiccard (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, “A Woman is a Woman”, “Pierrot le fou”, “Casino Royale”) is a troublemaker who idolizes noir-ish Humphrey Bogart. He steals a car and in the process of running from the police, shoots and kills one of them and now there is a manhunt by the authorities to catch him.
So, Michel decides to go to his American girlfriend Patricia (played by Jean Seberg, “Kill!”, “Lillith”, “The Beautiful Swindlers”), a student studying journalism and works at her job selling New York Herald Tribune newspapers on the streets of Paris. For Michel, he really wants to seduce her and have sex but he grows angry when she spends time with other men.
Michel ends up breaking into her apartment and continues to try and seduce her, while all this time, she has no clue that Michel is a killer and that he is wanted by the police.
“Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408″ is presented in black and white, 1080p High Definition (1:33:1). Having watched the original DVD release, grain is present. The contrast and detail for the film compared t to the original DVD is much more evident. Whites and grays are well-contrast, blacks are nice and deep. Before on DVD, certain backgrounds were not as clear but now, the clarity and detail is so much present on this Blu-ray release. Simply, this is the best I have seen of “Breathless”! Is it pristine? You will see some edge enhancement but there is no artifacts or major film damage, this is the best I have seen of this film and Jean-Luc Godard fans should be pleased with this Blu-ray release!
According to the Criterion Collection, the film is “approved by director and photographer Raoul Coutard, this high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine from a 35 mm original fine-grain master positive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s DVNR was used for small, dirt, grain and noise reduction.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408″ is presented in French LPCM 1.0. Dialogue for the most part is clear and I detected no major problematic audio issues during my viewing of the film.
According to the Criterion Collection, the original monaural soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm optical track print. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.
Subtitles are in English.
“Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408″ comes with the following special features:
- Interviews – (27:00) Featuring interviews with director Jean-Luc Godard, actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg and filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville, recorded for French television between 1960 and 1964.
- Coutard and Rissient – (22:28) Cinematographer Raoul Coutard (who worked with Godard for 14 films) and cinephile Pierre Rissient, assistant director on “Breathless” recall working with Godard and working on his first film.
- Pennebaker on Breathless – (10:32) Documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker talks about working with Jean-Luc Godard and his film “Breathless”.
- Jean Seberg – (18:54) A video essay written by Mark Rappaport (From the Journals of Jean Seberg) reveals the beginning of Jean Seberg and her life ending in tragedy.
- Breathless as Criticism – (11:09) A video essay written by film historian and author Jonathan Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum explores the cinematic and literary references in “Breathless”.
- Chamber 12, Hotel De Suede – (1:18:26) A 1993 documentary by director and popular French TV host Claude Ventura who tracks down, over nine days, the locations and the people who were involved in the making of “Breathless”. Interviews include actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, filmmaker Claude Chabrol, cinematographer Raoul Coutard, assistant director Pierre Rissient, editor Cecile Decugis and more.
- Charlotte et Son Jules – (12:42) One of the short films from 1959 starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anne Collette. The short film is about a boyfriend who continually admonishes his girlfriend.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:02) The original theatrical trailer.
“Breathless – The Criterion Collection #408″ includes both the Blu-ray and DVD version of a film which comes with a slipcase. Included is an 82-page booklet featuring the essay “Breathless Then and Now” by Dudley Andrew, “Godard in His Own Words” and “Breathless in Progress”.
For anyone interested in French New Wave films, “Breathless” is a film that is recommended watching. It’s a film that changed cinema and launched the career of director Jean-Luc Godard.
What I loved about the film is the acting. The whole 25-minute improvisation scene in the bedroom is incredible. I’ve learned through the special features that the scene involved Godard yelling and instructing the Belmondo and Seberg on what to do and also learned that the jump cut scenes were accidental but yet made the film quite creative, unique and artistic.
But is it one of the best Godard films? This is difficult to answer because personally, there are so many Godard films that I do enjoy but yet this is his first and is an important film in his career. But the problem is, to enjoy Godard films is to know Godard films. You appreciate his films, the more you watch several of them and learn his unique style of filmmaking.
Also, the film has been given so much credit for its innovation that so many people come to the film expecting something like Orson Welles “Citizen Kane” or a film that with this groundbreaking story and people who experience this Godard film are perplexed and don’t understand what the big deal is. And I think that is what has perplexed Godard after the success of the film. Godard was very critical of the film to the point that he distanced himself from it and thus created the film “Le Petit Soldat”.
But as mentioned, to enjoy Godard is to know Godard and that is watching his films and learning about them. Fortunately, The Criterion Collection does a fantastic job with this release of “Breathless” in presentation and also its content. Not only do you get the film but you get to see the various interviews with the talent, interviews with those who worked with him and easily enough, different interpretations of what people got from the film. The 1993 documentary “Chamber 12, Hotel de Suede” is a magnificent addition to the film as we get to see and hear from those who are involved with “Breathless”, giving us some insight to Godard and his unique filmmaking style.
As far as my enjoyment of the film, I absolutely enjoyed it! Godard and Belmondo had a magical partnership during their short time together and as for Jean Seberg, this is an actress that had a bad experience in her earlier years as an actress, given a chance in “Breathless” (and worked once more with Godard) and had a rollercoaster of a career that ended in tragedy. If there was one positive, she is immortalized through her role as Patricia in this film.
“Breathless” is a film about two different people, their words and what they mean are different, they talk about themselves but yet never really talk to each other. Are they even listening to each other? Do they even care for each other?
There’s no doubt that one can rewatch “Breathless” and see something different each time. May it be the two talking about paintings, the two talking about Faulkner, this dialogue between the two is something that I found so enjoyable (as I have with Eric Rohmer’s moral tale “My Night at Maud’s” with also a magnificent, smart and enjoyable long bedroom dialogue scene). There is something about the tone about the film that is just so enchanting.
Despite Michel being the uncaring young bad guy, somehow you can’t help but be intrigued by his character. He’s a dangerous man but yet Patricia is even more dangerous in some ways. Compared to other films showing around the world during its time, “Breathless” was fresh, unique and different from what was seen in traditional cinema.
Cinematography for “Breathless” is absolutely beautiful. Because timing and space was a concern, Godard elected to use a wheelchair to film. Not wanting to use expensive lighting, Godard wanted to capture a realistic feel of these two characters by using natural light. So, many different techniques employed in this film.
In fact, when they were seen in public, cinematographer Coutard was hidden in a cart as the two are seen walking down the street. No one around the two actors are aware that the scene was being filmed. And of course, I go back to the jump scenes and the editing but accidental as it may be, it was definitely a major part in introducing the world to nouvelle vague and changing the scope of cinema.
As mentioned with this Blu-ray release, the detail and clarity is so much better than its DVD counterpart. This is the best I have seen of “Breathless” and in no doubt in my mind, fans will be pleased with this Blu-ray release.
With the release of “Breathless” via Blu-ray and DVD combo-pack, those who owned the previous DVD release and the 2010 Blu-ray release may be wondering if it’s worth getting this version. If you have a Blu-ray player and HDTV, then upgrading to “Breathless” on Blu-ray is indeed worth it!
But with this 2014 Blu-ray release, there is no difference from the 2010 release other than Criterion Collection having released it via a Blu-ray+DVD combo pack. The booklet and special features are the same and there was no major change in overall picture or audio quality.
Overall, if you are a Jean-Luc Godard fan or a cineaste, “Breathless” is an important film worth owning in your cinema collection. Is it Godard’s best film? That’s a matter of preference, as I personally enjoy “Band of Outsiders”, “Pierrot le fou” and “Mascullin Feminin” much more. But in the context of importance of cinema and its historical contribution to La Nouvelle Vague, “Breathless” is the feature film that launched Godard’s career and for that, I’m so grateful that The Criterion Collection has given fans a wonderful release.
I enjoyed the playfulness, the youthfulness and how entertaining the film came to be. As well as it began to transition to include the more darker undertones. “Band of Outsiders” is just an accessible and enjoyable film by Jean-Luc Godard and this new Blu-ray release featuring the 2010 Gaumont restoration features much better picture quality with better detail, contrast and looks so much better than its 2008 DVD counterpart! Definitely worth the upgrade if you owned the DVD and recommended on Blu-ray!
Image are courtesy of © 1964 Gaumont. 2013 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Band of Outsiders – The Criterion Collection #174
YEAR OF FILM: 1964
DURATION: 95 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Black and White, Monaural in French with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: May 7, 2013
Based on the novel “Fools’ Gold” by Dolores Hitchens
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Music by Michel Legrand
Cinematography by Raoul Coutard
Edited by Francoise Collin, Dahlia Ezove, Agnes Guillemot
Anna Karina as Odile
Sami Frey as Franz
Claude Brasseur as Arthur
Daniele Girard as English Teacher
Louisa Colpeyn as Madame Victoria
Chantal Darget as Arthur’s Aunt
Georges Staquet as Le Legionnaire
Ernest Menzer as Arthur’s Uncle
Narration by Jean-Luc Godard
Four years after Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard reimagined the gangster film even more radically with BAND OF OUTSIDERS. In it, two restless young men (Sweet Movie’s Sami Frey and Eyes Without a Face’s Claude Brasseur) enlist the object of both of their fancies (Pierrot le fou’s Anna Karina) to help them commit a robbery—in her own home. This audacious and wildly entertaining French New Wave gem is at once sentimental and insouciant, effervescently romantic and melancholy, and it features some of Godard’s most memorable set pieces, including the headlong race through the Louvre and the unshakeably cool Madison dance sequence.
In 1964, French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard went to work on his latest film “Bande à part” (Band of Outsiders) which was created with a small budget at around $125,000 and unlike his previous film “Contempt” which was in full color, Godard decided to go back to basics by filming in black and white and also to avoid any interjecting of politics in the film and thus many critics have called it Godard’s most accessible film because it s quite different from many of the films he has directed in the 1960′s.
“Band of Outsiders” is a film based on the novel “Fools’ Gold” by American author Dolores Hitchens and a film which Godard describes “Band of Outsiders” as “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka”. For many critics, they like to call the film a B-Noir in which the film contains noir elements but also other elements of humor and things that you would see from a French New Wave film. When it first came out in theaters in the US, not many people could understand the concept of the film and thus it didn’t do well in the theaters. But now as the film is 46-years-old, publications such as Time Magazine has selected “Band of Outsiders” as part of its “All Time 100 Movies”.
In 2008, “Band of Outsiders” was released on DVD courtesy of The Criterion Collection and now, the HD version of the film featuring Gaumont’s 2010 high-definition restoration with uncompressed monaural soundtrack was released on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection in May 2013.
“Band of Outsiders” revolves around two wannabe criminals Arthur (Claude Brasseur) and Franz (Sami Frey). Franz who attends an English class with a young woman named Odile (Anna Karina) is told by her that a large amount of money is stashed in the villa that she lives at with her Aunt and Mr. Stoltz. Because of this, Franz has told his friend Arthur about it and immediately, Arthur sees this as an opportunity to make some money and knows that in order to make this happen, he must first gain the trust of Odile. So, Franz takes Arthur to meet her at the English class and immediately, Arthur does what he can to make Odile know that he’s interested in her.
Franz has been attracted to Odile for quite some time but because he’s so shy, he never really had the opportunity to get close to her. But Arthur has much more experience with women and immediately, uses his bad boy charm to attract Odile’s affections and thus gets her to ditch her English class and for her to join him for the day in order for him to learn from her about how much more money is inside the villa. With Odile, hooked to Arthur’s words, when she goes home she happens to finds so much money that when she tells Arthur and Franz, immediately the two start planning on how they can steal the money.
But Odile tells them to wait a few days but with Arthur having problems with other people demanding some money immediately from him, he is forced to steal the money sooner than Odile is expecting.
I gave the 2008 DVD review a positive when it comes to picture quality, but with this restored version courtesy of Gaumont’s 2010 restoration of the film, “Band of Outsiders” in HD definitely surpasses its original DVD version in clarity, detail and contrast. The film is not soft or blurry, you can actually see much better detail in the clothing, well-contrast within the whites and grays of the film and black levels which are inky and deep.
According to the Criterion Collection, the digital master came from a restoration undertaken by Gaumont in 2010. For the restoration, a high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35 mm composite fine grain at Eclair Laboratories in Epinay-sur-Seine, France.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Band of Outsiders” is presented in French monaural LPCM. According to the Criterion Collection, The original monaural soundtrack was restored from a 35 mm optical soundtrack positive.
Subtitles are in English.
The “Band of Outsiders” comes with the following special features:
- Visual Glossary – (17:58) Featuring selected quotations from “Band of Outsiders” and an explanation of the quotation.
- Godard 1964 – (5:17) Featuring Jean-Luc Godard talking about Nouvelle Vague and its Raison D’Etre with filmmaker Andre S. LAbarthe for the documentary “La Nouvelle Vague Par Elle-Meme”.
- Anna Karina – (18:26) Featuring an interview with Anna Karina, recorded in 2002. Karina talks about loving films, working with Jean-Luc Godard, Raoul Coutard, running into Claude Brasseur and more.
- Raoul Coutard – (11:00) Featuring an interview with Raoul Coutard discussing his work with Jean-Luc Godard, the challenges he had in shooting complicated scenes, the French New Wave and more.
- Les Fiances Du Pont Mac Donald – Featuring the short directed by Agnes Varda (used on Agnes’ 1962 film “Cleo From 5 to 7″) starring Jean-Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Daniele Girard and more.
- Trailers – Featuring the original and the re-release trailer for “Band of Outsiders”.
“Band of Outsiders” comes with a 26-page booklet which includes the essay “Get Your Madis On” by Joshua Clover, “The Characters According to Godard” from the original press book and “No Questions Asked” featuring an interview between Godard and Godard critic Jean Collet from 1964.
“The Band of Outsiders” is a charming and enjoyable film. Is it my favorite Godard film, I would still have to give the title of “My Godard Favorite” to his 1965 film “Pierrot Le Fou” but I will say that “Band of Outsiders” manages to pull me in with its various scenes and its interesting plot. Needless to say that many Godard fans enjoy the film and even prompted Quentin Tarentino to name his production company “A Band Apart” after the French title “Bande à part”.
The title of the film “Band of Outsiders” is about these three individuals who are outsiders. From the two male characters named after Godard’s favorite authors Arthur Rimbaud and Franz Kafka, Arthur is a player and obviously have some experience breaking the law and schmoozing with women, while Franz is the silent type who you can tell is not so comfortable when his friend actually starts to win Odile’s heart. And as for Odile, an innocent girl with not much experience with being around men and she is very much a different person from these two men. When Arthur asks for a kiss with a tongue, her inexperience shows as she sticks out her tongue. But it’s how these three individuals react to each other, you wonder how in the heck can these three people get mixed up together?
But perhaps that was the winning combination that made this film work as the three characters manage to keep you’re eyes glued to the screen. Not knowing what are going to happen to them but knowing that with director Jean-Luc Godard, anything can happen and for the most part, if you submit your 95 minutes to Godard, you’re definitely in for a wild ride. The ending might be a bit bumpy but the actual ride is where you feel satisfaction as you will encounter quite a few surprises, twists and turns and that is how I feel about “Band of Outsiders”.
From Odile (Karina) looking directly to the camera when asking a question, to the moment of silence which almost seems like an eternity but at the same time, you can’t help but be amused by it. From the playfulness of Arthur and Franz play shooting each other and my two favorite scenes, when the three individuals take part in the “Madison dance” and the Louvre scene in which the three try to break the American Jimmy Johnson’s record of how fast they can see all the art inside the Louvre. How fun is that? So, I was quite amused to see that scene but really enjoyed the various scenes that just stick to your memory (a lot of Godard films tend to do that for me).
But the creation of “Band of Outsiders” was somewhat of Godard’s comeback at the time (one of many). After the beating he took for the film “Les Carabiniers”, Godard decided to work together with his wife Anna Karina (both had separated at the time) and the first time the two worked together since “Vivre sa vie”. But it was a tough time for both husband and wife who were having problems in their marriage, but it was also a film that helped the two grow closer to each other.
Many will take notice that Karina looks different in this film compared to other films and that is because the film was shot after she came out of the hospital after a suicide attempt. But because of this film, Karina credits “Band of Outsiders” of saving her life.
For Godard, “Band of Outsiders” gave the filmmaker a chance to try something different and whether or not he succeeded or failed depends on the viewer as the film today is seen as one of Godard’s best, but at the time of screening at various film festivals, the film infuriated audiences and also previous Godard defenders, film critics who had problems with the film. The film also gave Jean-Luc a chance to name a character after his mother (who died in a scooter accident ten years earlier).
While a low budget film, the film was enjoyed by film critics all over the world, as film critic Richard Brody would lend to the film’s ongoing popularity due to the film’s “overt neo-classicism” but Brody writes in his book “Everything is Cinema”, that the failed experiment was trying to separate “instinctive” and “reflective” elements. The result was failure and so he would come back to combine the elements once again.
As for this Blu-ray release, “Band of Outsiders” looks so much better in HD after the restoration. No longer soft or even blurry, the film shows much more detail, much better contrast and a cleaner picture. Also, you get an uncompressed monaural soundtrack and all six special features that were included on the original 2008 DVD release.
Overall, I enjoyed the playfulness, the youthfulness and how entertaining the film came to be, as well as it began to transition to include more darker undertones. But the film is quite entertaining and I had a fun time watching it. Although there are other films I Godard/Anna Karina films I recommend watching before “Band of Outsiders”, the film is still worth having on your checklist of must-see Godard films.
Audacious, polemic and unique…”Weekend” is a film that represents the end of Jean-Luc Godard’s involvement with the French New Wave, especially with “bourgeois” narrative filmmaking. A film that is unlike any other nor is it an easy film that can be easily explained, “Weekend” must be watched and experienced! A film that I highly recommend for the cineaste who enjoy complexity and cerebral films, not for the casual viewer expecting simplicity. Recommended!
Image courtesy of © 1967 Gaumont -Ascot Cineraid. The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Weekend – The Criterion Collection #635 (a.k.a. Le Weekend)
YEAR OF FILM: 1967
DURATION: 104 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 Aspect Ratio), Monaural in French with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: November 13, 2012
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Written by Jean-Luc Godard
Music by Antoine Duhamel
Cinematography by Raoul Coutard
Edited by Agens Guillemot
Mireille Darc as Corinne Durand
Jean Yanne as Roland Durand
Jean-Pierre Kalfon as Le Chef du Front de Liberation de la Seine et Pise
This scathing late-sixties satire from Jean-Luc Godard is one of cinema’s great anarchic works. Determined to collect an inheritance from a dying relative, a bourgeois couple travel across the French countryside while civilization crashes and burns around them. Featuring a justly famous sequence in which the camera tracks along a seemingly endless traffic jam, and rich with historical and literary references, Weekend is a surreally funny and disturbing call for revolution, a depiction of society reverting to savagery, and— according to the credits—the end of cinema itself.
Jean-Luc Godard, one of the primary faces of starting “La Nouvelle Vague” (French New Wave) and one of the outspoken film critics of “Cahiers du Cinema”… it would be an understatement to use the word “complex” to describe Godard.
From his collaboration with Francois Truffaut for “A bout de souffle” (Breathless) in 1960, his disenchantment of his work becoming so popular would lead to him creating “Le Petit Soldat” (The Little Soldier) which would be about France’s involvement during the Algerian War, a film with a political message of the denunciation torture used by France and the Algerians and eventually earning Godard criticism from the government and the film being banned for three years.
And while Godard would continue to create films that were smart, witty, intelligent and captivating, you can see how much more critical Godard would be towards society, government and his ideology would begin to creep into his films towards the mid-’60s.
With “Made in U.S.A.” becoming his most political film yet, the film was the final swan song between both Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina, who created films that many loved. Despite being divorced at this time, she would no longer be his muse and the director would no longer be the director that many people have respected him and loved him for.
His next films “La Chinoise” and “Week End” would truly mark the end of Godard’s narrative and cinematic period of his filmmaking career and from then on, Godard would be a different director focusing on revolutions and his interest in Maoist ideology and would only return to mainstream films in 1980.
While “Made in U.S.A.” was the swan song between he and Karina and featuring the actress killing a man which is said to be a symbolization of Godard and his approach to cinema, in 1967, “La Chinoise” would no longer want to create films for the sake of entertaining the masses, he wanted to focus on films that related to his Maoist ideology and his film about five Parisian revolutionaries who tried to conspire to overthrow the Russian imperial regime through sustained violence, was regarded not negatively but earned the respect and approval of major critics worldwide. But the film would also be a signal that he was growing tired of “bourgeois” narrative filmmaking.
And later that year, Jean-Luc Godard would go on to create the film “Weekend”. A film which would feature another collaboration between the filmmaker and cinematographer Raoul Coutard and a film which Godard has called the film “Closer to a cry” than to a movie. It’s because his feelings of France was at his lowest point. Known for being one of the primary faces of French New Wave, the filmmaker wanted to disassociate anything that he had to do with France and through “Weekend”, it was his way to destroy France. To destroy his world as he knew it through cinema (and suffice to say, destroying his relationships with his fellow filmmakers in France as well).
And so, after “Weekend”, he would then join Dziga Vertov and create political films from 1968 through 1972.
But when it comes to Godard films and everyone wanting to know when was the end of his French New Wave films, one would have to watch “Weekend”. For many years, cinema fans have wondered if there would be a DVD release in North America for Godard’s film and fortunately,The Criterion Collection would be releasing the film on Blu-ray and DVD in November 2012.
As for “Weekend”, the film itself, I don’t know if anyone can truly summarize Godard’s film with efficacy. In fact, you can read a variety of reviews from film critics at the time and many will give the film some type of explanation or stray away from even trying to explain what the movie is all about.
But in my attempt to summarize the film, I call it a film of fragments. Each fragment with a political message.
“Weekend” focuses on a bourgeois French couple, Roland (portrayed by Jean Yanne, “Le boucher”, “Indochine”) and Corinne (portrayed by Mireille Darc, “Galia”, “Le Grand Blond”). Both love each other, both are having affairs and both are planning each other’s murder. The two discuss visiting Corinne’s parents home out in the country in order to get an inheritance, and even kill him if they have to.
But the drive to the countryside is filled with chaos, traffic jams, car accidents galore and as the two lose their car in an accident, as they wander through France, they encounter people discussing issues of different classes and figures from France’s history. What will these two discover in this frightening and chaotic world?
“Weekend” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:66:1 aspect ratio). Despite having a large collection of Godard films, I’ve never owned the VHS or DVD release of “Weekend” but according to friends who do, they told me that this Blu-ray release is way better than its DVD counterpart. With that being said, during my viewing, the outdoor scenes look very good, especially during Coutard’s long tracking shots. It looks as if the Criterion Collection did an outstanding job with the overall cleaning up of the film because not one white speckle/dust can be seen. Nor did I see any artifacts or any problems when it comes to video. Colors are consistent and skin tones look natural. Considering the film’s age, I can easily say that “Weekend” looks fantastic on Blu-ray!
According to the Criterion Collection, the new digital transfer was created on an ARRISCAN film scanner in 2K resolution from the original 35 mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Visions’ Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Weekend – The Criterion Collection #635″ is presented French monaural. I haven’t owned previous releases of “Weekend” to do any comparisons but I can say that the monaural LPCM 1.0 soundtrack is clear and I detected no hissing during the actual film. Evn Mozart’s Piano Sonata, K. 576 by Paul Gegauff sounds crisp and crystal clear.
According to the Criterion Collection, the soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35 mm print. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.
“Weekend – The Criterion Collection #635” comes with the following special features:
- Revolutions Per Second – (24:32) A fantastic video essay by writer/filmmaker Kent Jones. For those confused by the film, definitely watch this video essay!
- Interviews - Featuring three archival interviews with cinematographer Raoul Coutard (18:48), classic interview with actor Mireillle Darc and Jean Yanne (3:21) and with assistant director Claude Miller (24:36). In French, with English subtitles.
- On Location – (8:15) Featuring an excerpt of “Seize millions de jeunes” from October 1967 with an interview by documentary filmmaker Jean-Michel Barjol.
- Trailers – Featuring the 1967 original French theatrical trailer of “Weekend” (2:53) and the U.S. 1968 theatrical trailer (2:51).
“Weekend – The Criterion Collection #635” comes with a 42-page booklet with the following essays: “The Last Weekend” by Gary Indiana, “Notes on Weekend” by Alain Bergala, “Theoretical Guns: An Interview with Godard, 1969″ by Jonathan Cott.
In 1967, Jean-Luc Godard officially ended “bourgeois” narrative filmmaking.
A man that was now dedicated in being the voice of the students, the workers, the voice of to rebel against the government, the world and even his fellow filmmakers.
While Godard had hints of rebelliousness through his previous films, the tension felt in France in 1967 and Godard’s work would be the predecessor of the May 1968 protests in France. The largest strike which literally brought the economy of any advanced industrial country to a standstill. For two weeks, 22% of the working force of France went on strike for two weeks, students were involved in violent clashes with the police and university administrators.
Suffice to say that French communists and socialists wanted President Charles de Gaulle to be replaced, anarchy reigned and for Jean-Luc Godard, he is a man who believed in Marxism and was sick of the bourgeoisie’s consumerism.
While it is known that a year later, Godard would embody Maoist ideology, in 1967, with his two films “La Cinoise” and “Weekend”, his feelings towards France and the bourgeoisie became apparent.
So, for one to watch “Weekend” and you are a Godard fan who loved “Breathless”, “Band of outsiders”, “Vivre sa vie”, “Pierrot le fou” to name a few of his films from 1960-1965, it’s best to not think of “Weekend” in the same context.
In fact, while watching this film, watch it as a film of rebellion, a film of revolution, a film that is cerebral and a film that must be appreciated at a different level.
Legendary film critic Andrew Sarris once wrote in his 1968 “Village Voice” review of “Weekend” and about Godard, “As much as Godard indulges in the rhetoric of rebellion, his deepest feelings seem to be situated before the revolution. He was born, he implies, too soon and too late, too soon to forget the sweetness of the past and too late to perpetuate that same sweetness, particularly in the remembered realm of movies with subjects not yet swallowed up by the subjective. Godard seems to want it both ways as the prime prophet of the first-person film and the lead mourner of the third-person movie”.
Another legendary film critic Pauline Kael wrote in 1967 in her review of “Weekend”, “Though deeply flawed, this film has more depth than any of Godard’s earlier work. It’s his vision of Hell and it ranks with the greatest. As a mystical movie, ‘Weekend’ is comparable to Berman’s ‘Seventh Seal’ and ‘Shame’ and Ichikawa’s ‘Fires on the Plain’ and the passages of Kurosawa, yet hardly aware of the magnitude of the writer-director’s conception until after we are caught up in the comedy of horror, which keeps going further and further and becoming more nearly inescapable, like ‘Journey to the End of the Night”.
Even in the visual essay by Kent Jones (included with The Criterion Collection release of “Weekend”), he also had his own interpretations of “Weekend”.
Watching “Weekend”, I can see why. The film is complex, it is cerebral, it is visual but it is a film which audacious yet beguiling.
The film begins with a noir-ish tale of two people making a play towards each other. Embodiment of greed and bourgeois society that cares about money and luxury, the characters of Corinne and Roland Durand are immoral and amoral. They care about nothing but themselves. The film would showcase society as too consumed by their consumerism and also showcasing Godard’s Marxist ideology but then it becomes nearly a titillating film with Corinne talking about her three-way sex experience with detail.
They are dangerous individuals who will get what they want and their next goal is to get and possibly kill Mireille’s father in order to obtain the inheritance. So, the two must travel on the weekend but nothing goes quite as they seem.
The traffic jam is unbearable as people are playing or doing something in their car, waiting impatiently with horns ablazing, while we see Roland and Corinne trying to drive past these stalled vehicles and leave. With one of the longest tracking shots you’ll see in cinema (long tracking shots are used a few times throughout the film), you see cars flipped over, dead people lying around, yet no one seems to care.
The vehicles are a symbol of the materialistic nature of the bourgeois and what is hilarious is watching how these people react and behave around their vehicles and possessions.
But then there are moments which probably may fly over the head of many Western audiences.
You have an uncredited cameo by actor Jean-Pierre Leaud as a surreal caricature of Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, as he reads to the audience. Saint-Just was a military and political leader of the French Revolution and also known as the face of the “Reign of Terror” and dubbed as the “Angel of Death” because he led the mass executions of the “enemies of the revolution” via guillotine (nearly 17,000 people were executed). But Saint-Just was known for spearheading the movement to execute King Louis XVI.
You will see another scene in which a woman is screaming at a farmer who ran into her rich boyfriend and killing him and ruining her chances of happiness and being rich.
And while there are various scenes throughout the film based on various figures giving out a message (with one of Godard’s dark humor as both are in their burning car, Corinne screams for help because her Hermes bag is burning The two protagonists end up getting into an accident themselves and while trying to go to Oinville, end up being held by gunpoint, captured by the Seine and Oise Liberation Front who kidnap people, paint them and eat them.
And along with the political message, a little sexual imagery, you also get to see scenes which some may view as cruelty to animals as pig is hit in the head and has its throat slit, while a geese/duck gets its neck twisted and broken and while its body is flapping, we see it eventually die.
Suffice to say, “Weekend” is not a film that can easily be explained. It has to be watched and possibly be appreciated for Godard’s ability as a filmmaker to be given so much freedom and create a film of this nature. You’re not going to see anything like it and not everyone is going to love it, I’m pretty sure that a lot of people who said they loved Godard because of his 1960-1965 films will probably be perplexed by this film (and even today, as I have watched many of his films, I am perplexed by his last film “Film Socialisme” from 2011. But I don’t see it as a bad thing, if anything, I found watching Godard’s most challenging or cerebral films as a task for me to research and try to understand the film even more.
I knew nothing about the May 1968 strikes in France, nor was I familiar with Louis Antoine Leon de Sainte-Just.
But while you watching Sainte-Just talking about how one should fight in desperation against slavery, and even goes to a storyline of a Caucasian man talking about Africans and a Black man talking about the Caucasian, we sense that too much freedom is not a good thing for Godard as it has made people critical of society. For its anarchists and rebellious groups, they are hippies armed with machine guns, who play drums in the middle of nowhere, but yet are bohemians who travel from one area to another and engage in warfare.
And to probably ignite the flame of the debates of Godard being anti-Semitic, one scene in which a girl screams at Roland Corinne saying “Jews! Filthy rotten stinking Jews!“. Is this Godard’s mindset or is it his way of creating provocation and being the polemic filmmaker that he is. His films include messages of Marxism, but yet Godard tells Sarris in an interview that he has never read Marx. Suffice to say, Godard is an ever-changing man with perspectives that are complex and suffice to say, he is a man that no one will figure out. Even the women and the friends that once was in his life can testify to this changing filmmaker and individual, not always for the better but then again, Godard never gave a damn about the criticism.
But that is what makes “Weekend” a film that is so special in his oeuvre. A film like no other, a film that not everyone can understand but yet everyone is in a consensus that it’s a film that showcases the dark side of humanity.
As for the Blu-ray release, “Weekend” has been given a wonderful treatment by The Criterion Collection. Picture quality is wonderful and no dust or scratches can be seen, the booklet included is wonderful reading and the visual essay by Kent Jones was definitely needed, as I can suspect many people scratching their heads after watching this film. You also get lengthy interviews and overall, this is a very solid release from The Criterion Collection!
Overall, “Weekend” is an important film for those who follow Godard’s career, especially as it is the exclamation point (or question mark) to end his involvement with the French New Wave. As “La Chinoise” was significant in story and Godard’s mindset, “Weekend” was more of the middle finger to Bourgeois society with a capital F, in “Fuck You” to the government and the people that he could no longer stand and eventually would lead him to create political films for the next few years.
Audacious, polemic and unique…”Weekend” is a film that represents the end of Jean-Luc Godard and his involvement with the French New Wave, especially with “bourgeois” narrative filmmaking. A film that is unlike any other nor is it an easy film that can be easily explained, “Weekend” must be watched and experienced! A film that I highly recommend for the cineaste who enjoy complexity and cerebral films, not for the casual viewer expecting simplicity. Recommended!
Beverly Hills, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a recently restored 35mm print of “Breathless” (“À bout de souffle”) on Friday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The screening is presented in conjunction with the opening of the Academy’s new exhibition “Photos de Cinéma: Images of the French New Wave by Raymond Cauchetier.” Cauchetier was the set photographer for this and many other key titles of the French New Wave movement. There will be special evening gallery hours from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and immediately following the screening.
“Breathless” (1960) launched a global passion for “La Nouvelle Vague” (“The New Wave”) and made actors Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo international stars. The film also became an inspiration for a generation of legendary French filmmaking talent.
Writer-director Jean-Luc Godard made his feature film debut with this now classic work. François Truffaut conceived the story, Claude Chabrol served as the artistic supervisor, and Jean-Pierre Melville appears in the role of the writer, Parvulesco.
The film’s cinematographer, Raoul Coutard, supervised the creation of this new print in 2010, for the 50th anniversary of the original French release date.
Since “Breathless” impressed audiences and filmmakers alike with its jazzy take on the American crime film, Godard has continued to write and direct challenging and sometimes controversial films, cementing his reputation as one of the seminal modernists in the history of cinema. He is credited with having influenced numerous contemporary directors, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino. Godard received an Honorary Award from the Academy in 2010, inscribed “For passion. For confrontation. For a new kind of cinema.”
“Photos de Cinéma: Images of the French New Wave by Raymond Cauchetier,” which includes production photographs from “Breathless,” is the first exhibition outside of Europe to showcase Cauchetier’s motion picture work. On view will be 125 newly made, black-and-white prints from Cauchetier’s own 35mm negatives. The printing was personally overseen by Cauchetier, now in his 90s, at his preferred lab in Paris. Other films represented in the exhibition include “Adieu Philippine,” “Baisers volés” (“Stolen Kisses”), “Jules et Jim,” “Lola” and “La peau douce” (“The Soft Skin”). “Photos de Cinéma” is open to the public through June 24 in the Academy’s Grand Lobby Gallery in Beverly Hills. Regular viewing hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. Admission to the gallery is free.
Tickets for “Breathless” on March 23 are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID, and may be purchased online at www.oscars.org, in person at the Academy box office or by mail. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. All seating is unreserved. For more information, call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.
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Fascinating, intriguing, visually beautiful…but I admit, this is possibly the most challenging Godard film that I have watched by far. After four viewings and research done on the film, I found myself enjoying “Film Socialisme” a lot more, because of its overall presentation. It may not be the most accessible Godard film but for those who are familiar with Godard films, may find “Film Socialisme” to be entertaining and clever or frustrating and incoherent. Definitely a film worth watching!
TITLE: Film Socialisme
FILM RELEASE: 2010
DURATION: 101 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: Color, 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1, DTS-HD Master Audio, Subtitles: Godard’s “Navajo” English and a full English translation
COMPANY: Kino Lorber
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: January 10, 2012
Written and Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Produced by Alain Sarde
Executive Producer: Ruth Waldburger
Cinematography by Fabrice Aragno, Paul Grivas
Jean-Marc Stehle as Otto Goldberg
Agatha Couture as Alissa
Mathias Domahidy as Mathias
Quentin Grosset as Ludovic
Olga Riazanova as Olga – Russian Secret Agent
Patti Smith as herself, Singer
Lenny Kaye as himself, Guitarist
Bernard Maris as himself, Economist
Marie-Christine Bergier as Frieda von Salomon
Nadege Beausson-Diagne as Constance
Bob Maloubier as Himself, French secret agent
Alain Badiou as Himself, Lecturer
Elias Sanbar as Himself, Haifan Historian
Catherine Tanvier as Catherine, Mother
Christian Sinniger as Jean-Jacques Martin
Marine Battaggia as Florine “Flo” Martin
Gulliver Hecq as Lucien “Lulu” Martin
E. Anzoni as Catherine’s Friend
Elisabeth Vitali as France 3 Journalist
Eye Haidara as France 3 Camerawoman
Legendary director Jean-Luc Godard returns to the screen with Film Socialisme, a magisterial essay on the decline of European Civilization. As a garish cruise ship travels the Mediterranean (with Patti Smith among its guests), Godard embarks on a state of the EU address in a vibrant collage of philosophical quotes, historical revelations and pure cinematographic beauty.
As a cinema fan, it’s common to come across forums in regards to filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, the pioneer of the French New Wave, met with comments from cineaste’s that the filmmaker has went astray since 1969.
I admit that when it comes to Godard, the majority of the films that I love are primarily his ’60s films. From “Breathless”, “Vivre Sa View”, “Pierrot le fou”, “Alphaville”, “Made in U.S.A.”, “Week End” to name a few films from Godard’s long oeuvre, there is no doubt that Godard became more politically vocal with his films.
Some may feel that he strayed too far from what viewers loved of his films, but to Jean-Luc Godard, he probably could have cared less. The man walks on the beat of his own drum, creating the films that he wants to make and whether or not they are popular or not, it doesn’t matter. As long as he is alive and is able to create cinema, it’s enough for him.
While viewers can always see Godard through his characters speaking about society and politics, from his 1966 film “Made in U.S.A.” and on, he has always had something to say about the state of a country or the world.
Has he really strayed that far from creating cinema that people love about his work? It’s always subjective but for me, I have always enjoyed his approach to being provocative in his films, “stirring the pot” as many would say. Granted, his films has literally challenged viewers within the last 45-years to the point that reviews have labeled his films “incomprehensible”, in fact, Godard has even alienated his own filmmaker friends because like his films, Godard changes and is able to transform himself to something that people don’t always agree with.
The legendary filmmaker is indeed complex and fortunately, unlike films of the past where people had to write about his films with what they viewed at a theater, we are fortunate in the fact that we can rewatch films and try to understand them more thanks to DVD and Blu-ray.
Specifically his 2010 film “Film Socialisme”, a film created by a then 79-year-old Jean-Luc Godard presented at the Cannes International Film Festival via Godard’s “Navajo” English and to give you an idea of how the film came across to various film critics. Here are a few quotes.
From Roger Ebert, “This film is an affront. It is incoherent, maddening, deliberately opaque and heedless of the ways in which people watch movies. All of that is part of the Godardian method, I am aware, but I feel a bargain of some sort must be struck. We enter the cinema with open minds and goodwill, expecting Godard to engage us in at least a vaguely penetrable way. But in “Film Socialisme,” he expects us to do all the heavy lifting.”
J. Hoberman wrote, “Film Socialisme is both timeless and timely. Nor is that its only paradox. This is at once the most essayistic of 21st-century Godards and the least interested in conventional communication, cinematic as well as linguistic.”
“Film Socialisme” is presented in three movements:
- Des choses comme ca (Such Things) – This is set on a cruise ship and we are presented with various people of different cultures. But among them is an aging Nazi criminal, a UN official, a Russian detective and more.
- Notre Europe (Our Europe) – This features a sister and her younger brother who have summoned their parents to appear before the “tribunal of their childhood” and want them to answer themes of liberty, equality and fraternity.
- Nos humanites (Our Humanities) – The third movement visits six sites: Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona
“Film Socialisme” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1) and the film is Jean-Luc Godard’s debut entry to HD video (shot entirely via digital) and also a Godard film shot in widescreen. The film looks absolutely beautiful in HD but also intriguing of how Godard incorporates various shots into the film. Some are crisp and clear, some are jarring and oversaturated and disjointed pacing at times but it’s all part of what we are used to Godard films. Experimentation, artistic and bold.
So, there are plenty of scenes that have different style of shots. Some that are clearer than others and some that were part of the digital experiment. But for the most part, colors are vibrant, black levels are deep at times and aside from certain scenes which were intentionally made to use various light filters, may they be hard or linear, the film looks great on Blu-ray!
But when you get to the final movement, “Nos humanities”, this is where the film tends to use a lot of older footage from films, news sources, etc. Including stock footage, so these footage tend to not look so great in HD and where you will see artifacts and so forth. But in the context of why this older footage was used, it’s understandable.
Overall, when focusing on the modern footage, colors are vibrant (especially reds), great detail on exteriors and for the most part, the majority of the film when not using older film sources, looks great on Blu-ray. But personally, it’s great to see Godard experimenting with digital filmmaking, especially what he tends to bring out when experimenting with color! The film is visually beautiful!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Film Socialisme” is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The dialogue is clear and at times there are some moments of experimentation but I heard no hissing, crackles, pops or any audio problems.
As for subtitles, it’s important to note that there are two. The film automatically plays with the Godard “Navajo” English which was used for the theatrical edition. This version does not translate the full dialogue, but fortunately on Blu-ray, Kino Lorber does feature a full English translation which viewers may want to switch on first before watching the film.
“Film Socialisme” comes with the original trailer plus Kino Lorber trailers and also a stills gallery.
“Film Socialisme” comes with a slipcase cover and included is an essay titled “E Pluribus Unum” by Richard Brody.
When it comes to Jean-Luc Godard films, I have spent quite a bit of time researching of what inspired him to create his film, what turmoil was going on behind-the-scenes in the making of a film because what people have to realize is that when you are watching a Godard film, you are watching a part of him. What he is experiencing in that moment. What goes through his mind socially and politically.
And while the majority of the films that we watch, we try not to let the outside influence of what happens behind-the-scenes influence one’s judgment towards that film, for Jean-Luc Godard, in some way, shape or form, I have looked at his movies beyond cinema, almost like trying to piece together a complex puzzle. Where “Breathless” was a film that made him internationally known, it was a film that he was not too thrilled of the attention he had gotten and in response, Godard created “Le Petit Soldat” which was controversial and was banned in France for several years.
You look at his film “Made in U.S.A.” and the words that are coming out of the character Paula Nelson (played by his former wife Anna Karina) is literally speaking the words from Godard and Godard symbolically kills himself in the film twice. That same year he creates “Two or Three Things I Know About Her” and although Godard is known for not having a script or script is manipulated real-time by Godard, the film which was considered socially and stylistically radical and we saw Godard challenge advertisers, show his dislike towards politics, the Vietnam war and also various industries.
This has continued throughout Godard’s career since the ’60s and throughout his oeuvre, he has remained controversial among film critics, among viewers and he more or less has changed from being radical to less radical and more of a humanist than his earlier Marxist philosophy.
He is a complex man of change, a man that is learning as he lives but at the same time, still keeping to himself, doing things the way he wants and still entertaining audiences. No matter if people who are still driven to see his earlier films, whether you love or hate his films from the ’70s to the present, he still has been consistent of creating films that people either love or hate.
With his 2010 film “Film Socialisme”, we finally get to see Godard enter the digital age by shooting a film in all digital (his next feature “Adieu au Language” will feature Godard’s entry to 3-D filmmaking). And judging by the various critic reviews since it’s premiere in France, there are those who found the film to be too obscure and some who got it.
My first viewing of “Film Socialisme” was via Godard’s “Navajo” English that was from the theatrical edition. And through that version, not all is translated and unless you know French, a lot of dialogue goes over your head. And I can understand why some critics who watched this version, have found this film to be too obscure for their taste because it’s not a simple film that people will pick up and understand.
For my second viewing, I watched it with the full English translation and things started to make sense a bit more. But still, I felt a bit lost than any other Godard film because I felt I was missing something important.
So, I took to the Internet and one person I know who has done so much research on Godard that can best explain the situation of the film is the New Yorker’s Richard Brody. Brody goes into detail about an interview from “Godard on Godard” (which has yet to be translated) and Godard’s conversation with filmmaker Jacques Tati.
The discussion goes into gold that Stalin stole from the Bank of Spain and the Spanish Republicans, and with the film being separated into three parts, what is straightforward in the film is that a cruise ship is traveling various ports in Barcelona and Odessa. But we also are shown a variety of people. One is a former Nazi spy, another is a Russian officer, another is a young woman wearing a gold necklace (which I am assuming is related to the Nazi), we see an Israeli asking about the gold of the Bank of Palestine and a variety of other people who appear to have their own personal issues.
But the following is possibly the best explanation that Brody goes into about the featuring of these various people of different cultures and how it relates to a socialist society. It’s important to also note that if you are unable to access the link, the good news is that Kino Lorber does include a four-page printed essay titled “E Pluribus Unum” by Richard Brody which goes into more detail about the film.
Brody wrote, “The notion of the ship’s journey as a link between these ports of call—including Barcelona, Naples, Greece, Odessa, Palestine (Godard can’t bring himself to say “Israel”), Egypt, Algiers, and Casablanca—suggests the key idea of Godard’s film: internationalism and multiculturalism as the essence of socialism.”
Brody continued, “The immediate result of the post-1989 end of Communist regimes was the breakups: the U.S.S.R. (which of course was multicultural by force but intolerant of minority cultures) dispersed into small countries, and Yugoslavia also broke into its constituent republics, with the resulting wars and further breakups into ethnic enclaves. It’s a story that runs through Godard’s 1993 film “Oh, Woe Is Me” (“Hélas pour moi”); for Godard, a multi-ethnic society of the Mediterranean—Europe and Russia, the Middle East and North Africa—would be the crucial realization of the socialist vision.”
And possibly the most intriguing observation by Brody was the following that he had written in his article, “he cites the liberation of Italy by the United States during the Second World War (as described by Curzio Malaparte in “The Skin”)—with the suggestion that the U.S. Army symbolically brought the plague to Italy when it arrived at Naples in 1943—and offers, as a contrast, contemporary Barcelona, which comes off as a serene yet politically aware and socialist-mobilized town that owes its humane and political warmth and aesthetic grace to the fact that, despite having been under a right-wing dictatorship for four decades, Spain liberated itself without American invasion or interference.”
So, was the concept of “Film Socialisme” similar to a film like his past film such as “Two or Three Things I Know About Her”? An anti-American explanation of how Spain was able to liberate itself without American invasion or interference and how the America may have hurt the Middle East ala Iraq through its intervention? There is always a meaning behind Godard’s words and perhaps my personal feeling was a film that stirs the pot without being blatantly polemic.
I have no doubt that others willl pick apart this film and find something intriguing or insensitive. Some may find the film to be anti-Semitic and its a title that some have looked at Godard most negatively (Godard has used certain racial remarks about Jews towards filmmakers and friends who tried to get paid the money owed to them, which is actually focused on by Richard Brody in his book, “Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard”. To be fair, because this is quite hotly debated, the counter-point to topics of anti-semitism in Brody’s book is challenged by Cinema Scope’s Bill Krohn).
There are Jewish references in the film that made me raise an eyebrow and wondered what was Godard’s intention, but in an interview with Jean-Marc Lalanne of “Les Inrockuptibles” was that the film was inspired by “Le Voyage de Shakespeare” by Leon Daudet. Also, mentioned in an another “Film Socialisme” article by Richard Brody.
Thus this led me to looking up Leon Daudet and to learn that he is a French journalist which the Encyclopedia Britannica has called him “the most virulent and bitterly satirical polemicist of his generation in France, whose literary reputation rests largely upon his journalist work and his vivid memoirs”. But you read on to learn that Daudet was also a member of France’s National Anti-Jewish Federation and a member of the anti-Semetic journal “Action Francaise”.
I am not an erudite when it comes to European culture especially in the socio-political sense but one thing that I’m grateful for Godard’s films is that it had led me to do my own research and learn more of what was on his mind, to understand what he was communicating. So, I found Brody’s quote to be the most deepest and well-written explanation of the film yet by a film critic.
I watched it for a third time and once again for a fourth time but it was more of observance of dialogue between individuals and to understand the third segment “Nos humanites”. For me, it was a rather intriguing film of multiculturalism gone awry in some way or form. A modernization of culture but also I see a nod to Jacques Tati (if the story is true between the discussion of Godard and Tati), as we see animals at the gas station. As Tati would show the changes of society through his films, perhaps this is what Godard has seen in his long life… a society that has integrated but yet has problems understanding each other.
If Godard was inspired by Daudet and his goal was satirizing society, perhaps the polimicizing is a bit more restrained than what we have seen of Godard in film such as “Tout va bien” and “Made in U.S.A.” to name a few. And I found myself enjoying this film because it was so abstract at times, provocative at times but also very surreal.
There is no doubt that Godard adds his visual style, especially how he includes these layers of scenes in a scattered sense. It’s not a storyline that goes smoothly together. In fact, I tend to look at this film and make the correlation to an abstract painting. Enjoy the moment and see what you get out of these certain scenes.
As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is great, considering this is Godard’s entry to digital filmmaking. The majority of the film looks great, as the digital filmmaking really brings out the colors and detailed exteriors. But because there are also stock footage and older sources of film integrated into “Film Socialisme”, those sources tend to be the most problematic in HD but for the most part, those scenes are very short.
Audio is understandable but once again, when it comes to subtitles, I am so grateful that Kino Lorber has included the full English translation with this release, otherwise the default subtitles is Godard’s “Navajo” English subtitles which were used for the theatrical version and doesn’t not translate all discussions during the film.
This is probably the first Godard film in which I felt the storyline was not as straightforward but in a Godard-sense, it worked. And to see Godard’s use of HD filmmaking was quite intriguing, especially seeing him do something new and different is also intriguing for me because I do love his films, coherent and incoherent. It’s more of the experience and the journey of researching the film and seeing how every film critic had their own personal take of the film.
I have been asked if “Film Socialism” is a blind buy, an easily accessible film and I don’t think it’s easily accessible for those who are not familiar with Godard films, but if you have watched a Godard film, especially his later work, then one may find the film to be intriguing and enjoyable. Although, I won’t be surprised if others found this film to be incoherent and difficult.
Overall, it’s exciting to see Godard make a film digitally but also to watch a film that is audacious, intriguing, challenging but yet beautiful.
I recommend this film for those who are familiar with Godard’s work!
New York, NY – December 9, 2011 – Kino Lorber is proud to announce the Blu-ray and DVD release of Film Socialisme, a cinematic essay on Western civilization, politics and history presented through the lens of master filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.
Film Socialisme comes to Blu-ray and DVD with special features including trailers, a stills gallery, and a special essay about the film by Richard Brody, author of Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, which puts the film in the context of Godard’s career. This edition is presented in its original multi-language soundtrack, with two subtitle options including Godard’s “Navajo” English from the theatrical version, and a full English translation of all of the film’s dialog. The prebook date for the Blu-ray and DVD is December 13, 2011, and the street date for each is January 10, 2012. The SRP for the Blu-ray is $34.95, while the SRP for the DVD is $29.95.
This “remarkable and beautiful and challenging” (Glenn Kenny, MSN) essay from filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard explores contemporary European politics and culture in three distinct parts. The first is set on a luxury cruise liner sailing the Mediterranean (with Patti Smith among its passengers), on which Godard examines the garishness of its wealthy passengers with the rich and troubled history of the ship’s ports of call.
The second part depicts the tension between the owners of a rural French rest stop, running for local office, and their children, who have their own ideas about the future. The third part is part-travelogue, part-history lesson, and part-essay, as Godard explores Western history at six different ports of call: Egypt, Hellas, Palestine, Odessa, Naples, and Barcelona, depicting images of art and conflict in order to examine the past and the future of Western civilization.
Shot in HD (Godard’s first film shot entirely in that format), Film Socialisme is a cinematic essay on the socio-political crises of our times.
2011 / France / 101 min. / Color / Blu-ray: 1920x1080p / DVD: Anamorphic (1:85:1)
Film Socialisme (2011)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Blu-ray SRP: $34.95
DVD SRP: $29.95
Prebook date: December 13, 2011
Street date: January 10, 2012
LORBER FILMS RELEASES JEAN-LUC GODARD’S FILM SOCIALISME (2010) ON JUNE 3 AT IFC CENTER
For Immediate Release New York, NY – May 10, 2011 – Lorber Films is proud to announce the theatrical release of Film Socialisme (2010), the latest film from French master Jean-Luc Godard. Set to open on June 3, 2011, at IFC Center, the film will expand to other national markets during the summer of 2011. After a much acclaimed premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2010, Godard’s latest was shown at the New York, Toronto (Master Program), Rio, São Paulo, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Rotterdam and Jenju Film Festivals – among many others.
Following the tradition of his great essayist works, Film Socialisme is a magisterial statement on the decline of European civilization. Here, Godard embarks on a state of the EU address with a collage of philosophical quotes, historical revelations and pure cinematic beauty, creating a work that “continues to confront English-speaking viewers” (Slant Magazine).
The film is divided into three “movements”. First is a Mediterranean cruise on board a luxury liner, with numerous conversations between the passengers on holiday, including a war criminal, his granddaughter, a famous French philosopher, and an American singer (Patti Smith). The second involves a sister and her younger brother, summoning their parents to appear before the court of their childhood as they demand serious explications on the ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Finally, in the third movement, Godard visits six sites of “true or false” myths: Egypt, Palestine, Odessa, Hellas, Naples and Barcelona.
Throughout, Godard blends a combination of sounds and images that “take on a rhythmic life of their own” (Peter Brunette, The Hollywood Reporter). The result is “an intriguing late-career work by an artist who hasn’t stopped challenging his audience” (T’cha Dunlevy, The Montreal Gazette).
One of the founders of the French New Wave, the iconic filmmakers Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard are featured in this wonderful documentary showcasing their upbringing, their career, their friendship and the demise of that friendship. This film is highly recommended to anyone who is a fan of these filmmakers, their work and La Nouvelle Vague.
© 2010 Wide Management, Kino Lorber Inc.. All Rights Reserved.
DVD TITLE: Two in the Wave
DOCUMENTARY DATE: 2010
DURATION: 92 Minutes
DVD INFORMATION: 1:85:1 and 1:33, 16:9, Region 0,Color and B/W, French with English subtitles
COMPANY: Lorber Films
RELEASE DATE: February 22, 2011
Directed by Emmanuel Laurent
Written and Narrated by Antoine de Baecque
Produced by Emmanuel Laurent
Cinematography by Etienne de Gramont, Nick de Pencier
Edited by Marie-France Cuenot
Featuring archive footage of
An in-depth analysis of the relationship between New Wave pioneers François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, as seen through rare archival footage, interviews, and film excerpts — written and narrated by former Cahiers du Cinéma editor Antoine de Baecque and directed by Emmanuel Laurent.
La Nouvelle Vague, known to many as the French New Wave, a term in which a group of filmmakers from the 1950′s and 1960′s who were influenced by classic Hollywood cinema, Italian Neorealism and a few who were film critics for the publication “Cashiers du cinema” would informally organize a movement in France. The French New Wave was a rejection of classical cinema invigorated by the iconoclasm of youth and European art cinema and while there were a group of people known for this movement, two people are known for changing the landscape of cinema, doing what they want, their way, their style.
Francois Truffaut with “The 400 Blows” and Jean-Luc Godard with “Breathless”. Two very good friends who came from different backgrounds but each passionate about cinema and together they shared in common of using young actor at the time, Jean-Pierre Leaud.
Francois Truffaut is one of the founding members of the French New Wave and influential as a filmmaker, feared as a film critic. An icon of the French film industry, Truffaut feared no one. As a young child, Truffaut lived with various nannies and his grandmother who taught him about books and music. After his grandmother’s death, he lived with is parents for the first time but unfortunately, wasn’t happy that he stayed outside of the house and became friends with Robert Lachenay, who inspired the character Rene Bigey of “The 400 Blows” (which Jean-Pierre Leaud plays in the film). Unsatisfied with his home life, since watching his first film “Paradis Perdu” in 1939, his escape from home was cinema.
Truffaut was a truant, would sneak into theaters, expelled from school and at the age 14, he began self-teaching himself by reading three books a week and watching three movies a day. Truffaut would create the “Film Addict’s Club” and because of that, his stepfather who found out about his runaway stepson had him arranged for arrest and imprisonment. But watching over him was film critic Andre Bazin who met Truffaut at the club, was head of another film society and became a friend of Truffaut was instrumental in his campaign in getting Truffaut out of imprisonment and into his personal care.
Eventually Truffaut was imprisoned for military desertion and Bazin impersonated himself as his father and was virtually adopted by Bazin would take care of him. This life that Truffaut and his friend lived, would serve as an inspiration for “The 400 Blows”.
Jean-Luc Godard lived a different life from Truffaut. His father was a physician, he came from a protestant family of Franco-Swiss descent and his mother was the great-granddaughter of theologian Adolphe Monod (and other well-known people of the Monod family). Godard went to school in Switzerland and attended the University of Paris and that is where he became involved with a group of young filmmakers and film theorists. This is where Godard met Andre Bazin, the man that both he and Truffaut believed was most responsible for the French New Wave.
Bazin believed that “Realism is the essence of Cinema” and these two men would seek out to achieve cinematic realism through aesthetic and contextual media. Both Truffaut and Godard would go against traditional filmmaking by favoring long shots, Godard was known for fastcutting, jump cuts and intriguing editing. While Truffaut showed realism, Godard would embrace contradiction.
But as these two men became more popular and while Truffaut followed his passion for cinema by interviewing Alfred Hitchock and other filmmakers, while Godard would do something similar, during the ’60s, Godard’s perspective towards the world changed and became a radical, political director.
These two friends would eventually go into different paths but both would share in common their work with Jean-Pierre Leaud, a young actor who worked with Godard but his career was started by Truffaut and literally became a muse for Truffaut and a father-figure and because of that, it led to the falling out by both men.
As Godard always counted on Truffaut in financial production at times, Godard also became very critical to the point where he would badmouth his friend and when it came to asking money from Jean-Pierre Leaud, that was the final straw for Truffaut who unloaded on Godard and ended their friendship.
“Two in the Wave” is a documentary that focuses on the two men, their youth, their friendship, their work and the end of their friendship. Written and narrated by former Cahiers du Cinema editor Antoine de Baecque, this film produced and directed by Emmanuel Laurent features a documentary that is meticulously researched and covers the most vibrant and turbulent period of cinema history.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Two in the Wave” is presented in 16:9, 1:85 and 1:33, color and B&W. The footage is primarily of clips from movies directed by Truffaut and Godard but also features archived news footage and interviews of the two men. There are modern footage may it be a woman reading older copies of Cahiers du Cinema publications or visiting areas that Truffaut and Godard would visit but the footage is a mix-match of archival footage in color and black & white. So, picture quality is varied but for the most part, picture quality is good and watchable.
Audio is presented in French with English subtitles. Narration by Antonine de Baecque is clear and understandable. Even the archived footage is clear and understandable. No one should have any problems with the audio quality from the archived footage.
“Two in the Wave” comes with no special features.
When it comes to the works of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, for me, their oeuvre are fascinating and intriguing. I know with fellow cineaste, many tend to stay with the paradigm of late ’50s and ’60s when it comes to their films but for me, I watch everything and to understand their mindset.
I read various books on both men, including their film critique books in order to gain some insight of what the men are thinking and how they viewed cinema or a filmmaker because to me, not only have these men help found Nouvelle Vague, these men embodied cinema, they thrived on cinema and they speak their mind about cinema quite bluntly.
But as intrigued as I am towards their career, I am also intrigued about their friendship and also what ended it. And to gain such knowledge, it took years of reading various books and publications to gain that insight. But fortunately, now people can get a good idea of the upbringing, the career and the friendship of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard with “Two in the Wave”.
For me, this documentary was well-researched as we see a juxtaposition of both men and their lives. The footage selected and used are very well done but I do feel that the documentary didn’t try to polemicize their relationship. And with Godard and Leaud still around, I do believe that both Emanuel Laurent and Antoine de Baecque wanted to cover both men without any bias and to keep the documentary balance by showcasing the different upbringing of both men, focusing on their career and of course, what led to their breakup.
But if you have read a lot into their break up, there is more to the story. I do believe that the main reason why the two ended their relationship was money and possibly jealousy.
As for Truffaut and Godard, once the two began receiving funding for their films, Truffaut I felt stayed true to his style (but also received Western support financially for his films) while Godard began going through major political changes to the point he was alienating everyone that was once close to him. To put it plainly, he became a political propagandist.
The two were like Lennon/McCartney but the fact is that Truffaut was consistent, Godard was the revolutionary. Truffaut admired cinema and its auteurs, Godard had contempt towards cinema towards himself and his fellow filmmakers.
And of course 1973, was the year the two had their most public split. We know from his films that 1968 and on…Godard was not the same type of director that people knew via the French New Wave. He lost support from critics and even several of his former friends/filmmakers.
It’s one thing that he had his own Super-8 video equipment but the fact is, unlike Truffaut, Godard at the time, was not getting any money or the support like his friend. So, probably the most aggressive thing he did was to criticize Truffaut on his film “La nuit americaine” (Day for the Night).
Godard sent Truffaut a letter and called him a “liar” for leaving things out of his film and to make amends, Truffaut should send him money to make a film in response. And this is where Leaud comes in. It’s important to note that he even sent a letter to Jean-Pierre Leaud, the film’s star and an actor he had worked with. But also remember, like Bazin gave Truffaut a chance with cinema, it is Truffaut who saw himself in Leaud and gave him a chance to be an actor and embrace cinema.
And because Godard did this, I believe it was the ultimate slap in the face for Truffaut. What Godard received was a 20-page letter of 15 years of frustrations that Truffaut had with Godard. (note: Source of information is from The New Yorke film critic Richard Brody and excerpted from his book “Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard”)
So as not to oblige you to read this disagreeable letter to the end, I begin with the essential: I will not enter your coproduction in your film.
Second, I am returning your letter to Jean-Pierre Leaud: I have read it and find it disgusting. It is because of this that I fell that the time has come to tell you, at length, that in my view you behave like shit.
What Godard wrote to Leaud was him asking for money. Truffaut felt it was disgusting that a director would ask a poor actor for financial help. Truffaut had said that if the letter to Leaud was not included, he would have helped out Godard.
In this 20-page letter, Truffaut went all out and of course, kept calling Godard “shit” to his unprofessionalism due to the director trying to seduce his female actresses, not showing up to film festivals when he promised to attend, calling Pierre Braunberger a “Dirty Jew” (interesting to note: that even his 70’s filmmaking partner Gorin, when Gorin tried to recoup the money he had made with Godard, Godard made a similar comment which ticked Gorin off).
But in the letter, Truffaut continued:
Anyone who has a different opinion from yours is a creep, even if the opinion you hold in June is not the same one you held in April. In 1973, your prestige is intact, which is to say, when you walk into an office, everyone studies your face to see if you are in a good mood.
You have never succeeded in loving anyone or in helping anyone. Other than by shoving a few banknotes at them.
Truffaut then added in the letter of all the times he went to bat for Godard, helped him financially especially in “Contempt” when Truffaut was asked to replace Godard and didn’t. Telling Godard that he was jealous of him and including a letter when Godard demanded money from him for the production of “Two or Three Things”.
And ended with:
In any case, we no longer agree about anything.
Needless to Godard continued his tirade towards Truffaut and even after Truffaut’s death, there were no signs of Godard letting up.
I am amazed that people who lack ideas for new films (including some old friends like Truffaut, Rivette, who don’t have any more ideas than the guys whom they denounced twenty years ago), continue to adhere to the one and self-same system of filmmaking, which is easy to describe: a sum of so many million, multiplied by so many weeks, multiplied by a certain number of people.
In 1977, he did a talk with students and reviewed his career and said that he was relieved that his films after “Breathless” were financial failures. In his mind, he felt it kept him from becoming what he thought Truffaut had become: someone who “Talks to nobody, except to Polanski”. Godard felt that Polanski and Altman films “pretend to be intellectual when it’s pure merchandise”. He felt their style was dishonest. He felt that Truffaut was part of that group.
Needless to say, I do feel that in 1973, that letter stung Godard to his core. No one would dare tell him how they felt about him in such a manner, nor use the past as evidence to show how Godard was to them and he used his friendship. I think it was stinging to him because it was Truffaut. The man who has helped him so much with “Breathless” and earlier in his career.
Although both men tend to be compared, I have always seen Truffau and Godard, both men like apples and oranges when it comes to their approach to filmmaking. Truffaut is right that how Godard was something one month, and how he was different the other. Godard is a complex individual, a man of contradictions, a man that one shouldn’t try to figure out because you won’t be able to. And I think that’s why we love his films, he could care less of what people think but he just does them for his love of cinema, his way and his style.
Truffaut did films, his way and his style but he was not contradictory. He went against traditional cinema his way and his style and I do believe that is the efficacy of the juxtaposition of both filmmakers in “Two in the Wave”. I do believe that LAurent and de Baecque tried to keep things as balanced as they could and that is probably a good thing because the more you research, you start to make decisions of who is right and who is wrong. This documentary wants you to enjoy both filmmakers for what they accomplished in their careers and during the friendship without getting into the nitty gritty of the demise of their friendship.
Godard inspired filmmakers with his attitude and doing things his way even if it angered his producers. While Truffaut, I admire him as a filmmaker and also his appreciation to the artistic work of filmmakers. But I think the way how people have used the Lennon/McCartney comparison works for Truffaut and Godard. These two created films that were loved by many, films that were even despised by critics at times and both were rebellious as well. But both veered into opposite paths and there was no way this relationship could ever be repaired.
As for the DVD, the DVD features the film and no special features. It would have been great to have some interviews with both director Emmanuel Laurent and writer/narrator Antoine de Baecque but if anything, for the film itself, it’s still one documentary that I do feel anyone interested in the French New Wave should watch.
“Two in the Wave” is a fascinating documentary for those who are fans of Truffaut and Godard and is highly recommended!
Beverly Hills, CA – The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted last night to present the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producer-director Francis Ford Coppola and Honorary Awards to historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow, director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach. All four awards will be presented at the Academy’s 2nd Annual Governors Awards dinner on Saturday, November 13, at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center®.
“Each of these honorees has touched movie audiences worldwide and influenced the motion picture industry through their work,” said Academy President Tom Sherak. “It will be an honor to celebrate their extraordinary achievements and contributions at the Governors Awards.”
Brownlow is widely regarded as the preeminent historian of the silent film era as well as a preservationist. Among his many silent film restoration projects are Abel Gance’s 1927 epic “Napoleon,” Rex Ingram’s “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (1921) and “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924), starring Douglas Fairbanks. Brownlow has authored, among others, The Parade’s Gone By; The War, the West, and the Wilderness; Hollywood: The Pioneers; Behind the Mask of Innocence; David Lean; and Mary Pickford Rediscovered. His documentaries include “Hollywood,” “Unknown Chaplin,” “Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow,” “Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius” and “D.W. Griffith: Father of Film,” all with David Gill; Brownlow also directed “Cecil B. DeMille: American Epic” and “Garbo,” the latter with Christopher Bird.
Coppola began his film career in the early 1960s making low-budget films with 2009 Honorary Award recipient Roger Corman. By the end of the 1970s he had won five Oscars®: Best Picture (“The Godfather Part II”); Directing (“The Godfather Part II”) and Writing (“Patton,” “The Godfather,” “The Godfather Part II”). Among his numerous producing credits are “American Graffiti, “Gardens of Stone,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” “Jack” and “Tetro.” In 1969 he established American Zoetrope, an independent film studio that helped launch the careers of George Lucas and Carroll Ballard, and has since produced more than 30 films, including “The Black Stallion,” “The Outsiders,” “Lost in Translation” and “The Good Shepherd.”
A key figure in the French New Wave movement, Godard started out writing about cinema before beginning to make his own short films. His influential first feature, “Breathless” (1960), impressed audiences and filmmakers alike with its jazzy take on the American crime film. For fifty years, Godard has continued to write and direct challenging, and sometimes controversial, films that have established his reputation as one of the seminal modernists in the history of cinema. His more than 70 features include “Contempt,” “Alphaville,” “Weekend” and “King Lear.” Godard is also credited with having influenced numerous contemporary directors, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino.
Born in Brooklyn in 1915, Wallach made his debut film appearance in Elia Kazan’s 1956 feature “Baby Doll,” starring alongside Karl Malden and Carroll Baker. Since then he has starred in more than 50 features including “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Misfits,” “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “The Godfather, Part III” and “The Holiday.” Throughout his lengthy career, Wallach has worked with such directors and actors as Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Douglas, Clint Eastwood, John Ford, Clark Gable, John Huston, Sergio Leone, Marilyn Monroe, Al Pacino, Gregory Peck and Kate Winslet. Wallach will next be seen in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
The Honorary Award, an Oscar® statuette, is given to an individual for “extraordinary distinction in lifetime achievement, exceptional contributions to the state of motion picture arts and sciences, or for outstanding service to the Academy.”
The Thalberg Award, a bust of the motion picture executive, is given to “a creative producer whose body of work reflects a consistently high quality of motion picture production.”
The Governors Awards presentation will be produced for the Academy by producer Sid Ganis with Don Mischer Productions.
Godard’s tragic masterpiece shows us an innovative Godard and showcasing Coutard’s beautiful cinematography and a wonderful performance by Anna Karina. Another Godard film on Blu-ray which is fantastic. Highly recommended!
© Les Films du Jeud/1962-Les Films de la Pleiade-Paris. 2010 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Vivre Sa Vie – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #512
YEAR OF FILM: 1962
DURATION: 83 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:33:1 Aspect Ratio), Black and White, Monaural in French with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/Les Films Du Jeudi/THE CRITERION COLLECTION
RELEASE DATE: April 20, 2010
Based on the Book “Ou en est la prostitution” by Marcel Sacotte
Written and Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Produced by Pierre Braunberger
Music by Michel Legrand
Cinematography by Raoul Coutard
Edited by Jean-Luc Godard, Agnes Guillemot
Costume Design by Christiane Fageol
Anna Karina as Nana Kleinfrankenheim
Sady Rebbot as Raoul
Andre S. Labarthe as Paul
Guylaine Schlumberger as Yvette
Gerard Hoffman as Le Chef
Monique Messine as Elisabeth
Paul Pavel as Journaliste
Dimitri Dineff as Dimitri
Peter Kassovitz as Le jeune homme
Eric Schlumberger as Luigie
Henri Attal as Arthur
Jean-Luc Godard as the voix de l’amant lisant Poe
Vivre sa vie was a turning point for Jean-Luc Godard and remains one of his most dynamic films, combining brilliant visual design with a tragic character study. The lovely Anna Karina, Godard’s greatest muse, plays Nana, a young Parisian who aspires to be an actress but instead ends up a prostitute, her downward spiral depicted in a series of discrete tableaux of daydreams and dances. Featuring some of Karina and Godard’s most iconic moments—from her movie theater vigil with The Passion of Joan of Arc to her seductive pool-hall strut—Vivre sa vie is a landmark of the French New Wave that still surprises at every turn.
It was 1962 and Jean-Luc Godard and wife, Anna Karina have worked on two films together “Le petit Soldat” (created in 1960 but released in 1963 due to the film being banned) and the 1961 film “Une femme est une femme” (A Woman is a Woman). By that time, both Godard and Karina’s marriage life became a public spectacle especially rumors that their marriage was on the rocks.
Despite their rocky personal life, Godard’s goal was to make Karina a serious actress and in 1962, he began working on his screen adaptation of “Vivre sa vie” (My Life to Love) which utilizes the studies of prostitution from “Où en est la prostitution” by Marcel Sacotte. But Godard would have his most challenging directorial experience at the time when funding for the film was turned down and the budget for the film was 400,000 francs, less that “Breathless” and it would be the first film in which Godard would be co-producer (putting half of his money towards the film) alongside producer Pierre Braunberger.
“Vivre sa vie” would create the film in 13 sequences, Godard called it “tableaux vivants” (live paintings) which was inspired by the 1931 film “The Threepenny Opera” (directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst) and the film was shown at the Venice Film Festival in which the film received boos from the audience (because it was unlike his other films) and even received some critical pans by a few critics but the film would go on to receive the Critics’ Prize and the Special Jury Prize and those same critics that panned the film earlier, some would go back and watch it again and at this point, many proclaimed the film as Godard’s masterpiece, even receiving praise from director/friend (at the time) Francois Truffaut and would be the first film for Godard to end the year in Cahiers du Cinema best ten list for that year.
“Vivre sa vie” is a film that focuses on Nana Kleinfrankenheim (played by Anna Karina), a young woman who left her child and husband to go off and become an actress. Unfortunately, life as an actress is not going so well as Nana is low on money, constantly borrowing money, late on her rent and having to request an advance from her job at a record store.
But after being arrested for taking money from a woman who dropped it, the problem Anna faces is a life without a home and no money. So, she turns to prostitution. We see how she’s uncomfortable about being a prostitute but she knows she has no other choice.
Wanting to make more money, a pimp named Raoul offers her a way out of her current job and way to become a prostitute but in better areas of the city and have more clientele. We then see how Nana has changed from an amateur to a professional. But she does receive a stern warning from her pimp, “do not refuse a customer”.
But what will happen to Nana when she meets a man she cares about and wants a change in her life?
“Vivre sa vie” is presented in 1:33:1 aspect ratio and in black and white. For many years, many people had only a VHS and import DVD to watch “Vivre sa vie”. And now people have the chance to watch Godard’s tragic masterpiece in HD. Detail is much more evident in the backgrounds, you can see the surfaces of the signs and the walls, detail on the stains of the walls to the detail in Karina’s clothing. Blacks are nice and deep, grays and whites and the overall contrast levels look fantastic. There is a good amount of grain tot he film and for the most part, this is the most detailed version of “Vivre Sa Vie” available on any physical media at this time.
According to the Criterion Collection, the picture has been slightly windowboxed to ensure that the maximum image is visible on all monitors. The new HD digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from teh original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean system, while Digital Vision’s DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Vivre Sa Vie” is presented in Monaural French with English subtitles. Audio is presented in LPCM 1.0 and according to the Criterion Collection, the soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the optical prints. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated audio workstation.
It’s important to note that for this film, Godard went for an experimental use of sound. That is the soundtrack (dialogue and noise) was recorded directly on a single track. No sound editing, natural sounds and everything that one would hear in a regular conversation with another person is what you would hear in this film. The only addition was the music to the live soundtrack during the post-production phase of the film.
Dialogue (as well as crowd ambiance) is clear and understandable and the bass line for the main theme song (especially during the dance sequences) sound very good in HD.
“Vivre sa vie – THE CRITERION COLLECTION #512″ comes with the following special features:
- Audio Commentary – The audio commentary is by film scholar Adrian Martin and was recorded in 2001. What I enjoyed about this commentary is Martin’s knowledge of the film but also his enthusiasm about Godard’s oeuvre and how the scene was shot. Very detailed and informative audio commentary and definitely worth listening to!
- Jean Narboni on Vivre sa vie – (45:15) A 2004 interview with French scholar Jean Narboni by film historian Noel Simsolo who breaks down various scenes from the film and it’s script.
- Cinepanorama: Anna Karina – (11:05) An interview with Anna Karina from the French TV program “Cinepanorama” from April 1962 before the release of “Vivre sa vie”.
- Faire Face: “La Prostitution” – (21:48) Featuring excerpts from “La Prostitution”, an episode of the French TV series “Faire face” which aired back in Feb. 1961. Featuring interviews with prostitutes, Max Fernet, Paris’s director of police and Marcel Sacotte, author of “Ou en est: La Prostitution” which was the inspiration of “Vivre sa vie”.
- Ou en est: La Prostitution – Featuring text information on how Godard utilized Sacotte’s studies on prostitution for the film and photos of pages from the Sacotte’s “Ou en est: La Prostitution”.
- Stills Gallery – Using your remote, you can view various stills from the film.
- Godard’s Trailer – (2:22) The theatrical trailer for “Vivre sa vie”.
- 42-Page Booklet- Featuring the scenario “Vivre Sa Vie Scenario” by Jean-Luc Godard, the essay “The Lost Girl” by Michael Atkinson and an interview with Godard on “Vivre sa vie” for Sight & Sound Magazine (Winter 1962-1963), an interview with Jean-Luc Godard from Cahiers du Cinema from Dec. 1962, an essay on the film’s soundtrack in “An Audacious Experiment: The Soundtrack of Vivre Sa Vie” by Jean Collet.
For any Godardite, let alone the Anna Karina fans not enjoy “Vivre sa vie”. I felt that the journey Godard has taken the viewers for the character Nana and her descent into prostitution was well done, there is no sugar coating the whole lifestyle of these women. As Karina may be a woman who tries to maintain her soul despite being a prostitute, the only ending that I can foresee for this character was a tragic ending. This was evident to me right when I saw the “Joan of Arc” film and Nana’s face as she tearfully wept as Joan is to be put to death.
No sugar coating, no happy ending, no “Pretty Woman” type of ending, it is what it is.
“Vivre sa vie” was a film that was a unique experience, especially having watched many of Godard’s films and also having read about the personal turmoil that was going on behind-the-scenes with his marriage to his muse Anna Karina.
I look at “Vivre sa vie” as Godard trying to maintain his composure as a director and the audience, trying to make amends with his wife, Francois Truffaut, explain differences between “Vivre sa vie” and why “A Woman is a Woman” did not work but we also saw at the same time, the film alienating some Godardites and even upsetting his former friend/director Jean-Pierre Melville.
But as “Breathless” is seen as the flame that sparked the French New Wave and intellectual films, “Vivre sa vie” influenced cinema with lengthy dialogue which would become used by fellow directors and many young directors who were influenced by the film. From the opening sequence of Nana and her husband, the camera shot is from behind, Godard wanted no distractions by showing the character’s faces from the front but by the back. The use of the tableux sequences and as mentioned, the dialogue sequences. Where Rohmer made things much more intellectual in “My Night at Maud’s”, I can easily see why people criticized “Vivre sa vie” at first because of the dialogue was not as intellectual as they hoped for it to be.
Interesting to note, an interview is included in the book insert of how Godard wanted many people to understand his film (something that he would eventually get away from a few years later) and although Godard does read a passage from Edgar Allen Poe’s book at the end of the film, the book that had any significance was “Ou en est la prostitution” by Marcel Sacotte. The tricks of the trade in which Nana and her new pimp Raoul begin discussing and a way for Nana to make even more money.
But as the film does feature lengthy dialogue, not all were impressed, including one of Godard’s earliest supporters Jean-Pierre Melville who was very critical towards him. In fact, it was one of the major reasons that Godard and director Melville ended their friendship as according to Melville’s wife Florence who recalled her husband telling Godard “You are making a lazy man’s cinema, this is no longer deserves the name of cinema, you put down the camera and you have people talk, nothing more. For me, this isn’t cinema”. (p. 141, “Everything is Cinema”, Richard Brody) and in response Godard said, “There can no longer be a friendship between us, if one doesn’t like one’s friend’s film, no one can longer be his friend.”
But Godard received a good review from another earlier supporter, director Francois Truffaut who wrote “There are films one can admire and yet that do not invite you to follow…why pursue it? These are not the best films. The best films open doors, they support our impression that cinema begins and begins again with them. ‘Vivre sa vie’ is one of those.” (p. 319, “The Films In My Life”, Francois Truffaut)
So, the film received its boos but many people came around to declare the film as a Godard masterpiece. But one thing I have always wondered was if there was an alternate ending to this classic Godard film. If Godard had actually thought about another type of ending and the more I researched, I’ve read that Godard and Karina had a lengthy argument on how the film was supposed to end. Karina opposed the ending of the film and according to several books, because of the ending Godard chose, which went against his wife’s wishes, it was the beginning of the breakup of their marriage (and another unfortunate incident involving Karina).
So, I’ve always found “Vivre sa vie” to be a unique Godard experience. From Coutard’s cinematography, Godard’s use of the tableaux, Antonioni-like sequenes and the recording of the sound and ambiance from the actual filming and as much as I call this a Godard masterpiece, I’ve felt that Anna Karina was absolutely dashing in this film. A role that gave the actress the depth she needed to showcase her emotional side and also her flirtatious side, needless to say, this is a film where Karina shined.
The Blu-ray release of “Vivre sa vie” is done quite well. Not only do you get an informative commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin but the interview with film scholar Jean Narboni is also well-done and informative. The other features are like icing on the cake, especially the hilarious interview with Anna Karina who is surprised by the questions asked by the interviewer and the 42-page booklet is a major plus.
Overall, “Vivre sa vie” is a release that many Godard fans have been waiting for (now all we need is “Week End”) and the fact that The Criterion Collection also chose this film for Blu-ray release is fantastic. Although “Vivre sa vie” is not my favorite Godard film (which still goes to “Pierrot le fou”), “Vivre sa vie” is still a Godard masterpiece that is worth having in your cinema collection.