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  • Writer's pictureDavid Corfield

Remembering Jean-Luc Godard

Updated: Oct 1, 2022

An article first published in 2014 (when I was Editor of the Canon Professional Network with Red Dot) along with a film made by the Agency for Canon Europe on the late filmmaker's exploration into 3D with Canon DSLRs.

Jean-Luc Godard in conversation with (L-R) David Corfield, Cecile Mella and filmmaker Sean Miller

What is there to be said about Jean-Luc Godard that hasn’t already been discussed many times? A man whose reputation for disregarding rules and conventions is as strong as his desire for Cuban Cohiba cigars...

Godard is a reluctant genius with a mind for mischief. His wild, grey, thinning hair and stubbly face breaks into the warmest of smiles as he recalls puzzled ruminations of film critics past who just didn’t understand his work. He is on record as saying “I’d rather feed 100 percent of ten people, than ten percent of a hundred.”

A loner of French cinema; he is an onlooker, at one with his thoughts and with an inner commentary that spills onto the movie screen with vigour and passion. At 83 he is still very much into his craft, and his skill as an editor, though very much of the old school, still has the capacity to impress with jump cuts and graphics that leave you scratching your head and working hard to understand the reasons. But that’s the point: Godard likes his audience to work hard...

This year is his 60th as a filmmaker. Godard has made more than 120 films and has directed France's most celebrated actors; from Gerard Depardieu to Brigitte Bardot. But only one film – Breathless –was ever a financial success.

Breathless, known in French as ‘A Bout de Souffle’, captured the world's attention when it opened in 1959, earning Godard a place in the New Wave of French directors, alongside Eric Rohmer and the late François Truffaut. The black-and-white film starred the handsome young Frenchman Jean-Paul Belmondo as a young crook pulled apart by his love for an American girl, played by the French-speaking American actress Jean Seberg. “A generation of film critics had their lives changed by that film,” Variety magazine said. And they were right.

Today’s film-directing greats, including Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino, are big admirers of the man’s work. Godard shrugs it off, much like the honourary lifetime achievement Oscar he was awarded in 2010...

He famously spoke of the award, saying: “Which of my films have they seen? Do they actually know my films? The award is called The Governor’s Award. Does this mean that Schwarzenegger gives me the award?”

You’ve got to love the guy. And on the day of our meeting, he was in very fine fettle, making every effort to remember our names and putting up with my painfully bad French.

This movie is an unashamed homage to his approach and reveals some deeply profound thoughts about how we, as a race, have allowed technology to get in the way of our own innate ability to communicate. What does ‘SMS’ mean to you? You’ll find out what it means to him...

Goodbye to language is not a long movie – none of Godard’s films ever are – but its resonance and message will last far longer. I hope our film helps open your mind, just as his will help open your eyes.

David Corfield

Paris, 2014

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