WHO is he?

Iconoclastic French filmmaker and writer with a formidable body of work consisting of over hundred short and feature films made on film, video and DV. Before his foray into filmmaking, Godard was a critic for the famous film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma, alongside other film directors who would go on to form the French New Wave.

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

Godard’s working life could be divided roughly into four stages — the early, flamboyant and culturally-hip Nouvelle Vague films dealing with contemporary French youth life, the leftist agit-prop films he made with the Dziga-Vertov group, his return to the examination of the problems of life in a modern world and his essay films dealing with history, politics and art. However, all his films are about cinema itself — its achievements, its dangers and its possibilities.

Style

All of Godard’s films are formally experimental, taking a near-complete break from the tradition they were born in. They all deal with the problem of representation and the politics of image-making. The most startling technical and dramatic innovations of his early films are now part of mainstream pop culture. Though his later avant-garde pictures increasingly alienated the early champions of his cinema, they are now widely recognised as crucial to the progress of film as art.

WHY is he of interest?

One does not know where to begin or where to end when talking about Godard, for so vast is the range of his cinematic output and so drastic the shifts in the many phases of his filmmaking career, that it is hard for anyone to summarise them in a simple narrative. If a book about cinema of the second half of the 20th century is to be written, it is Godard, more than any other filmmaker, who deserves to be on its cover page.

WHERE to discover him?

Made piecewise during the years between 1988 and 1998, Histoire(s) du Cinéma is one of the most important and astounding achievements on film. Divided into eight chapters and running for over four hours, this dense and challenging essay work examines the history of 20th century through that of cinema and vice versa, producing a hypnotic work that is at once an anthology of the many histories of cinema, a political treatise and an autobiography that never ceases to surprise, delight, awe and provoke.

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