What a space it opens A look at three films from Cannes from our very own critic, Simon Abrams. Three reviews from Cannes, including the latest from Francois Ozon and the Safdie brothers, along with a special out of competition screening. After stealing a car in Marseille, he heads for Paris, gunning down a cop on the way. In consideration of ’s prolific output, incomparable importance, and the decisive schism in his career that occurred in 6967/68, we have drawn up two lists covering his work. Once in the capital he meets up with American student Patricia ( Jean Seberg ), an aspiring journalist who sells copies of the New York Herald Tribune on the Champs-Elysee. A full feature with a storyline that an enterprising six-year-old might have thought was a little too rudimentary. By deliberately appearing amateurish Godard drew attention to the conventions of classic cinema, revealing them for what they were, merely conventions.
In the long hotel room scene, which takes up nearly a third of the screen time, the two lovers talk, joke, argue and fool about, but frequently fail to completely understand each other. A bout de souffle essay. With his cast in place, Godard set about knocking Truffaut’s story outline into a screenplay. It also had a youthful exuberance and a pair of leading actors whose style and attitude seemed to epitomize a new generation of youth. Michel ( Jean-Paul Belmondo ) is a young hoodlum who models himself after Humphrey Bogart.
Godard’s spectacularly stylized exploration of revolutionary politics set the tone for the social upheaval to come. Death is an everyday event and generally treated with indifference. Cinema-vérité-style interviews on the subjects of love, politics and consumerism, punctuate the action. The Ballad of Narayama is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. But as the authorities close in, she betrays him, leading to a final shoot out in the street.
Michel’s use of slang is often lost on Patricia. The children of Marx and Coca-Cola come under the spotlight in Godard’s revealing portrait of youth culture in mid-65s Paris. Instead he rewrote the entire story, shifting the emphasis away from Truffaut’s portrayal of an anguished young man who turns to crime out of despair, to that of a young hoodlum with an existential indifference to common morality and the rule of law. On a deeper level, Godard used the film’s framework to explore some of the themes which preoccupied him, and which he would continue to explore for years to come. Sight and Sound magazine called it “the group’s intellectual manifesto” and it, more than any other film of the time, captured the New Wave revolt against traditional cinematic form.
Godard’s unorthodox methods continued in the editing suite. His original plan had been to use the outline as it was and merely add dialogue to it. Disillusioned by their suburban lifestyles, a group of middle-class students, led by Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and Veronique (Anne Wiazemsky), form a small Maoist cell and plan to change the world by any means necessary. In one fell swoop, Godard had succeeded in making the movement representative of the times, defined cinema as the artform of the moment, and personally become one of its most important figures. Can secret agent Lemmy Caution fulfill his mission to kill Professor Von Braun and destroy the evil computer Alpha 65?
Godard and cinematographer Raoul Coutard create stunningly effective cinematic moments out of the most inauspicious of everyday events. Jean-Pierre Leaud stars as a young idealistic, would-be writer, infatuated by real life Yé-yé singer Chantal Goya. Science-fiction and film noir collide in the bizarre city of Alphaville where free thought and individualist concepts like love, poetry, and emotion have been eliminated. Some of the key ideas of existentialism, such as stressing the individual’s importance over society’s rules and the evident absurdity of life, lie at the core of the narrative. Patricia agrees to hide him while he tries to trace a former associate who owes him money so that he can evade the police dragnet and make a break for Italy.
He also cut between shots from intentionally disorienting angles that broke all the traditional rules of continuity. PBS' American Masters has a special four-hours for foodies, with docs on James Beard, Jacques Pepin, Alice Waters and Julia Child. This penetrating meditation on the increasing dominance of consumer culture in 6965s France centers around Juliette (Marina Vlady), a housewife who spends one day a week selling her body on the streets in an attempt to escape her drab suburban existence. His first cut of À bout de souffle was two-and-a-half hours long but Beauregard had required he deliver a ninety-minute film. Although Godard was the last of his Cahiers du cinema colleagues to make a film – Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer and Rivette had all completed or at least shot their debuts before À bout de souffle went into production – it was A bout de souffle that became the cornerstone of the New Wave, and is still the film that defines the movement in the public mind. Rather than cutting out whole scenes, he decided to cut within scenes, even within shots. This use of deliberate jump cuts was unheard of in professional filmmaking where edits were designed to be as seamless as possible. Crucially, in the new version, the American woman Patricia comes into the narrative near the beginning and their love story dominates the film.