News broke today of the passing of filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard at age 91, pioneer of the French New Wave an artist whose work and career—in every way—represented the essence of the Independent Spirit. It can be difficult to know what to say in the moment about the passing of such an icon. Luckily, plenty of other people have lots to say, not least of all Godard himself.
As a former Cahiers du Cinéma critic and proto-video essayist, Godard was reliably vocal about his thoughts, feelings and analysis of cinema—even if his statements were often as inscrutable and/or provocative as his increasingly experimental body of work, which includes 45 feature titles stretching from 1960’s Breathless to 2018’s The Image Book.
Below, we’ve collected some of JLG’s choicest quotes, along with a few of the many great video essays that demonstrate how the filmmaker and his work continues to be a significant object of fascination and inspiration among moviemakers and film lovers across the world.
A film ingeniously directed does indeed give the impression of having been laid end to end, but a film ingeniously edited gives the impression of having suppressed all direction.
Three-quarters of directors waste four hours on a shot that requires five minutes of actual directing. I prefer to have five minutes’ work for the crew – and keep the three hours to myself for thought.
The idea is to make the script out of a political analysis and then to convey that – sometimes in poetry, sometimes science, sometimes all it takes is a film. The film itself is less and less spectacular because I think very strongly now the more spectacular you are, the more you are absorbed by the things you are trying to destroy.
A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order.
The cinema is not a craft. It is an art. It does not mean teamwork. One is always alone on the set as before the blank page. And to be alone… means to ask questions. And to make films means to answer them.
The history of cinema appears to be easy to do, since it is, after all, made up of images; cinema appears to be the only medium where all one has to do is re-project these images so that one can see what has happened.
There are also two video essays we endorse viewable on YouTube only: StudioCanal’s roundup of Godard’s Best Scenes from his French New Wave era, and YouTube creator The Discarded Image’s analysis of How Jean-Luc Godard Liberated Cinema. Jean-Luc Godard, thank you for 60 years of your eyes, ears and mind.
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(Header: Godard directing 1966’s Masculin Féminin)