Tag Archives: Jean-Luc Godard

London Film Festival Diary (vol. 1)

When the lineup for the BFI London Film Festival was announced a while back – replete with an array of Australian films that I’ve highlighted over at The Far Paradise – I was left despairing that a lack of funds (and, lets face it, some rather extravagant ticket prices) meant that I wouldn’t be able to see much (if any) at this year’s festival. Thankfully, I managed to swing a student delegate pass and rustle up some spare razoos, allowing me to catch all the Aussie features (which I’ll skip here in anticipation of a forthcoming festival report for The Far Paradise) and a whole heap besides. Here’s the first of two entries in something approximating a festival diary, essentially just a round-up of what I caught (and ruminations on what I missed), as I endeavoured to squeeze in as many screenings as possible in between parenting, PhDing and, you know, having a life.
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The Beaches of Agnes / Les plages d’Agnès
d. Agnès Varda / France / 2008 / 110 mins
Viewed at: Screen 3 @ Cinema City (Norwich, UK)

Agnès Varda: filmmaker, photographer, artist, call her what you will. You could even – as Observer critic Philip French did in his review of The Beaches of Agnes – call her the ‘token female’ amongst the boys club of the French Nouvelle Vague. But doing so would belie the sheer wealth of talent in her possession and her existence as one of that movements most interesting directors. Proof, perhaps, comes with the knowledge that she remains a stimulating directorial presence today, particularly with films like The Gleaners and I (2000), one of the best documentaries of the past fifteen years and a cinematic gem surpassed in many ways by The Beaches of Agnes, a glorious documentary self-portrait full of honesty, personality and gentle whimsy.

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Bande à part
d. Jean-Luc Godard / 1964 / France / 97 mins
Viewed at: The Box @ FACT (Liverpool, UK)

Bande a part

Still catching up: this time its screening number three for the Film & Philosophy course at FACT Liverpool.

First things first. I have to admit that although many consider this to be Godard’s best, most accessible film, its not particularly my favourite. Obviously it has its sublime moments, the Madison scene, the death scene(s) etc, but overall I find it a little bit stiff and staid, even considering its outward joyfullness. Admittedly, for such a serious guy, Godard makes some very playful films, and I do take great pleasure in Bande à part, I just feel that it fails to move me in the way that, say, À bout de souffle or any of Godard’s other 1960s masterpieces do.

Maybe I’m missing something. Bande à part is, after all, essentially a film about outward appearances and personal perceptions, populated by sharply drawn characters who are obsessed with how they look and how they are appear to others. As an extension of these obsessions, this is also a film about enforced individuality and the inevitability of human isolation. Godard’s characters are continually looking into mirrors or checking their reflections and large chunks of scenes in the classroom and on the train are given over to reciprocal gazing involving the main characters, as well as a cast of strangers. The initial title-card sequence is composed exclusively of a similar form of gaze, although this time its meanings are subverted by the rapid-fire editing and the close-up graphic matches on the three central characters.

On an extra-filmic level, Godard is also concerned with the process of ‘acting’ as a mediation between appearance and perception. In the extended opening scene, Arthur performs a ‘fake’ death (imitating Billy the Kid) and at the end he performs his ‘actual’ death, both of which are overly theatrical and neither of which seem ‘real’. Its important to remember, I suppose, that whilst certainly the cinema of revolution, the Nouvelle Vague was also the cinema of in-jokes, particularly once its reputation had grown and particularly for Godard. In Bande à part, Godard has his characters pass a shopping centre called ‘Nouvelle Vague’ and run boisterously through the Louvre. He plays with the film experience itself by introducing periods of silence and reconfiguring the place of film music, formal experimentations which are, of course, something of a Godard trademark. Yet he also constructs the opening credit sequence in such a way that we finally arrive at the following title card:
 "Jean Luc Cinéma Godard"

There are many reasons why Jean-Luc Godard is still so highly revered in cinema circles. The formal and informal inventiveness of Bande à part is but one of them.

For your viewing pleasure, the Madison scene:

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