Jean-Luc Godard he left as he lived. Radically. Free. In Switzerland, where he lived, he resorted to assisted suicide. He was 91 years old. The news of the director’s choice was given by the French newspaper Libération. A friend of his explained: he wasn’t sick, he was tired. He lived his life intensely, without sparing himself. He lived it Until the last breath, the title of his first feature film, his first great success. A film that has entered the history of cinema together with its director, with his controversial visionary nature. Imagine what Paris could have been like in the 1950s.
In every corner there was a thought, a philosophy, an idea of art. A group of young people, including Godard, Francois Truffaut, Jacques Rivette, Alain Resnais, Agnes Varda, gathers around the figure of Andrè Bazin and gives life to Cahiers du cinéma, like saying the bible of the week art. From those pages the revolt against dad’s cinema starts. Enough with clichés, with clichés, with studios, with tradition. In the essay What is cinema? Bazin explains that the image contains a grain of the real, the real that dad’s cinema made disappear. But real does not mean naturalism that our directors harshly criticize: it means form, editing, lights. It is the revolution through cinema. With The four hundred shots from Truffaut (1960) and Until the last breath from Godard was born New wave. Nothing has to stay the same, everything has to change. “When I’m done Until the last breath – writes Godard in his Introduction to the true history of cinema – for me it was the result of ten years of cinema. Until then I had done ten years of cinema without ever making films, only trying to make them. I came from a large middle-class family with whom I had broken up very late but definitely. Which means that the only difference between me and some of my current friends is that, when I go on vacation, I don’t know who to go to. “
Thus, in the early years of their friendship which then deteriorates, she remembers it Truffaut: “He didn’t wear glasses, he had wavy hair, he was very handsome, with very regular features. If he was at a friend’s house in the evening, it was easy for him to open forty books, always looking at the first and last page. He was always very impatient, very nervous ». Truffaut gives Godard the screenplay for Until the last breath. Then the confrontation, the hatred, the poison phrases. To the point of dividing even the cinephiles. Either we were with Godard or with Truffaut. Film director like Le petit soldat, Les carabiniers, Contempt (from Moravia which was a flop), The bandit at 11, The Chinese, shoots at zero against the director of Effetto night. «In my opinion – she writes – there was a fracture after the four hundred blows. And I don’t really know how it came about. He got caught up in the cinema, and he himself became everything he hated. Reading his early articles and seeing his films makes you amazed ». And it is precisely on Effetto notte he declares: «What passes itself off in the eyes of the people as great cinema, in reality is nothing more than a small provincial cinema, at best a small provincial comedy; in fact he is highly respected by the Americans… ».
For Godard cinema must not be a machine that mystifies, that deceives. Reading Marx it pushes him more and more to ask cinematographic language the challenge of questioning the dominant discourse. From the very beginning, Godard’s cinema is made up of looks into the car, of a personal challenge (against bourgeois authorship) and against those who hold power. In the 1972 realized Crack master, everything is alright. A title that if it were proposed today would trigger indignation, protest, social crusades. At that time, following the push of the French Maggio, that title was considered normal, there was no need to make many distinctions. Flop film but which speaks of the workers’ struggle, which tries in every way to insert cinema in a battle that many are fighting in those years. And the director of Crack master he does it with the tool he knows best: cinema, rupture, Brechtian estrangement, the author Godard loves, reads, quotes and who resembles him so much in that desire to change language and stimulate the critical sense of the viewer or law. He does not adapt to the mainstream, he experiments, tries, dares, even at the cost of failing, to collect failures, whistles, controversies. Godard is not afraid of a clash, he is not afraid of annoying.
Perhaps the last phase most in tune with the public and critics is the one that sees the titles as Prénom Carmen than in 1983 wins the Golden LionJe vous salue Marie (1985), Detective (1985). His vision and his ability to produce later found a new ally in TV and new technologies. Here, too, Godard does not resign himself to what he has already seen: he experiments, annoys, takes a stand. How not to love him then, how not to prefer him to the director who instead wrote about loving women? One of Godard’s companionsAnne Wiasemsky, after they break up she describes him as a classist and narcissist. But one thing is certain: he is one of the few directors of his generation who stages the man-woman conflict. Many titles. The woman is a woman, The married woman, The male and the female, Two or three things I know about her. Materials not for the director’s exaltation, but to problematize, to understand, to take nothing for granted: not even the relationship between the sexes. Today, thinking back to his extreme cinema, one would want to deny it, to choose Truffaut, the sensual world of The Lady Next Door.
But his death, the more than one hundred films he left us, his even annoying radicality bring us back to that first choice of a contest that was already a world. Yes, because choosing between two directors, between two ideas of cinema, tells of an era in which nothing was taken for granted. An era in which through cinema and its language they wanted to change the world. Today we don’t want to change the cinema or even the reality that surrounds us. Because of this Godard we will miss him, because he did not make us dream. She got us thinking. She also made us despair, hope. And she did it with the editing, with the lights. The words of his teacher return Bazin: cinema is reality, but it is so as a representation. Unmasking the fiction, showing us the point of view of the observer: there is no more valid lesson for this world where we tend to present the images that reach us through TV and social networks as neutral. Godard explains that they are not the truth, but a truth. That of those who tell.CopyAMP code.
Deputy director of the Reformist, feminist, film critic
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