Though many great directors from the French New Wave have passed, it has been fascinating to have Jean-Luc Godard as long and productive as we have. Just this year, his first 3D film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. I’ve already expressed my affection for the director’s contemporary work in a review for his previous film, Film Socialisme. While Godard could be seen as a curmudgeon who has long declared cinema dead, he is also one of the form’s greatest champions by making such a bold statement. He practically reinvented movies while trying to subvert them. He made it apparent as early as his first feature film, Breathless (1960), well-known for it’s startling jump cuts and disorienting shot/reverse shots. He said it was never supposed to be hit, but it became that and so much more.
Godard has never relented in his quest to demolish expectations along with the rules of filmmaking. His new 3D film, Goodbye to Language, is supposed to be as amazing and revolutionary as one could expect from JLG (check out Scott Foundas’ review in “Variety”). But before that arrives in my South Florida neighborhood (and I already witnessed the enthusiasm for it by two local art house programmers ready to bring the equipment necessary to host the 3D version), the Bill Cosford Cinema, located on the University of Miami Coral Gables campus, will host a series of retro Godard films on 35mm (click for all the details).
Calling it “Godard À Go-Go,” the program features his more recognizable and easier-to-digest films, from the early part of his career. They all also feature his famous muse and ex-wife, the always-game and mercurial Anna Karina. Even if she appears in all of these films, she inhabits very different characters. Watching all three will offer insight into her range as an actress who always seemed overshadowed by the panache of her director husband.
The series begins this Sunday, June 22, at 5:30 p.m. with Vivre Sa Vie (1962). Karina plays a rather tragic figure. In this episodic film, Nana dreams of becoming an actress but ends up a prostitute. Some consider it one of Godard’s most sympathetic films. His concern for social tragedy probably has never been more human than with this film. It has less sly stylistic turns than his other films, but if anyone has only thought of Godard as some hardhearted intellectual deconstructionist, they will find his heart very much on display in this film.
The next film, and the only of the three in color, screens Sunday, July 20, also at 5:50 p.m. I have been asked to introduce it by the theater’s programmer. I hope I can do justice to the greatness of Pierrot le Fou (1965). Though Vivre Sa Vie is the most tragic of these three, Pierrot remains the darkest. Brilliant in its play with color and light, I expect the film will look amazing in 35. But make not mistake, a grim, nihilistic undercurrent haunts this story about two lovers on the run. Appropriately, the narrative is the more fractured of the three, but even though character motives and actions may seem obscured, a sympathetic existential angst shines through. It’s also the only one of the three films featuring the star of Breathless, Jean-Paul Belmondo, in the titular role.
Again, 5:30 p.m., on a Sunday, this time on Aug. 24. Bande à Part (1964), or Band of Outsiders in English, is that famous Godard film featuring the impromptu dance sequence in the cafe, cited over and over in many films and other mediums since (most recently in Le Weekend). Forget the caper that seems to drive the film. The characters seem to constantly subvert it, anyhow. It’s all about that dance. It’s probably the liveliest of this trio of films, but the film still has that social awareness of the 1960s that Godard so consciously references in many a delightful scene.