Vancouver Cinematheque Spotlight: Jean-Luc Godard

Vancouver Cinematheque Spotlight: Jean-Luc Godard

Beginning tonight, The Vancouver Cinematheque is hosting a retrospective on the work of one of the most acclaimed and influential filmmakers of the past fifty-years, Jean-Luc Godard. Often called the cinema’s great modernist, Godard defined the 60’s French New Wave and the modernist attack on bourgeois sensibility. His films are intellectual, allusive, political, obscure, self-conscious, and delightfully mischievous. Part one of this two-part retrospective, highlights Godard’s first 15 features, from Breathless (1959) to –one of my personal favorites– Weekend (1967). These 15 seminal films exhibit Godard’s unique talent, and carry much of the weight of the claims to Godard’s importance.

Godard and Ana

Godard grew up in an upper middle class French Protestant family that moved to Switzerland before he was born. In the late 1940’s he moved to Paris and started hanging out at the Cinematheque where he met Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer and other future New Wave filmmakers. He started with a few documentaries in the 1950’s and then made a couple of narrative short films that got noticed. His first feature film in 1959, Breathless, ushered in the French New Wave. Like so many other filmmakers of his time, Godard was searching for a style that would be more authentic than the constructions of conventional European cinema. His films in the early 60’s had a fractured aesthetic, mixing self-reflexivity with parodies of American genres, pop images and monologues; they encompassed a pastiche of style—though they did not entirely discard the grammar and syntax of conventional cinema.  What I love about Godard is that his films are like nothing you will see today, and yet the themes he addresses are perpetually relevant. Like all great works of art, Godard’s films are never finished saying what they have to say.


Godard continued to work throughout the 1980’s, 90’s, and into the 21st century to create some of the most original films in contemporary cinema…Stay tuned for part two of the retrospective, set to take place later this year.

Opening Reception begins this evening at the Vancouver Cinematheque (Thursday, February 6th)

 – Chelsea Ghini

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