Today is Jean-Luc Godard’s 80th birthday. As a huge fan of French films, I feel a tiny bit obligated to celebrate. As such, here are my five favorite Godard films, in order. Bear in mind that I’ve only seen ten of his movies, so it’s not as if this is a completist’s list. I’d gladly welcome comments and/or recommendations for further Godard viewing.
This was my introduction to Godard, and still stands as my favorite. The uses of blue and red, coupled with Jack Palance’s performance as the brash American, Fritz Lang as the director, the meta nature of the whole film (a film about making a film), the descent on the stairs towards the end and of course the actual ending, the stunning Brigitte Bardot, the incredible tracking shot to open the film… It’s a masterpiece. Here’s some footage early in the film with Palance being Palance, minus the one-armed pushups.
A Woman is a Woman
Again, Godard’s use of color here is fantastic. And there’s one particular scene in the middle of the film that’s incredibly and uncomfortably long, a prime example of the types of New Wave techniques employed to shake up the filmmaking establishment.
Yet again, Godard goes nuts with the tracking shots. This scene is one of cinema’s most iconic, and (frankly) it’s not even my favorite in the film. That speaks more to the quality of the film than it does this particular scene.
I bet you thought I was going to say Masculin, Feminin, didn’t you? Or perhaps Pierrot le Fou? What I liked so much about Les Carabiniers is how it turned the war film genre completely on its ear. It was a war film that was anti-war, made in an era full of sweeping war epics. The deft use of actual letters-to-home from soldiers (Ken Burns style) juxtaposed with a ton of absurdity put a grin on my face. A clip:
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