Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Godard and Gorin's Left Politics by Julia Lesage

Godard and Gorin's Left Politics by Julia Lesage

Ratings: (0)|Views: 318 |Likes:
Published by grljadus

More info:

Published by: grljadus on Jan 20, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as DOC, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less





Godard and Gorin's left politics,1967-1972
by Julia Lesage
 Jump Cut 
, no. 28, April 1983, pp. 51-58copyright
Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
, 1983, 2005To consider an artist's politics, especially a didactic artist's, raises key issuesabout aesthetics. To evaluate Jean-Luc Godard's politics in his explicitly leftpolitical films of 1967-72, we should ask what principles he applied to his work, why he did so, and what the historical context of those films was. These issues areimportant to consider critically because the artistic strategies which Godard thendeveloped have since widely influenced other radical filmmakers worldwide.Furthermore, the events in France in May 1968 influenced many artists andintellectuals, who, like Godard, turned with a renewed interest to the aestheticconcepts of Bertolt Brecht.Godard's political evolution was gradual. Aesthetically, he used Brechtiantechniques in an anti-illusionist way for social comment and critique years beforehe turned to the left. In his public persona as a lionized artist, in the mid-sixties,he first lived out the role of the alienated genius making pure cinema. Then hedenounced the film industry and attacked French society from a leftist position ininterviews and in his films. And when he put explicitly political issues intocinematic form, this led in turn to a drastic decline in how the public wouldaccept his works.Godard stated that the May 68 civil rebellion in France had a decisive effect onhim, an effect clearly seen in his films. In addition, his post-68 films referred tothe French far-left "Maoist" milieu. Often the films' subject matter dealt with very topical political issues. The films also raised many theoretical issues. Yet they always treated their political subject matter with formal innovation. To criticizethe political perspective of Godard's films from 1967-72, the critic must enter thedialogue on Marxist and modernist grounds. Godard's films of that perioddemanded both a specifically political response and a politically-orientedaesthetic response as they strove to present social and political issues in a "non- bourgeois" film from.Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin, his co-worker of those years, frequently gavetongue-in-cheek interviews. These interviews reflected aesthetic positions andreferred to-political events, but incompletely or unsatisfyingly. However, Godardand Gorin made their 1967-72 films, such as LE GAI SAVOIR, VENT D'EST,
PRAVDA, and LETTER TO JANE, as "essays," essays about political issues andabout radical film aesthetics. They provide more complete statements of Godardand Gorin's political concerns than does any interview, but they offer thatinformation in a non-linear, witty, and distanciated way. As I discuss here thepolitical ideas found in the 1967-72 films, I have often had to separate these ideasout from their filmic presentation. Of necessity here, I have flattened andsimplified political concepts. They must finally be reconsidered within the artisticcomplexity of each film as a whole.
GODARD'S POLITICS BEFORE 1968Godard stated that the first time he deliberately tried to make a, "political” film was in 1966 with MASCULIN-FÉMININ.
Somber cinematography,contemporary Paris as seen by its youth, male adolescent idealism, conversationafter conversation carried oh in interview form — these elements in the film madecritics call it a sociological "document.”
Godard did not give the characters inMASCULIN-FÉMININ much overt political sophistication, yet critics noted how much these adolescents talked about Marx. The film also continued Godard'sprotest against U.S. involvement in Vietnam, which he had started in PIERROTLE FOU and continued in successive films.Then in 1966 Godard openly criticized the film industry and denounced the way capitalist financing and ideological expectations shaped films. He madeMASCULIN-FÉMININ, he said, to reject a cinema of "spectacle." That kind of film had come to Europe through Hollywood but was also found in the USSR.
Furthermore, under French law, scriptwriters and directors did not haveprofessional respect. Regulations that began during the Vichy regime stillcontrolled them. They had to get legal authorizations to make films, get licensedas directors and technicians, and follow strict procedures for film financing. Aware of how the film and television industries conveyed bourgeois ideology,Godard had no illusions about commercial cinema's being influenced by any kindof workers' movement. He saw people as universally conditioned to traditionalideas about cinema. He said even those workers who knew how to go on strike forhigher salaries would still reject the films that could help them the most.For many years Godard railed against the commercial system that requireddirectors to make "clowns" of themselves. He hated having to produce a script for
I have written extensively on the unique cinematic tactics Godard developed in this period. Seemy "Critical Survey of Godard's Oeuvre" as well as descriptions of individual films in
 Jean-LucGodard: A Guide to References and Resources
(Boston: G.K. Hall, 1979); "TOUT VA BIEN andCOUP POUR COUP: Radical French Film in Context,"
, 5:3 (Summer, 1972); "Godardand Gorin's WIND FROM THEEAST: Looking at a Film Politically," JUMP CUT, No. 4 (Nov.-Dec., 1974); "The Films of Jean-Luc Godard and Their Use of Brechtian Dramatic Theory," Ph.D.Dissertation, Indiana University, 1976.
Interview with Godard, conducted by myself, Champaign, Illinois, April 4, 1973.
 Annie Goldman, "Jean-Luc Godard: Un Nouveau Réalisme,"
14:165 (Sept. 1, 1966), 564.
Godard, interview with Pierre Daix, "Jean Luc Godard: Ce que j'ai á dire,"
 Les Lettres françaises
,No. 128 (April 21-27, 1966), p. 17.
inspection in order to finance feature films. In 1966, Godard called himself both asniper against the system and a prisoner within it: these two roles seemed part of the same thing.
Later he said that he had escaped from a stultifying bourgeoisfamily into the world of pure cinema. But he found after a few years as directorthat the commercial production-distribution process had trapped him within anequally stultifying but larger bourgeois family. With LE GAI SAVOIR he partially dropped out of this route for making films. Certainly his films after WEEKENDdid not reach people in commercial theaters. Yet in 1972, after returning to big- budget feature film production with TOUT VA BIEN, Godard and Gorin deniedthat they had ever been able to leave the system. They noted that the Dziga- Vertov Group films and the ones made by Godard himself in the 1968-72 periodhad been financed primarily by national television networks and by Grove Press.
 After breaking his partnership with Gorin, Godard turned to one of his othergreat loves, television. In 1974 he set up, with his new co-director Anne-MarieMiéville, an experimental TV and video studio in Grenoble. As early as 1966 hehad told interviewers that his greatest dream was to direct news programs intelevision. He also described the two wide-screen color films he was making then,MADE IN USA and DEUX OU TROIS CHOSES, as
, or news reports:"All my films derive from intimate connections with the country's situation, fromnews documents, perhaps treated in a particular way, but functioning in relationto contemporary reality."
Godard thought of making a new program as a fabricated event, often fictional,that the social reality behind surface appearances. In this he always remained very close to Bertolt Brecht's concept of realism and to the Russian filmmakerDziga Vertov's concept of news. Godard developed this concept of "the news" long before coining the name "Dziga Vertov Group." In 1967 LA CHINOISE presented"news" of Vietnam in a little Brechtian skit. This skit followed a politicaldiscussion the characters had had about the best form for cinematic newsreels.Guillaume, a self-professed "Brechtian" actor, said he had heard a lecture by Cinémathèque director Henri Langlois proving that the film pioneer Lumière hadfilmed exactly the same things Picasso, Renoir and Manet were painting then:railroad stations, public places, people playing cards, people leaving factories,and tramways. Thus Lumière seemed like one of the last great Impressionists,like Proust. But Méliès, Guillaume said, filmed fantasies which revealed actualsocial and technological possibilities. For example, Mé1is filmed the trip to themoon:
Godard, interview, with Yvonne Baby, "Jean-Luc Godard: Pour mieux écouter les autres,"
 Le Monde
, April 27, 1972, p. 17.
Godard, interview with Sylvain Regard, "La Vie moderne," in
 Nouvel Obaervateur 
, 100 (Oct. 12-18, 1966), 54. Translation mine.

Activity (9)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 hundred reads
1 thousand reads
barbara_morana liked this
Gary Zabel liked this
dersimli liked this
Gary Zabel liked this
fraparthier liked this
firebirdekb liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->