- Dec 3, 1930
- Paris, France
As a charter member of the Nouvelle Vague, Jean-Luc Godard was also arguably the most influential French filmmaker of the postwar era. Beginning with his groundbreaking 1959 feature debut A Bout de Souffle, Godard revolutionized the motion picture form, freeing the medium from the shackles of its long-accepted cinematic language by rewriting the rules… More Bio:
As a charter member of the Nouvelle Vague, Jean-Luc Godard was also arguably the most influential French filmmaker of the postwar era. Beginning with his groundbreaking 1959 feature debut A Bout de Souffle, Godard revolutionized the motion picture form, freeing the medium from the shackles of its long-accepted cinematic language by rewriting the rules of narrative, continuity, sound, and camera work. Later in his career, he also challenged the common means of feature production, distribution, and exhibition, all in an effort to subvert the conventions of the Hollywood formula to create a new kind of film.
Godard was born in Paris on December 3, 1930, the second of four children. After receiving his primary education in Nyon, Switzerland, he studied ethnology at the Sorbonne, but spent the vast majority of his days at the Cine-Club du Quartier Latin, where he first met fellow film fanatics Francois Truffaut and Jacques Rivette. In May 1950, the three men united to publish La Gazette du Cinema, a monthly film journal which ran through November of the same year; here Godard printed his first critical pieces, which appeared both under his own name and under the pseudonym Hans Lucas. With Rivette's 1950 short feature Quadrille, Godard made his acting debut, also appearing in Eric Rohmer's Presentation ou Charlotte et son Steack the following year.
In January 1952, Godard began writing for Cahiers du Cinema, the massively influential film magazine. However, Godard's first tenure at Cahiers proved to be brief: In the autumn of 1952, he left France to return to Switzerland, where he worked on the construction of the Grande-Dixence Dam. With his earnings, Godard was able to finance his first film, the short subject Operation Beton. While in Geneva in 1955, he helmed his sophomore effort, the ten-minute Une Femme Coquette, subsequently appearing in Rivette's Le Coup de Berger. Upon returning to France in the summer of 1956, Godard resumed his work at Cahiers after a four-year break from writing. There he rose to the top ranks of French film criticism while honing his increasingly fresh and freewheeling directorial style over the course of the short comedies Tous les Garcons s'appellent Patrick (1957), Charlotte et son Jules, and Une Histoire d'Eau (both 1958).
In 1959, Godard embarked on his feature debut, A Bout de Souffle (Breathless). Released at roughly the same time as Truffaut's Les Quatre Cents Coups and Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour, the picture helped establish the emergence of what was dubbed the French New Wave, a revolutionary movement in film heralded primarily by Cahiers alumni. A Bout de Souffle quickly earned global acclaim as the definitive document of its era. Seemingly overnight, Godard was revered as the most important cinematic talent of his generation.
In 1960, he resurfaced with his second feature, an oddball political thriller titled Le Petit Soldat. The first of many films to star his then-wife Anna Karina, it became the subject of controversy over its characters' connection to the Algerian crisis and was banned in France for three years. Shooting for the first time in color and in CinemaScope, he next filmed 1961's comic tale Une Femme Est une Femme, followed a year later by the episodic essay on prostitution Vivre Se Vie. Again, both starred Karina, prompting criticism that Godard was using her as a non-actress, a mere screen presence utilized and manipulated in ways that she herself did not fully comprehend.
The first of Godard's films to receive a critical thrashing was 1963's war drama Les Carabiniers, but Le Mepris, a study of the nature of cinema itself, starring Brigitte Bardot, returned him to reviewers' good graces. An astonishingly prolific and brilliant period followed, led off by 1964's Bande a Part and Une Femme Mariee. Pierrot le Fou and Alphaville, une Etrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution, a singular science fiction effort, appeared
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