Godard frames and edits his shots, moves the camera, uses music, and deploys his actors in ways that still seem radical – even as several generations of directors since have cribbed and stolen from him. [...] Vivre Sa Vie, for all its demoded, midcentury Gallicness, remains both a dazzling cinematic experiment and a heart-mover. Nana’s curiosity, her loneliness, her almost casual descent into prostitution – and her flashes of simple joy – are captured with elliptical precision in the 12 chapters of Godard’s film. When Karina, a transfixing beauty, stares directly into the camera, it’s like she’s burning a hole into the viewer’s soul. – Steven Rea (Philadelphia Inquirer)
There is a general tendency not to use more shots than are strictly necessary, and an overall limitation of focus in the film (with one or two exceptions which we will consider below). Godard tends to frame characters in medium shot, to move the camera only when they move, and to cut only when new information is introduced.
Godard's films often cite existentialism as he was an avid reader of existential and Marxist philosophy. His radical approach in movie conventions, politics and philosophies made him the most influential filmmaker of the French New Wave, inspiring directors as diverse as Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Bernardo Bertolucci, Arthur Penn, Hal Hartley, Richard Linklater, Gregg Araki, John Woo, Mike Figgis, Robert Altman, Steven Soderbergh, Richard Lester, Jim Jarmusch, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Brian De Palma, Wim Wenders, Oliver Stone and Ken Loach.
Many of Godard's films challenge the conventions of traditional Hollywood cinema as well as the French equivalent, namely the "tradition of quality". He is often considered the most extreme or radical of the New Wave filmmakers. His films express his political ideologies as well as his knowledge of film history.
What is certain is that, throughout the 1950's, Godard distinguished himself as a film critic, first in "La Gazette du Cinema", then in the journal "Arts" and, most famously, in the hugely influential "Cahiers du Cinema."
Jean-Luc Godard likes to raise a ruckus. He has always considered himself as much a critic as a filmmaker - indeed, the two functions are inseparable for him - and in both areas he has made it his mission to shake up established formulas as radically as possible. "We have to fight the audience," he told critic Gene Youngblood in a 1968 discussion included here.
In cinema Godard currently represents formal pseudofreedom and the pseudocritique of manners and values — the two inseparable manifestations of all fake, coopted modern art. Everyone does everything to present him as a misunderstood and unappreciated artist, shockingly audacious and unjustly despised; and everyone praises him, from Elle magazine to Aragon-the-Senile. Despite the absence of any real critiques of Godard, we see developing a sort of analogy to the famous theory of the increase of resistances in socialist regimes: the more Godard is hailed as a brilliant leader of modern art, the more people rush to his defense against incredible plots.
Godard is a Swiss from Lausanne who envied the chic of the Swiss of Geneva, and then the chic of the Champs-Elysées, and his successful ascent up from the provinces is most exemplary at a time when the system is striving to usher so many “culturally deprived” people into a respectful consumption of culture — even “avant-garde” culture if nothing else will do. We are not referring here to the ultimately conformist exploitation of any art that professes to be innovative and critical.
1930: Jean-Luc Godard is born on December 3 in Paris, the second of four children born to Paul-Jean Godard, a physician, and Odile Godard (nee Monod),whose father is a prominent banker. Both sides of the family have Protestant backgrounds, which Godard will later claim as an influence on some of his films.
"It's not where you take things from, it's where you take them to."
- Jean-Luc Godard