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Jean Luc-Godard, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91, was widely known as the king of the French New Wave. Since appearing on the scene in the 1960s, his seminal films such as ‘Breathless’, ‘Masculin, Feminin’ and ‘Pierrot Le Fou’ introduced avante-garde techniques that have since been replicated by countless filmmakers in the following decades.
In addition to a scathing intellectualism and stubborn stance against “the establishment” (ironically, Hollywood itself included), the Franco-Swiss director was best known for changing the rules of cinema – his use of long takes, jump cuts and actors aside. are just some of the innovative practices he employs in his films and are used to this day.
Fortunately, Godard has left behind dozens of unforgettable films, many of which have been recovered on Criterion. Check out some of Godard’s best films to celebrate the late director below:
Pierrot le fou
Godard perfects the Pop Art color scheme in his seminal 1965 film ‘Pierre Le Fou’, which follows two lovers on the run in the French countryside, played by Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo, a longtime associate of Godard. But the film is far from your typical romance, with a zigzag narrative of what Godard calls the “last romantic couple,” featuring a stylish mix of comic book illustrations and stunning landscapes courtesy of cinematographer Raoul Coutard.
Special Features: The new 2k edition features an interview with Karina and a 2007 video essay about the film, written and directed by Godard.
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‘Contempt’ is widely regarded as Godard’s formal entry into Hollywood, although the French New Wave director still managed to sniff at the commercial excess of the industry through his subversive techniques. The story follows a respected screenwriter played by Michel Piccoli, who is hired to work out a new script of “The Odyssey.” But things go awry when his wife (played by Brigitte Bardot) becomes paranoid that he’s using her to advance his career.
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‘every man for himself’
“Every Man for Himself” is one of Godard’s most daring and experimental films, employing a slow-motion “decomposition” technique as it explores the lives of three separate but intertwined characters: a TV screenwriter (Jacque Dutronc), his ex (Nathalie Baye) and a sex worker (Isabelle Huppert). Made twenty years into his career, the film is known as Godard’s ‘second debut’ as a filmmaker after a decade of avant-garde filmmaking.
Special Features: The special Blu-ray edition features a short video created by Godard, a new video essay by critic Colin MacCabe, and new interviews with Huppert and producer Marin Karmitz.
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In ‘Masculin Feminin’, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Chantal Goya embark on a stormy affair in the vibrant youth culture of 1960s Paris. The film has all the appropriate elements of a romantic comedy, but also manages to pack satire and tragedy the way Godard can. A chapter is aptly titled “The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola,” mocking the idealistic intellectualism of the time.
“Breathless,” which follows a little villain (Jean-Paul Belmondo) camping at his girlfriend’s house after killing a police officer, is arguably one of Godard’s best-case scenarios, with so many quotes it’s hard to name just one. to choose. The best thing would be if Belmondo’s girlfriend, played by Jean Seberg, asks a writer what his greatest ambition in life is, to which he replies, “to become immortal and then die.”
Special Features: The special Blu-ray edition features archival interviews with Godard, Belmondo, Seberg and Jean-Pierre Melville, two video essays and a 1993 documentary about the making of “Breathless.”
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‘My life to live’
Through discreet tableaux of daydreams and dance scenes, Godard follows the downward spiral of sex work when a young Parisian Nana (played by Godard’s greatest muse Anna Karina) becomes a prostitute after a failed career as an actor. The 1962 film is the best French New Wave, combining brilliant visual design with an engaging storyline.
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This scathing satire is one of Godard’s best-loved works, which follows an upper-class couple as they journey through the French countryside to retrieve the legacy of a dying relative. The film features one of the most famous cinematic sequences in film history, in which a camera seamlessly follows an endless traffic jam. Rich in historical and literary references, the story also serves as a call for revolution, as it follows the characters’ exaggerated retreat to brutality.
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