Here it is:
Jean-Luc Godard became a cinematic legend 50 years ago. Director of the 1960 film Breathless, Godard virtually launched the French New Wave movement and revolutionized cinema as we know it. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in Godard, and Film Forum is currently showing two lesser-known Godard films until Feb. 24—Made in USA and 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her.
To show these two films instead of more popular films like Breathless or Contempt indicates something entirely different and new—both of these movies could probably be considered Godard’s “B-sides,” and investing such interest in two films that weren’t very successful at their release is a sign of a revitalized fascination with Godard and with New Wave cinema in general.
In the movie theater I worked at this past summer, the walls were covered with Godard posters—not because it showed Godard’s films, but because the manager was positively obsessed. In March, ZooZoom Magazine will launch a fashion shoot inspired entirely by the women of Godard.
This Godard mania isn’t a new phenomenon, and New Wave cinema has influenced movie buffs since the 1960s, inspiring the “New Hollywood” generation of Coppola and Scorsese. Yet it seems that 50 years after it burst onto the cinematic sphere, the New Wave—or Nouvelle Vague—movement is more relevant than ever.
Columbia Professor Philip Watts, who teaches the French New Wave course, agreed. “It’s true that there’s a real interest in his [Godard’s] work today,” he said, adding that his work has relevance for two reasons. “First, more than any other filmmaker, Godard ties together intensely emotional stories with a theory of cinema. The second important aspect of Godard’s work is how deeply he has engaged with the history, the ethics, and the politics of his times.”
These two unique aspects can be found in Made in USA and 2 or 3 Things, which are both cinematically inventive and intensely political. Made in USA alienates audiences even more than Godard’s usual fare. It is essentially a deconstruction of American film noir genre like The Maltese Falcon, though ironically in vibrant colors that mimic a Lichtenstein Silkscreen. Anna Karina, the then-wife of Godard, plays a journalist who looks for her missing ex-boyfrien, only to find out that he has been murdered. The film deals with communism, capitalism, and Franco-American relations while bombarding the audience with abstract visual and audio effects.
The same goes for 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, addressing war, consumer culture, and the rise of the Parisian banlieues(suburbs). A woman is encouraged by her husband to prostitute herself in order to earn money, but her manner of doing so is cold and apathetic. Although it is more melancholic and sensual than Made in USA, it touches upon the same themes of cinematic abstraction and politics that make Godard so relevant to the world today.
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her and Made in the USA are showing through next Tuesday at Film Forum (209 W. Houston St. at Varick St.). Tickets are $11.