Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): "From now on, continuity shots are out": Reading Godard

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"From now on, continuity shots are out": Reading Godard


Originally published exclusively on Wonders in the Dark in 2010, this was only re-located to this site in 2017.

In what may become an ongoing gesture, I'd like to point your attention to an interview conducted nearly 50 years ago. In December 1962, Cahiers du cinema spoke with their alumnus Jean-Luc Godard, who in just about three years had become a prolific and world-famous filmmaker. Many of you have probably read this, but it's worth re-visiting, because of the 50th anniversary of Breathless (A bout de souffle), because we've been discussing relevant issues here (from Godard's method to the relationship between filmmaking and criticism), and because it's always fun to read Godard. Hopefully a lively discussion will ensue.

I was going to transcribe the piece, but luckily it is excerpted in Google Books, and the first page is here:

"Jean-Luc Godard: 'From Critic to Film-Maker': Godard in interview (extracts)"

Just to kick off some conversation, here are a few prime quotes:

"I had written the first scene [of A bout de souffle]...and for the rest I had a pile of notes for each scene. I said to myself, this is terrible. I stopped everything. Then I thought: in a single day, if one knows how to go about it, one should be able to complete a dozen takes. Only instead of planning ahead, I shall invent at the last minute. If you know where you're going it ought to be possible. This isn't improvisation but last-minute focusing. Obviously, you must have an overall plan and stick to it; you can modify up to a point, but when shooting begins it should change as little as possible, otherwise it's catastrophic."

"Already in Le Petit soldat, where I was trying to discover the concrete, I noticed that the closer I came to the concrete, the closer I came to the theatre. Vivre sa vie is very concrete, and at the same time very theatrical. ... I started from the imaginary and discovered reality; but behind reality, there is again imagination.
Cinema, Truffaut said is spectacle - Méliès - and research - Lumière. If I analyse myself today, I see that I have always wanted, basically, to do research in the form of a spectacle. The documentary side is: a man in a particular situation. The spectacle comes from when one makes this man a gangster or a secret agent."

"American scriptwriters, too, simply dwarf even the better French writers. Ben Hecht is the best scriptwriter I have ever seen. In his book The Producer, it is extraordinary to see how Richard Brooks manages to construct a very fine, coherent script based on the Red Sea story which had been suggested to him. The Americans, who are much more stupid when it comes to analysis, instinctively bring off very complex scripts. They also have a gift for the kind of simplicity which brings depth - in a little Western like Ride the High Country, for instance. If one tries to do something like that in France, one looks like an intellectual."

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