Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Preparing For A Godard Marathon

I have been fascinated by Jean-Luc Godard, both the man and his work, since I first made a concerted effort to familiarize myself with his films a couple of years ago. I started out with Breathless, enjoyed it quite a bit, read up on Godard and his highly intriguing life/career, and became quite curious to view more of his stuff. I wanted to see if I could get a better handle on this director who many have proclaimed as the greatest of all living.

Over the subsequent twenty or so months, I routinely sought out new Godard films to watch. I bounced around the different decades for my selections, with little knowledge or regard for how the given film I had chose fit into the arc of Godard's overall career. I almost always left the experience equally baffled and tickled; here was a person making movies like none I had ever seen before, but in some cases, I had no idea what to make of what I had just viewed. A few times I came away feeling like I had just seen a near- masterpiece, and one instance in particular provided me with what is now one of my very favorite all-time movies (Contempt). However, occasionally the movie would fly over my head completely, its dense and seemingly impenetrable political and philosophical musings leaving me with nothing to hold onto other than some stunning and gorgeous imagery. Yet I remained fascinated and thirsty for insight, grasping for some kind of thread of consistency, something I could use to identify the shape of this man's body of work; something that would make sense of it all.

And so to be frank, I feel like something is eluding me. I have, to date, seen ten Godard films in total. Some of those ten I've now seen multiple times. With most directors, ten films would normally be enough to cement one's opinion of the filmmaker. But with Godard, I honestly still have a deep ambivalence towards his work, along with a lingering, great curiosity. I want to know why, after ten films, do I still feel as though I am no closer to figuring out this filmmaker than I was at the beginning? Incidentally, I have really no clue what "figuring out" a filmmaker even means, but I nevertheless have this feeling that I'm missing something, some kind of fundamental understanding.

And so, with the help of a couple of Godard enthusiasts (including Only The Cinema's Ed Howard, who was gracious enough to lend me some counsel), I've put together a list of 27 Godard films, representing the essentials from each decade, that I plan on watching in chronological order. I've pooled my resources and have obtained a copy of each film. I also have a copy of Richard Brody's book Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life Of Jean-Luc Godard that I have ordered through my school and should be (hopefully) arriving by the end of the week. I will be using this book as something of a reference guide, to consult after each film viewing, with the hopes that this will aid me and provide some clarity in the (likely many) instances where I feel that I am out of my depth.

I will be starting the marathon soon after I receive the Brody book. My plan is to watch two films a day until I've finished the entire list. Obviously, there is such a thing as real life, and this will almost inevitably make it difficult for me to strictly adhere to this two-film-a-day schedule, but I will do my best. Some days, if I can watch more than two, I will. The plan is also to document my experience on this blog. Seeing as how the primary focus for me will be digesting the films and supplementing the experience through reading, thus (hopefully) coming to a greater, richer appreciation and understanding of Godard, documenting my experience on this blog may very likely entail little more than brief, initial, and mostly first, impressions of the films. I do not plan on devoting a ton of time to lengthy writeups (the viewing experience in and of itself will be draining and time consuming enough). But I do hope to give my thoughts on the films, and an accurate documentation of how the process and progression is going, and if it does, in fact, (as intended) give me some further insight into the enigma that is Jean-Luc Godard.


Ed Howard said...

Excellent! I'm looking forward to your thoughts, and I'm sure I'll be following along with some commentary as well. Oh, and I don't know if you've seen it, but Jake over at Not Just Movies has similarly started a chronological Godard project, and his write-ups are very interesting from that perspective, especially since he gets more and more into Godard with each film.

Drew said...

Thanks alot Ed. I was unfamiliar with the Not Just Movies blog, but having just checked it out, I'm certain I will be returning to it during my own marathon to read Jake's comments; he sure appears to have the kind of thoughtful insight that could provide assistance to my own experience. Thanks for the heads up.