ゴダールの入門書「シャルロットとジュール」 : パリジェンヌの東京映画レポート2

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It is not easy to write about Jean-Luc Godard, as he has probably been the most complex and innovative figure of French cinema for more than 50 years now. As a leader of a group of filmmakers known as the “Nouvelle Vague” (the “French New Wave”) in the late fifties and a committed film director after 1968, he has had a strong influence on the cinema world during the 20th century, not only in France, but also in the whole world.

ジャン=リュック・ゴダール1988年のカンヌ国際映画祭にて ジャン=リュック・ゴダール
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Whether you refer to his first movies in the 50’s、 to his romantic period in the 60’s (with movies starring Anna Karina, Brigitte Bardot, and Jean-Paul Belmondo), to the 70’s split between his political commitment (with movies signed by the Dziga Vertov group) and his co-productions with his companion Anne-Marie Mieville, to the 80’s and 90’s with a comeback to strictly speaking cinema movies, or to his earlier movies, Godard has always kept the same guiding principles: the cinema as an art to show the reality, of our world but also of the cinema itself. As Godard said himself: “"Pictures no longer bring anything new to the audience, because they have it 100 times a day on TV ... the only thing left is to show more truth about people’s lives […]”.

There are several elements that make Godard’s movies distinctive masterpieces, which are recognized as such in the whole world. First of all, Godard makes a constant use of what we call “mise en abyme”. Thus, the characters of his movies go to the movie theatre, shoot movies and talk about cinema. Following the guidelines of the New wave, shooting a movie is for Godard a means of showing things in a more realistic way and, more importantly, of proving what cinema is really about. In Detectives for instance, you can see a JVC camera which is filming and which suddenly turns to the real camera of the movie: a mise en abyme of two cameras.

A further element you cannot escape from when watching one of Godard’s movies is the detachment of the characters which always reminds us that we are watching a movie, that it is “only” cinema. We are torn between diving into the movie and its story, as we are used to, and observing how the movie is constructed. We are directly implicated and immersed in this fictional creation we know moviemaking is.
Thus, the actors often turn to the camera and it seems as if they were looking straight into the eyes of the spectator. There are countless examples of this detachment in Godard’s films. A woman is a woman for instance ends with Anna Karina winking to the camera, 2 or 3 things I know about her starts with a presentation of the actress, and not of the character she’s playing. And the characters even talk about the movie itself: in Joy of learning for instance, Léaud says “finally, this movie is a failure”.
All those elements may be quite surprising if you watch those movies nowadays, as we are used to movies that completely carry us away and make us dive into another world thanks to sophisticated special effects. It seems to be a completely different cinema universe…! But it’s kind of refreshing, even if it’s sometimes stunning to be confronted to actors and a scenario, rather than to characters and a story.

ゴダール自身がベルモンドの声を吹き替えた「シャルロットとジュール」(58) ゴダール自身がベルモンドの声を吹き替えた

Godard's social and political preoccupations have often obscured his movies, but a lot of them are nevertheless deeply romantic and tackle a lot with the relationships between men and women. Those relationships are dominated by a permanent (often linguistic) incomprehension and the reconciliations are rare, sometimes even impossible because one of the lovers dies (in Breathless for example). Thus, in order to underline the fragility and ephemerality of the reconciliation in My life to live for instance, the moment is silent and undertitled. A quite original way of showing the reality, but at least it makes you think more deeply about which message the film director wants to convey.

Watching Godard movies makes you think about the origins of cinema. And it makes you also realize that there are finally no real limits to film making. A Godard movie can invigorate your interest for movies. And it definitely shows you that cinema is not called the seventh art for nothing!