JLG /// What’s the Scenario?
Jean-Luc Godard is 86 today. Back when a person still rented VHS tapes, a friend of mine borrowed our local video store’s entire Godard collection and announced a marathon screening session. I sat in on several over the course of a couple days, though I can’t remember which. I can’t even remember if it was my introduction to Godard, but it may well have been. Nouvelle vague was in there somewhere—that I’m sure of—and so was Made in U.S.A., glowing through the 20-inch cathode ray tube. This same friend wrote to me, perhaps a year later (I hope he will forgive my citing our personal correspondence), that Godard, “like all great men, is already thousands and thousands of years old.” So it may be superfluous to mark any particular one of his birthdays. Still, any opportunity to remember him should probably be taken, and you could do a lot worse with the unclaimed day-hours of your life than to watch every last one of JLG’s films. Even the ones that fail or frustrate inevitably offer the attentive viewer something precious and, more importantly, something unavailable anywhere else. Watch the opening sequence of Notre musique, again or for the first time. Or this scene from Masculin féminin. Or this from Une femme est une femme. Or consider this exchange from La Chinoise. Or watch this sequence from Sauve qui peut. Or this from, yes, À bout de souffle. Or this from Bande à part. Or this from Vivre sa vie. Don’t forget Le Mépris! Don’t forget Pierrot le fou! Or Détective! Or Alphaville!
Or Passion. Remember Passion? It’s worth visiting, or re-visiting, along with the 1982 “video poem,”1 Scénario du Passion. When the film itself premiered at Cannes earlier that year, Godard gave a particularly memorable press conference (see our on-the-fly translation of a brief excerpt below), which included a discourse on the underlying principles of his filmmaking and an apparently spontaneous just-so story of how film scripts came to be. As my friend also wrote, “Every book ever written flows through the veins of his spectacles. No one knows what he knows. No praise of him can bring him down. All repudiation elevates him.”
- As Duncan White calls it in his essay for Vertigo magazine. ↩
- The director character and JLG stand-in in Passion, portrayed by Jerzy Radziwiłowicz. ↩
- Reverdy’s original differs somewhat: “Une image n’est pas forte parce qu’elle est brutale ou fantastique—mais parce que l’association des idées est lointaine et juste.” In English: “An image isn’t powerful because it is brutal or fantastic—but because the association of ideas is just and far-reaching.” ↩