Jean-Luc Godard: Remembering the man who lived cinema

Jean Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard; Adoor Gopalakrishnan; Beena Paul

Jean-Luc Godard, who passed away on Tuesday, is considered among the greatest filmmakers of his time. He garnered admiration globally, both for his unconventional style of filmmaking and his views on world cinema.

In Kerala, too, many noted filmmakers consider him an auteur and film critic par excellence.

Last year, the veteran director was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 25th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).

Beena Paul, a noted film editor and one of the founding members of the Women in Cinema Collective, remembers how happy and surprised she was when Godard decided to accept the award. “Godard and his works were a crucial part of our lives as students of cinema. We have seen, read and learnt about his cinema. He seemed so unreachable, so far away then. Even, when we decided to invite him for the online event both for the award and to present his works, I was not sure whether he would accept our invitation,” remembers Beena.

Her fears were not unfounded. Godard was well-known for his aversion to awards and had declined many honours over the years. “However, I was able to reach him finally through a common friend. I was surprised when he agreed. But he was not very happy about sitting in front of a camera to accept it. But he fully agreed eventually."

The event was held online as the film festival was held during the pandemic.

Godard sparked a lot of interest among Malayalam film viewers when he spoke at the online event while smoking a cigar.

Beena said that Godard's cinema was highly artistic and highly political. “I think, his life was highly political and that had an impact on his films. During the student riots in 1969, the French new wave stalwart, along with a few others, shut down the Cannes Film Festival. He also did some fantastic work on Vietnam and many other places. That was his politics,” said Beena, adding that his campaign was against Hollywood mainstream cinema.

“Godard brought in a lot of change in filmmaking. Today, some of his experiments like jump cut are so common that nobody knows or talks about its origins,” she added.

Veteran filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan said Godard altered the dogmas of cinema. “He experimented a lot and challenged all his boundaries. He lived cinema and kept experimenting. He lived all his life in and for cinema, even till his last breath. As long as cinema exists, people will remember him as a great filmmaker," Adoor told MMTV.

Jean-Luc Godard
Godard was among the world's most acclaimed directors, known for classics such as 'Breathless' and 'Contempt'. Left picture: Reuters | Vincent Kessler (File photo)

"Godard never made films eying commercial success. He kept on experimenting even when the mediums changed. No one has ever tried to make films like the ones he made. His films have always been different. In that way, he was alone. Nobody could follow his path,” he added.

Director Shaji N Karun said that an era has ended with his passing away. “It was Godard who brought in an academic approach to film criticism. It is because he approached films with a political vision and a philosophical approach,” he said, adding Godard believed greatly in visual and aesthetic appeal in his films.

Shaji said Godard practised what he preached. “Unlike some film critics who do not practice what they preach in filmmaking, Godard was able to implement what he thought about cinema. That is why he was appreciated by audiences and filmmakers alike,” he added.

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