Jean-Luc Godard one of the most talked about and important filmmakers in the history of world cinema committed suicide on 13 September somewhere in Switzerland. The Swiss-French filmmaker, scriptwriter, and director was fed up with his chronic disease and availed of assisted death provisions.
If the words of one filmmaker in the world were repeated the most, it was Godard. His famous statement has inspired filmmakers of every generation. He said: "A film should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order,' or 'Cinema is neither truth nor fiction, but it is something of these. It is something between the two. Or 'If you want to make a film, you have to have a girl and a gun.'
He not only gave prominence to the 'jump cut' in film editing but also changed the traditional scripts (beginning, middle, and ending). In each of his films, he defined art. He got immense commercial success. However, in his later films, the audience had to struggle to understand these.
Godard was a major promoter of French New Wave cinema. From his first film Breathless (1959) to his last film Image Book (2018), this genius filmmaker not only created panic around the world but also changed the meaning of cinema. He won fame and respect. People make films, Godard made cinema. His last three films are called Language Trilogy in which he presented his theory of cinema saying that there should be no place for language or dialogue in cinema as it is a visual medium. These films are - 'Film Socialism' (2010), Goodbye to Language (2014), and 'Image Book' (2018).
Poster of Breathless
Jean-Luc Godard was awarded the Special Palme d'Or Award for Image Book at the 71st Cannes Film Festival (2018). The kiss scene from his film Pierro the Mad Man was made the main poster of the festival in his honour. Two years ago, the poster for Cannes Film Festival (2016) was designed from his film Content.
Michael Hajavicius' film The Redoutable (2017), based on Godard's youthful days, was screened in the competition section of the 70th Cannes Film Festival.
The Image Book is an unmatched fusion of art and cinema, the second example of which is not found in the history of world cinema. It has no story, no dialogue, and no actors. It is a singular video article. On the second day, he answered questions at his cinematographer Fabrique Arano's press conference on the iPhone.
For the first time in the history of Cannes, such a press conference was held where questions were answered over the phone. Godard was speaking to the press after 13 years. Then he announced that he would continue to make films as long as his hands and feet and eyes are safe. Who knew then that this would prove to be his last press statement?
He said that Europe should be soft on Russia and liberal towards Arab countries. About the future of cinema that "after ten years all the theaters will show my films and the popular era of serious cinema will return."
He said that cinema has its language."He has been active in cinema for the past 70 years and was one of the pioneers of the French New Wave movement.
Poster of Jean Luc Godar's film
Jean Luc Godard has always been against Hollywood and mainstream cinema. He is the only filmmaker in the world who has written the most. When he was declared the Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 2010, he did not go to receive the honour. In 1968, he closed the Cannes Film Festival in favour of the student movement.
His last film "Image Book" is in a way an expression of his resistance consciousness in cinema and is an extension of his earlier films - Socialism (2010) and Goodbye to Language (2014) - which contain only collages of scenes.
In Image Book he has in a way shown a heart-wrenching mirror of today's world. From films from the fifties and sixties to newsreel videos, collages of news stories from around the world, and pictures of the dangers looming over human civilization - everything tells thousands of stories. An entire section is taken from his video epic "History of Cinema" which he took ten years to make. It is a kaleidoscopic journey into today's world that runs in sections like One Remake, St. Petersburg, Arabia, War, Women, Words, etc. Islamic State is the video of ISIS than the clippings of the massacre.
In one scene there is a man with a naked man crawling like a dog (North Korea), then there are soldiers shooting women's vaginas. In one place he states that men have been telling lies for centuries in the expression of love and that our civilization is based on common murders.
In one of the debates, Godard said that - "If people do not like my films now, then their thinking is wrong, not in the films." Today he is no more with us, but as long as there is cinema - Godar will remain relevant.
Ajit Rai is a veteran film critic