Godard. I feel like I’ve written so much about Godard over the years. I’ll be the first to grant that if you consider documentaries and experimental cinema alongside narrative fiction cinema, then Godard would probably be closer to a top 5 auteur. I don’t…. so he isn’t. All of my top 10 films of Godard are from his 60’s period. From 1960-1967 Godard went on an incredible run both with big masterpieces (Breathless, Pierrot le Fou, Contempt) and high productivity (10 archiveable films in 8 years). It’s reminiscent of Coppola’s run from 1972-79 with 4 masterpieces (3 of them giant), and Hitchcock’s run from 54-60. If I’m hard on Godard it’s because I lament what happened to his career after Weekend. I mean if I didn’t give a crap about him I wouldn’t complain- I’d just ignore him. It’s similar to how I ride De Niro for not capitalizing more on the last 20+ years of his career (though I love his work with Russell) so you can imagine how frustratingly disappointed I am in Godard for giving me little to nothing the last nearly 50 years. Enough doom and gloom. Even without believing fully in the Godard Revolution and his heady prognostication of cinema’s compete demise I still have him as a top 16 director all-time and the way he narratively and stylistically questioned cinema’s conventions and the brilliant 1960’s oeuvre he gave us will be forever remembered. For all of these categories below I’m leaving out his “experimental” and documentary work. It’s a fine line with some films, but that’s the decision I’ve made.
Best film: Breathless. Every time I get angry with Godard for his incredible decline since 196 I should pop this in. It’s a landmark film for jump-cut editing, stylistic rule-breaking and genre deconstruction.
total archiveable films: 12
top 100 films: 2 (Breathless, Pierrot le Fou)
top 500 films: 4 (Breathless, Pierrot le Fou, Contempt, Weekend)
top 100 films of the decade: 6 (Breathless, Pierrot le Fou, Contempt, Weekend, Band of Outsiders, Vivre sa vie)
most overrated: Vivre sa vie is TSPDT #131 and his 4th. I’m not there. I don’t have it in my top 500 (last saw it in 2012 so I’m due) and I have it as his 6th best film.
most underrated : Band of Outsiders is TSPDT’s 10th best Godard film and I have it as his 5th. It’s Godard—so everything he’s sneezed on is really highly praised on the TSPDT list but I think actually Pierrot le Fou is slightly underrated, too. Both it and Band of Outsiders (bande a part) are better than their TSPDT rankings. Weekend probably is, too but all three only slightly.
gem I want to spotlight: Pierrot le Fou. It may be the least touted #2 film from any great director! It’s brilliant, beautiful, and a little difficult—but fun difficult with the focus still on making a great film with artistic flair.
stylistic innovations/traits: He’s one of cinema’s great Hollywood counter-points. Godard is the co-father of the New Wave with Truffaut and a cinematic rebel. Jump cuts, genre and narrative manipulation and examination (deconstruction). Certainly Breathless is one of the best films of all-time. The greatest period of cinema in cinema history was the 60’s and he, like Fellini, Antonioni, Truffaut and others were at the absolute center of it—and nobody had a run like Godard. He was prolific and dazzling through that era—10 archiveable films in 8 years, 7 of those were in the top quality 10 of their year, and 3 masterpieces.
- Pierrot le Fou
- Band of Outsiders
- Vivre sa vie
- A Woman is a Woman
- Masculine, Feminine
- Two or Three Things I Know About Her
By year and grades
|1961- A Woman Is a Woman||R|
|1962- Vivre Sa Vie||HR|
|1964- Band of Outsiders||HR|
|1965- Pierrot le Fou||MP|
|1966- Masculine, Feminine||R|
|1967- Two or Three Things I Know About Her||R|
|1972- Tout Va Bien||R|
|1980- Every Man For Himself||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
I’ve seen movies by all of tspdt top 15 directors except jean luc goddard ( his films are hard to find online for some reason, ). In your opinion what would the best film to start with be?
@Azman– how exciting! Definitely Breathless. It is one of the greatest films of all-time, one of the greatest debuts of all-time and certainly Godard’s most accessible film.
It is also the beginning of one of the truly remarkable runs by an auteur in cinema.
Any other movie? Breathless was kinda spoiled for me so I’m waiting till next month so I can forget the spoiler. What other goddard movie would you recommend that is accessible and good?
So I just saw my first Godard film, The Band of Outsiders(1964). It was….. unique. It features some of the best scenes I have ever seen. The run through the Louvre, the dance sequence, the final shootout between Arthur and his uncle and the ending.
The movie was kind of like a fun adventure road trip among 3 friends. It was about 3 innocent people who fantasized about the gang life but later realized how dangerous it was in real life.
The acting is great, the sound design is brilliant and even the cinematography is nice. It is extremely entertaining, very stylish and cool and some scenes are like poetry in motion.
Film critic Pauline Kael described Bande à part as “a reverie of a gangster movie” and “perhaps Godard’s most delicately charming film”.Bande à part is often considered one of Godard’s most accessible films; Amy Taubin of the Village Voice called it “a Godard film for people who don’t much care for Godard”. Its accessibility has endeared the film to a broader audience. For example, it was the only Godard film selected for Time’s All-TIME 100 movies.Bande à part was also ranked No. 79 in Empire magazine’s “The 100 Best Films of World Cinema” in 2010. In tribute, Quentin Tarantino named his film production company “A Band Apart”.
Bande a part has a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 48 reviews, with an average rating of 7.98/10. The website’s critical consensus calls the film “an oddball heist movie with an dark streak that picks apart every rule in filmmaking.”
I LOVED this film. I cant wait to see more GOdard films.
Yup. Band of outsiders is a masterpiece. I agree!
@Azman– fantastic! I didn’t see this until now but this would’ve been my recommended next best choice for a Godard intro after Breathless. Happy to hear you loved it. Keep me posted as you get to other Godard films.
Why is La Chinoise not mentioned?
@Pouria– thanks for visiting the site and the comment here. Admittedly it has been a long time since I’ve seen it, and it was only once to this point, but I did not think La Chinoise worthy of the archives.
This is a great website! Just found it today. I relate a lot to what you have written about Godard. I thought that Breathless was excellent, but I have had much difficulty with everything else – not for lack of trying, At one point I believed that the problem must be me, but I’ve let that go now. Godard is just too ideological and he allowed his talent to be squandered in the name of a political worldview that is neither sane, interesting, beautiful nor true. I would have a seriously hard time ranking him in the top 50.
Watch band of outsiders. I don’t see any “political worldwiews” present in that movie. However “Godard’s talent” is obvious in this movie. Very accessible and very well made. I would highly recommend it.
@Leighton– thanks again for the comment. hmm everything after Breathless huh? Pierrot le Fou? Contempt? Back when Godard made beautiful films. The use of color alone is worthy of a ton of praise. The tracking shot in Weekend.
I’ll admit that Pierrot le Fou was mildly interesting because the music stuck with me for some reason, but I have to say that, apart from Breathless I have found Godard films to be largely forgettable experiences. In the same way that I find reading Foucault and Derrida to be strange and inaccessible, Godard is doing something that I basically find meaningless and unimportant. All of the deconstruction seems alluring at first, but the harder I try to take it seriously, the less convinced I am. I resonate with Bergman’s quote about Godard: “I’ve never been able to appreciate any of his films, nor even understand them…I find his films affected, intellectual, self obsessed and, as cinema, without interest or frankly dull…I’ve always thought he made films for critics.”. That about sums it up for me. I just don’t see what the stakes are in Godard’s worldview.
I love Godard (best living director) I think he’s the best at Nouvelle Vague. For me Breathless is tied with Le Mepris. What do you think Nouvelle Vague’s worst directors are? I think it would be Claude Chabrol for me.
I can’t find the page where you mentioned it, but I remember you recommending David Bordwell’s book Film Art: An Introduction. Well, I ordered it in the mail and it arrived last week. I can’t really thank you enough, it’s such a valuable resource that I can’t believe I’ve gone so long without. He has such a knack for breaking the artform down into its components and explaining them with clarity. There is also a wonderful analysis of Breathless in there that has helped me appreciate the film even more than before.
When it comes to evaluating films I know you emphasise both style and form over content (and rightfully so), but between those two is there one you value more than the other? Or do you see style and form as being of roughly equal importance?
@Delcan- this is great- thanks for sharing. I had the pleasure to meet Bordwell about 20 years ago and hear him speak. I need to pick up a newer copy of the book and read it again myself.
As for style vs. form– I really can’t pick one over the other– I see them being roughly equal. They work best in tandem. There are films that have a ton of one Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (style) or the work of Jarmusch (form– I’m simplifying here) and not a ton of the other…
I saw Alphaville again recently and enjoyed, very bizarre movie, film noir meets dystopian sci fi
I would be lying if I claimed to fully understand it ha but it was rather enjoyment in a strange way, the kind of movie where you may be better off thinking less and just enjoying the ride
Apparently, the main character Lemmy Caution was the protagonist of a series of detective novels
It certainly has the look of a film noir (takes place entirely at night in seedy places, shadows, etc)
Well Drake is planning a Godard study this year so we’ll see what he has to say when he revisits Alphaville.
Interesting I look forward to reading about it, Breathless is what reignited by passion for cinema after several years of relatively little film watching so he’ll always have a special place in my film appreciation journey. His films are always captivating even the ones that don’t fully work for me
Man, if only Godard shot Contempt in 70mm. I mean am I right?
@Zane A Schmidt- haha agreed. I saw it two nights ago actually. I mean it is still jaw-dropping in 35mm (the bluray transfer is something special)– but I do wish Godard had opted to make it in 70mm
Really interesting blog post I found linked on Wikipedia about Contempt!
In the cinema in the neighboring city i saw that a Godard film was going to be screened.
So after much thought i decided to go. I had to travel 2 hours to get there.
If that’s not love for the movies, i don’t know what it is.
Unfortunately i did not arrive on time haha and it was the only function
@Aldo- that’s dedication! Good for you- sorry it didn’t work out though
Do you know which film it was?
@Drake Do you intend to watch the two films Godard did with Isabelle Huppert Every Man for Himself(1980) and Passion(1982)?Both are inside the TSPDT top 1000.
@Malith- I do, I actually just saw Every Man for Himself and Passion is next
@Drake-Isn’t Godard’s A Married Woman(1964) worthy enough to be included in the archives?Actually when Godard screened this film at the Venice Film Festival Michelangelo Antonioni was also there promoting Red Desert and after Antonioni saw Godard’s film he went upto Godard and congratulated him. So one has to wonder Une femme mariee(1964) has to be somewhat good.
@Anderson- it isn’t about being worthy enough in this case. I haven’t seen it- and it is unavailable. If you ever see it on MUBI or something please let me know if you don’t mind. I’d love to see it.
@Drake-But it is available on VUDU. The link is there on the Rotten Tomatoes page. You can either buy or rent it. I didn’t purchase the movie but the trailer looks very crisp and good quality.
@Anderson- thanks. I have a system with about 10 different services it seems that works pretty well 95% of the the time. Unfortunately this isn’t one of them… I’m sure eventually it’ll come around on Criterion channel, prime, TCM, MUBI, etc. I occasionally will break my rule for a movie I’ve been really itching to see- but this isn’t such an occasion here.
But isn’t it available on amazon prime too? Anything by Godard in this stretch should be seen.
@Anderson- It is not
Hey drake hows it goin? Came here to ask if youve seen A Married Woman since this comment. I thought it was very good, probably a MS in my books.
There is an app/service called Kanopy thats run through local libraries for free and this film is on it atleast where i live. i think every library has different films but im not sure, still its a good service nonetheless, has many hard to find films on it. Idk if you can get in on smart tvs, but i use it through my laptop then HDMI to tv
Also curious if you have seen La Gai Savour (1969) or Nouvelle Vague (1990). i havent seen them nor do i know much about them but they look sort of interesting
@Big chungus- Thanks for the comment- all good here. Interesting- so I’m seeing A Married Woman on amazon as well and at no great cost. I may try to grab this one and check it out. Thanks for the heads up here and about Kanopy.
I did catch La Gai Savour in 2021 and did not put it in the archives. I do not think I have had a chance at Nouvelle Vague.
For some bizzare reason it seems like every comment in MI:Fallout page got deleted. I said 2 or 3 things I know about her page seems to have the same problem. No text only the picture.
I’m in a minority with this but I think Breathless and Pierrot le Fou are two of the most overrated films on TSPDT. I feel like both films get so much praise for kind of similar reasons – being fresh, revolutionary, innovative, different, first of the kind etc. As singular pieces of art on their own I don’t see the big deal, especially with Pierrot le Fou. A really unimpressive film to me on all levels. “Wow a guy blended bunch of genres this is so genius”, like the idea of it is enough on its own and better than the actual film, people would be saying the same things about the film if they didn’t even see it.. I love Godard in general but I have this weird dynamic with him because I think his most acclaimed films are really really overrated, apart from Contempt. Both of these films would not be in my top 300 if my projection is accurate (I don’t have it sorted in order)
Admittingly I am not as big on Pierrot le Fou as a lot of people although I still think it is a great film but not quite a Masterpiece. Breathless and Contempt are both Masterpieces in my book with Breathless being a giant Masterpiece.
I mean those elements you mention “being fresh, revolutionary, innovative, different, first of the kind etc.” are quite important but that aside I am curious what do you mean when you say “singular pieces of art on their own” ?
I mean it obviously is not some technical marvel like say 2001: A Space Odyssey or Lawrence of Arabia but I don’t think a film has to be a grand epic or technical wonder to be considered a great film.
@Drake-How many Godard films do you have in the archives? And have you seen Nouvelle vague(1990)? Is it not good enough to be in the archives?
I started watching Godard with breathless, contempt and vivre sa vie, and thought they were boring. Then I changed my mind after watching band of outsiders and pierrot le fou.
@Chiu- Thank you for the comment and welcome to the site. That’s great on Band of Outsiders and Pierrot le fou. I try to challenge myself never to use boring when describing a film. I’d encourage you to do the same- I just think you’ll have a better shot of getting to the root of the potential issue with the film (or your issue with it).
Thanks for advice Drake. I just saw your reply and don’t know if it had a reply notice.
I’m just new to art film and in the past I just focused on storystelling when watching a film rather than composition, mise-en-scene or something else. I started from French new wave and had little knowledge about film before watching Godard so that I must have missed something.
I am glad to find this website by chance and learn how to appreciate and analyse great films.
@Chiu- Thank you for the kind words- look forward to your comments in the future.
Godard is so frustrating. I enjoy going through a directors work and watching all of their narrative feature films. Like Drake, I don’t include documentaries/essays or any kind of experimental films.
I’m having major issues with Godard, because I’ve been unable to find a list that only includes his narrative feature films. The lists always include his experimental films.
(1) 1960: Breathless (MP)
(2) 1961: A Woman is a Woman (MP)
(3) 1962: Vivre Sa Vie (MS)
(4) 1963: Contempt (MP)
(5) 1963: Le Petit Soldat (R)
(6) 1963: Les Carabiniers (R)
(7) 1964: Band of Outsiders (HR/MS)
(8) 1965: Pierrot le Fou (MP)
(9) 1965: Alphaville (MS)
(10) 1966: Made in USA (HR/MS)
(11) 1966: Masculin Feminin (R)
(12) 1967: 2 or 3 things I know about Her (R/HR)
(13) 1967: La Chinoise (R/HR)
(14) 1967: Weekend (MP)
(15) 1972: Tout va Bien (HR)
(16) 1980: Every Man for Himself (R/HR)
(17) 1982: Passion (R)
(18) 1983: First Name: Carmen (R)
(19) 1985: Detective (R)
(20) 1985: Hail Mary (R)
Have you watched A Married Woman (1964)? Godard will go 15 from 15 between 1960-67 if it lands in the archives. What a run. 30 years of great cinema wrapped into a 8 year period.
Based on this, Godard probably has the edge over Truffaut now.
@AP- A Married Woman has still eluded me to this point. I need to see it. And yes- what a ridiculously brilliant stretch for Godard.
Le Petit Soldat R
A Woman Is a Woman HR
Vivre sa vie MP
Band of Outsiders MS
Pierrot le fou MS
Masculin Feminin MS
Two or Three Things I Know About Her HR
La Chinoise R
Sympathy for the Devil R
Tout va bien R
Numéro deux HR
Every Man For Himself HR
Hail Mary HR
Nouvelle vague HR
Histoire(s) du cinéma MS
In Praise of Love HR
Notre musique R
Film socialisme —
Goodbye to Language —
The Image Book HR
R.I.P. .. what a run he had
@Harry- RIP indeed- a long life and a brilliant career.
R.I.P. indeed. He was one of a kind.
RIP to my fav 😔 he said a couple months back he had two films in the works before he retired but i guess well never see those sadly
Breathless (1960) was the film that reignited my interest in movies after a long break. One of Ebert’s reviews referenced it so I decided to check it out. After that the next 25-30 movies I watched were all French ones (most of these New Wave). My interest in International cinema skyrocketed from there and has not let up.
If we want a Masina-Godard collaboration
(not a cameo) to exist what could it be?
Sorry I typed wrong… I wanted say Jeanne Moreau and Godard. Considering both thrived during the new wave.
My ranking of Godard’s films that I’ve seen:
1. Pierrot le Fou MP
2. Breathless MP
3. Weekend MP
4. Contempt MP
5. Alphaville MS
6. A Woman is a Woman MS
7. Vivre Sa Vie MS
8. Band of Outsiders HR/MS
9. Made in USA HR
5 Best Performances
1. Belmondo- Pierrot le Fou
2. Belmondo- Breathless
3. Karina- Vivre Sa Vie
4. Karina- Pierrot le Fou
5. Karina- A Woman is a Woman