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.

Breathless – the second best debut film of all-time behind Citizen Kane and just ahead of Truffaut’s The 400 Blows– the French New Wave had the world’s attention

total archiveable films:  12

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Vivre sa vie – one of the many collaborations with Anna Karina

top 100 films: 2 (Breathless, Pierrot le Fou)

top 500 films: 4 (Breathless, Pierrot le Fou, Contempt, Weekend)

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a trio of images that tell a story in Contempt – gorgeous work
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there’s a hint of Antonioni here but as always with Godard, it’s a statement on cinema and he eschews convention
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perfection in 35mm photography here in Contempt

top 100 films of the decade: 6 (Breathless, Pierrot le Fou, Contempt, Weekend, Band of Outsiders, Vivre sa vie)

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playful genre deconstruction
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an incredible run from 1960-1967

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.

a favorite scene/image from Band of Outsiders
if you were going to drop the mic– this shot in Weekend isn’t the worst way to go out here

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.

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from Pierrot le Fou – Godard’s second greatest achievement and one of color’s greatest
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Godard could do both- make beautiful art and refuse to conform
one of his most memorable sequences

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.

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manipulation of color and lighting in Pierrot yet again
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top 10

  1. Breathless
  2. Pierrot le Fou
  3. Contempt
  4. Weekend
  5. Band of Outsiders
  6. Vivre sa vie
  7. A Woman is a Woman
  8. Masculine, Feminine
  9. Alphaville
  10. Two or Three Things I Know About Her

By year and grades

1960- Breathless MP
1961- A Woman Is a Woman R
1962- Vivre Sa Vie HR
1963- Contempt MP
1964- Band of Outsiders HR
1965- Alphaville R
1965- Pierrot le Fou MP
1966- Masculine, Feminine R
1967- Two or Three Things I Know About Her R
1967- Weekend MS
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