Jean- Luc Godard, 1930-2022

RIP Jean-Luc Godard.

I can truthfully say that no artist or writer, in any medium, has had anywhere near as great an influence on my tastes and interests, and indeed on my life altogether, as Godard. I first encountered his work as a freshman in college (1971-1972). One evening, I went (pretty much at random, without any idea of what to expect) to a screening of PIERROT LE FOU. I was entirely shaken up and flabbergasted by seeing it (I am not sure I am using the correct words; most accurately, I was bouleversé, a French word that doesn’t have quite the right nuance in English translation). It was confusing, yet compelling; it echoed all sorts of movies that I had previously seen, but also seemed entirely fresh and new. I really didn’t know what to think, or how to parse the experience of seeing this film. So a few weeks later, they were showing another Godard film, and I went to see it. It was WEEKEND. This time, I felt like my head was going to explode. It was like being thrust into an entirely new and different universe.

Seeing those two Godard movies, at the age of 17, was a conversion experience, a rebirth — or at least, the closest I have ever come to such things. Those movies completely remade my aesthetic, and indeed existential, sense of myself, and of the world. They turned me into a cinephile, and ultimately into a film studies professor. And they colored my view of all other things — my other sensibilities, aesthetic attractions, philosophical interests, and so on. Godard’s movies, more than any other works of art, helped make me into the person I still am, today.

Today, there are other movies I value more highly (Godard wasn’t on my ten-best-of-all-time list that I sent off to Sight and Sound). I continue to love Godard’s early films, but I feel much more ambivalence about his subsequent work (always worth seeing, always producing insights, and yet also leaving me cold in other respects — I think that Godard’s modernism remained attached to an older world, in some ways very distant from the concerns of the 21st century). But for all that, I remain at heart Godardian; or, to put this in a different (Badiou-style) language, I cannot help but remain faithful to the Godard-event.

(first posted on Facebook, but re-posted here)