Jean-Luc Godard, paradoxical and provocative film critic

The first listed text written by Jean-Luc Godard appeared in June 1950 in The Cinema Gazettea short-lived review – an offshoot of the Ciné-club du Quartier Latin – which appeared from May to November 1950 and for which George Kaplan and Eric Rohmer were responsible.

A certain number of reviews, which will form the editorial staff of future Cinema notebooks, published texts there: Eric Rohmer of course, Jean Douchet, Alexandre Astruc, Jean Domarchi, Jacques Rivette. Sartre wrote a eulogy to the cinema: “Cinema is not a bad school. » Godard is not 20 years old and he writes a review of the film by Joseph Leo Mankiewicz, a filmmaker he will have the opportunity to defend again, The House of Foreigners.

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It multiplies in The Gazettein the following months, short texts (a dozen), some signed by his pseudonym Hans Lucas (Jean-Luc in German): notes devoted to films by Elia Kazan (panic in the street), Max Ophuls (Round), Eisenstein (in protest against the editing of What Lives in Mexico by Kenneth Anger). Brief impressions where the young critic does not hesitate to rely on a remarkable literary erudition.

Surge of Exaltation

The most curious (and longest) text is entitled “For a political cinema”, in which Godard launches into the praise of Soviet cinema and its actors: “Yes, the great Soviet actors speak in the name of the Party like Hermione about its desires and Lear about its follies. » He does not hesitate to bring together the imagery of Soviet films with the aesthetics of Nazi films in the same burst of exaltation. Here Godard is already fueling, with a certain provocation, the reproach of ideological confusionism or even “hussar” dandyism, which will sometimes be leveled at the future young Turks of the New Wave.

The Cinema notebooks were created in 1951, but Godard did not publish his first text there until 1952. This is a review of Rudolph Maté’s film, The flame that goes outin which he quotes Stendhal, a reference already present in his text on Ophuls for The Cinema Gazette, and takes the opportunity to display his contempt for Gérard Philipe, then one of the most beloved French stars.

He writes in the Notebooks texts on Hitchcock (including a long defense of false culprit in the June 1957 issue), Nicholas Ray, Abel Gance, Jean Renoir, Frank Tashlin, Ingmar Bergman. It’s about the latter’s film, Monica, which he will write, evoking the shot where Harriet Andersson looks at the camera (i.e. the spectator) towards the end of the film: “It’s the saddest shot in the history of cinema. » We will also find more astonishing texts from his pen, such as his defense of the burlesque comedies of Norbert Carbonnaux.

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