When Rocket Man and I were students at Dartmouth, we were both fans of the French “new wave” director Jean-Luc Godard. Godard’s films were enigmatic, by which I mean that I usually didn’t have a clue what he was up to, although I don’t recall ever admitting as much. Yet, quite apart from the satisfaction of feeling “avant garde,” I did think I saw artistic merit in much of Godard’s early work. I don’t know whether I would still think so. A few years ago, I did see, and enjoy, Godard’s Contempt, starring Brigitte Bardot. But that film, a send-up (and perhaps an attempt at) the blockbuster movie, was not a typical Godard work.
Whatever the merit of Godard the director, he was a fabulous film critic. Indeed, that is how he first made his name, working alongside Francois Truffaut at Cahiers du Cinema. The two specialized in identifying overlooked and underappreciated American films and directors. Just recently, I watched the excellent Man of the West starring Gary Cooper on TMC. The host noted that, although the film bombed in 1958, Godard placed it on his list of top ten films of that year.
All of this is by way of introducing this report from the Cannes film festival that Godard has ripped Michael Moore. To Godard, Moore is “halfway intelligent,” “fails to distinguish between text and image” (an unpardonable sin to the Frenchman), and ultimately “does not know what he is doing.” Worst of all, perhaps, “he’s not even hurting Bush.”
Godard’s criticism is likely spot-on, although it must be noted that he apparently hadn’t seen the Moore film that set him off (Farenheit 9/11). In addition, Godard seems to regard America bashing as too important to be left to American “artists.” He once ripped Jane Fonda, after she had starred in one of his films, for not being a sufficiently effective critic of the Vietnam war.
Hat tip: Tim Blair, who also has a good link to Fred Barnes concerning Moore.
HINDROCKET adds: Deacon and I followed Godard right up to the point where he started making Communist propaganda films. It wasn’t so much that we objected, at the time, to his politics, but they were excruciatingly boring: the last one we saw consisted of two people sitting in a room and discussing Marx. It sounds like Godard’s polititics haven’t changed as much as ours have in the intervening years. Like Deacon, I’m not sure how much I understood in the early Godard movies that I liked so much, like Pierre le Fou and Masculine/Feminine; what I do remember about them is that they starred the lovely Anna Karina.
I’m leaving for the Osaka airport in a few minutes, and, thanks to the international dateline, will arrive home at about the same time that I leave Japan.
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