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19 October 2022 - 13 September 2023: Au Contraire: Jean-Luc Godard

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At the vanguard of international filmmaking for six decades, French New Wave titan Jean-Luc Godard exerted an incalculable influence on modern cinema that refuses to wane. With his ground-breaking 1960 debut feature, Breathless, Godard merged elements of high and low culture with an anything-goes abandon that set the template for generations of filmmakers. It marked the beginning of an explosively innovative decade that witnessed his output grow increasingly radical, both aesthetically and politically, until by 1968 he had forsworn commercial cinema altogether, forming a leftist filmmaking collective (the Dziga Vertov Group) and producing films like the scathing anticapitalist screed Tout va bien. Eternally on the cutting edge, Godard spent the final years of his career exploring the outermost possibilities of digital filmmaking in visually and philosophically adventurous works, confirming his status as our greatest lyricist on historical trauma, religion, and the legacy of cinema.

We pay tribute to Jean-Luc Godard with a year-long retrospective of his films.


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See You Friday, Robinson
Mitra Farahani, 2022, 96 min
English, French & Persian with English subtitles
UK premiere

“A long-distance dialogue between Ebrahim Golestan, a giant of Iranian cinema and literature (who will celebrate his 100th birthday on the day of the first screening!) and Jean-Luc Godard forms the basis of this latest film by Mitra Farahani. Among the most gifted documentarians from Iran, Farahani mediates between two seemingly irreconcilable worlds to create a unique epistolary work. Its elegant, hybrid style takes us from encounters with shadows – the first time we see each of these artists – to the inner lives of flesh and blood individuals; vulnerable, pained, caring, endlessly searching.  

More than seven years in the making, See You Friday, Robinson is a search for points of convergence – each artist now seen living on his chosen island of solitude but connected through internet technology. Godard, still largely preoccupied with ideas concerning image and language, plays the role of pitcher. Golestan, a man of expansion and clarity, aims to find meaning in the array of audio-visual puzzles he receives. Godard acts as if everything is known by everybody, to which Golestan replies that everybody is not born yet. Farahani brings the idea of "parallels" into the form of the film itself. She even adds her own, as when selected passages from the life of Beethoven are narrated, with the accompaniment of the composer's music, to complete her puzzle picture of creativity in the twilight of life.  

Farahani mysteriously leaves out of the frame the key works made by these two artists, only showing excerpts from their films when one of the two is actually watching one. We see Golestan and his wife watching JLG/JLG – autoportrait de décembre, and Golestan's own Hills of Marlik also features. But there is an abundance of other citations – from Wittgenstein to Joyce; Tolstoy to Goya; Chekhov to Johnny Guitar; Puccini to Elias Canetti. Godard recites the closing lines of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man ("but it's all pretty unsatisfactory"), foregrounding a central theme of the film, while Golestan's deep admiration for the thirteenth-century Persian poet Saadi acts as the driving force.

Yet, beyond the printed word and the image, the film finds some of its answers in the ordinary rooms of these two men: in their calculated cycle of life, climbing and descending the stairs. Then there's the life-and-death parallel that Farahani tries to ward off through her preservation of every banal bit of life that she encounters and manages to translate into poetry.” – Ehsan Khoshbakht


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Breathless
Jean-Luc Godard, 1959, 90 min
French with English subtitles

"One of the most important films to emerge from the French New Wave, Breathless is set in the fifties, when the influence of American culture in France was being felt at every level of life. Godard presents a story of boy-meets-girl animated by myths of innocence abroad and of the alienated gangster of B-movies. Belmondo’s interpretation of an anarchic criminal – confused, bitter, and cynical – was his first major role and launched his career. Godard conceived of Jean Seberg’s character as a direct continuation of the pampered but worldly creature she played in Otto Preminger’s Bonjour Tristesse. Describing the impact of the film after forty years, critic Phillip Lopate summarizes: "It seemed a new kind of storytelling, with its saucy jump cuts, digressions, quotes, in jokes and addresses to the viewer. And yet, underneath all these brash interventions was a Mozartean melancholy that strongly suggested classical measure."" – Harvard Film Archive


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Contempt
Jean-Luc Godard, 1963, 99 min
English & French with English subtitles

"Godard’s adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s novel – perhaps it was more of a springboard – had a million-dollar budget, half of which went to its star Brigitte Bardot, with a sizable portion of the rest going to Jack Palance and to Fritz Lang. With what little was left, Godard made what many now consider to be one of his greatest films in five weeks. Palance is the producer who brings screenwriter Michel Piccoli and his wife (Bardot) to Cinécittà to work on Lang’s adaptation of The Odyssey, and the conflicts between commerce and art, the ancient and the modern, the legendary and the mundane, the tender and the cruel commence." - Film Society of Lincoln Centre


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Pierrot le fou
Jean-Luc Godard, 1965, 110 min
French with English subtitles

Dissatisfied in marriage and life, Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) takes to the road with the babysitter, his ex-lover Marianne Renoir (Anna Karina), and leaves the bourgeoisie behind. Yet this is no normal road trip: Jean-Luc Godard’s tenth feature in six years is a stylish mash-up of consumerist satire, politics, and comic-book aesthetics, as well as a violent, zigzag tale of, as Godard called them, “the last romantic couple.” With blissful colour imagery by cinematographer Raoul Coutard and Belmondo and Karina at their most animated, Pierrot le fou is one of the high points of the French New Wave and was Godard’s last frolic before he moved even further into radical cinema.


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The Image Book
Jean-Luc Godard, 2018, 85 min
English, French, Arabic, Italian & German with English subtitles

Jean-Luc Godard returns with a bracing, beautiful and confrontational essay film. Splicing together classic film clips and newsreel footage, often stretched, saturated and distorted almost beyond recognition, The Image Book interrogates our relationship with film, culture and global politics. Presenting the final masterwork by Jean-Luc Godard, the French New Wave titan whose inventive brilliance will be impossible to replace. Winner of the first-ever Special Palme d’Or at Cannes, The Image Book is a riotous whirlwind of images and sounds from the father of modern cinema.