(Literary Masterpieces, Critical Compilation)

Far too numerous for citation here are performers, filmmakers, major philosophers, and writers whose presence in person or via their works had an impact on Jean-Luc Godard. They include Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo of Breathless and Brigitte Bardot, Roland Barthes, Georges de Beauregard, Berthold Brecht, Robert Bresson, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Derrida, André Gide, Alfred Hitchcock, James Joyce, Louis Lacan, Fritz Lang, Jean-Pierre Leaud, André Malraux, Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, Roberto Rossellini, Rod Stoneman, Myriam Roussel, and Orson Welles.

Midway through Godard, author Colin MacCabe declares that “it is impossible to overstate Roberto Rossellini's importance for Godard and the Nouvelle Vague (hereafter referred to as the New Wave)…. and it would be possible to make an argument that [the New Wave's] aesthetic is little more than a development of Rossellini's practice.” It is not, however, Rossellini's acclaimed war trilogy—notably including Roma, città aperta (1945; Open City) and Paisà (1946; Paisan)—that is nonpareil for Godard, Rivette, and François Truffaut but Viaggio in Italia (Voyage in Italy), a later Rossellini film starring the director's wife, Ingrid Bergman, that was universally panned when it opened in 1953. To relate to MacCabe's dialectic, the reader must find more in such films than meets the eye.

Voyage in Italy is about a couple (played by Bergman and George Sanders) who are trying to reconcile their faltering marriage as they travel through Italy visiting the ancient sites. Although there is no overt action, it becomes apparent that they are seeking to destroy each other. So upset was he at the lack of a script or discipline on the set that Sanders threatened to quit. That was the very point on which the attention of Godard and his cohorts alighted.

For Godard, cinema, as an art of the real, is hostile to fabrication, particularly in relation to actors. What the camera records is not a performance but a performer. In fact, as MacCabe demonstrates, the Goddard of the films prior to 1968, the year of the student revolts in Paris, defined himself as an iconoclast by exploiting and parodying traditional social and cinematic conventions. His first release, Breathless (1960), and the last, Weekend (1967), are considered by many critics to be his greatest achievements.

MacCabe does not, for the most part, grade the films, but he is clearly ecstatic that in his first major achievement, Breathless, Godard broke all the rules.

Classic Hollywood film works by effacing all signs of its activity either before the camera, where the actors must preserve an identity of appearance from one take to the next, or by a style of cutting, in which each cut is motivated either by an actor's look or a narrative development. Above all, the camera must obey rules which render the text seamless (the camera's angle of vision must never approach an actor's eyeline by under thirty degrees lest the audience become aware of the camera, and no two shots cut in sequence must be more than 180 degrees...

(The entire section is 1288 words.)