Jean-Luc Godard

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Andrew Sarris

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No Godard film since Pierrot le fou has excited me as much as Sauve qui peut (La Vie) [released in the United States as Every Man for Himself]. Though his feeling for narrative has still not progressed from A to B and his disdain for psychological consistency and sociological probability is as outrageously apparent as ever, his zest for cinema is undiminished. Sauve qui peut is perhaps more like a piece of music than a movie. Every image is suffused with such elegant and exquisite insights into what makes the medium interact with its material that the total effect is intoxicating. Godard once wrote that the late Nicholas Ray was cinema. Perhaps the same can be said of Godard today. I would not care to debate Godard's "ideas" or speculate on his knowledge of the world and its people, though he is undoubtedly wiser and more reflective than many of his detractors imagine, and no great art can reflect entirely the triumph of intuition over intellect.

Is Godard's cinema, then, great art? I would argue that it is, without challenging Wilfrid Sheed's gibe that Godard had the talent of a fifth-rate Albanian novelist….

What is the film about? It is what Godard now feels after his 50th birthday from moment to moment….

Godard reminds us again and again of many of his films, but he provides something new as well, a mellower tone and a genuinely funny wryness about his own grotesque contradictions…. I now identify with him more closely than at any time since Une Femme est une femme back in 1961. Somewhere on the screen he has captured the subtle reality of what it is to be a thinking, feeling being in these ridiculously convulsive times. I do not think that he has gone soft, but rather that he has gone deep. In the end, the Godard character may or may not be dying. A little joke prolongs the uncertainty. We pass some musicians, and somehow come through the other side from cinema to verite. Godard is an artist on film once more, and he makes his "instant replays" seem as apt and prophetic for the '80s as his jump-cuts proved to be in Breathless for the '60s. (p. 41)

Andrew Sarris, "Waiting for Godard, Resnais, and Fuller" (reprinted by permission of The Village Voice and the author; copyright © News Group Publications, Inc., 1980), in The Village Voice, Vol. XXV, No. 22, June 2, 1980, pp. 41, 46.∗

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