Jean-Luc Godard

Do American movies still aspire to greatness?

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The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir By Claude Lanzmann Translated by Frank Wynne (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 528 pp., $35)  I. The film called Shoah runs for more than nine and a half hours. Its subject is the extermination of Europe’s Jews by the Nazis. It features Jewish survivors of the death camps, Poles who lived near the camps, and Germans who organized and ran them—and also its director, Claude Lanzmann, in the background, with his various interpreters. The languages in which these people speak include Yiddish, Hebrew, English, German, Polish, and French: a sound file of Europe.

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The basic ideas among young American film-makers are simple: the big movies we grew up on are either corrupt, obsolete or dead, or are beyond our reach (we can’t get a chance to make Hollywood films)—so we’ll make films of our own, cheap films that we can make in our own way.

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Jean-Luc Godard intended to give the public what it wanted. His next film was going to be about a girl and a gun—”A sure-fire story which will sell a lot of tickets.” And so, like Henry James’ hero in The Next Time he proceeded to make a work of art that sold fewer tickets than ever. What was to be a simple commercial movie about a robbery became Band of Outsiders. The two heroes of Band of Outsiders begin by play-acting crime and violence movies, then really act them out in their lives. Their girl, wanting to be accepted, tells them there is money in the villa where she lives.

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We live in a world in which the contagion of anti-Semitism is spreading once again. Indeed, the profusion of hostility to Israel is the proof that hatred of Jews is now quite alright, thank you. But, whatever individual and isolated wrongs Israel commits, there are comparisons to be drawn. And the comparisons are to the Arab states and to Palestinian Arab society, in which oppression has flourished since the early years of the last century.

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As Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless comes up for reissue (50 years after its debut), all too many film writers lapse into nostalgia for their own fondness. In The Huffington Post, Patty Zohn offers an enjoyable essay about how she went to Paris (in 1970) and found the film still playing, and how she saw herself in Jean Seberg’s Patricia—the student soaking up the New Wave and the old Paris. Well, I’ve met Ms.

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Changes

Two in the Wave Lorber Films Looking for Eric IFC Films No movement in any nation’s film history has had a greater effect, at home and abroad, than the French New Wave. Beginning in the late 1950s and cresting through the 1960s, it not only brought forth new and invaluable talents: it altered in some degree the expectations of audiences. Much has naturally been written about the New Wave.

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IF THERE IS A HEAVEN FOR COMIC iconoclasts, Laurence Sterne is leaning out of it, smiling. The film made of his novel Tristram Shandy—more properly, the film instigated by his novel—has caused a stir because it juggles cinematic conventions just as he gamboled with the conventions of the novel.   However, as he views things from his present perch, Sterne can see that, unlike his own daring, this picture had predecessors in wry film-consciousness.

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