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Mar 5
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Postponed - Marguerite Duras Retrospective Doc Films Max Palevsky Cinema -Ida Noyes Hall The University of Chicago 1212 East 59th Street Chicago, IL 60637

Carrying Things

To mark the 50th anniversary of Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt, and on the occasion of a major retrospective of the director's work at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Film Department at the Cultural Services is delighted to present Godard & Me, a blog dedicated to the iconic French filmmaker. Throughout the fall, we will post thoughts and reflections on Godard and his work from film critics, scholars, students and fans.

A lot of my memories of Godard’s films involve people carrying things. 

I remember my hero Holly Devaud dragging a cart of 16mm reels into our classroom sometime in the mid-eighties, excited to spring Breathless on a gaggle of unsuspecting seventeen year-olds. 

Or years later, just outside Osaka, me lugging a friend’s vcr across town in a shopping bag so I could copy the vhs of Nouvelle Vague I’d dug up at the video store.  I’ve still got that tape.

Carrying books, too—I’m still carrying them—around the house, to work and back, on trains and planes.  Lately it’s been Alain Bergala’s Godard au Travail, Nicole Brenez’s anthology Documents, Michael Goodwin and Greil Marcus’ Double Feature, Youssef Ishaghpour’s Archéologie du cinéma et mémoire du siècle, articles by Jean Narboni, Raymond Bellour, Jonathan Rosenbaum…

Above all, I try to hang on to the films: the fearless and forward-looking two and a half stooges routines of Lotte in Italia and Vladimir et Rosa; the vertical-horizontal sublime of Puissance de la Parole; all ten hours of Six fois deux’s unified field theory and its 3’30” recap in Faut pas rêver; the moment head smacks gutter in Notre musique.  I could easily add every dog bark, bird call, and car horn, every passage from Malraux, Bataille or Ramuz, every gust of wind, every pool of summer light, every on- and off the record collaboration with Anne-Marie Miéville, Jean-Pierre Gorin, and Jean-Pierre Beauviala, every fragment of “Le Conditionnel de Variété,” every reflection, every cloud, every garden, every phrase from ECM, every nod to Duras, every superimposition of images from one movie onto images from another movie, every late string quartet, every Glauber Rocha cameo, every shot of people at work and cities at night, every electric typewriter, every Nicolas de Staël, every tree. 

What continues to amaze me about these films is their ability to move from small to large so gracefully, to create a space in which, to reframe Tati’s old line about modernist real estate, tout communique.  In refusing to sacrifice the texture and weight of familiar things, they manage to open them to the possibility of a metaphysics, of a discourse which accompanies the world that gives it life, so that cinema can become what it’s always been: a field in which concrete and abstract cross paths.  This means everything communicates, sure, but it also means that everything is tied to everything else: things, language, and ideas, men, women and children, representation and politics, politics and representation.  Few careers make as strong a case for the idea that art is fundamentally engaged with the world, and since these films frame that world as more than an accumulation of individuals, they also decisively prove that great cinema can be more than “personal” expression. 

At some point I’m going to have to box up my vcr, put away the books and get rid of my old tape—I can’t carry this stuff around forever.  But I don’t plan on letting go of the ideas in this work or the emotions that guide them.  I’m lucky that both have been so easy to pocket.

About the author

Sam Di Iorio is Associate Professor of French at Hunter College.

What's your Godard experience: Are you a big fan or an ardent detractor? Have you seen all of his movies? Do you feel like a young Brigitte Bardot in Contempt sometimes? Do you feel like all one needs to make a movie is “a girl and a gun”? Let the comment box gathers your Godard’s outpourings and share with us what makes him such a buzz.