1088_037_original

JLG's Criterion

by Kent Jones

Created 09/08/13

Edit List

"The observer and the universe are part of the same universe. It's what science discovered at the beginning of this century, when they say you can't tell where an atomic particle is. You know where they are, but not their speed; or you know their speed but not their place, because it depends on you. The one who describes is part of the description."

- Jean Luc Godard in conversation with Gavin Smith, Film Comment, March-April 1996

  • "For me, the film called UNDERWORLD by Ben Hecht and Josef von Sternberg is the greatest gangster movie. But no one ever heard of it. They all talk about SCARFACE, but UNDERWORLD is better…In my opinion, Ben Hecht was a genius. He invented 80 percent of what is used in Hollywood movies today."

    (Panel discussion moderated by Gene Youngblood at the University of Southern California, 1968; published in Los Angeles Free Press, March 8, 15, 22 and 29, 1968)

  • "Contraband poetry, therefore, yes, and consequently the most precious, for it is true, the German Novalis tells us, that if the world becomes a dream, the dream in its turn becomes a world. It is Cocteau’s humility and also his glory that he neither could nor wanted to distinguish the legend of Orphée from his own – to distinguish, in other words, between cinéma-vérité and cinema-lie. If this makes fools laugh today…it is not everyone who can follow in the path of a poet such as this."

    (ORPHEE, Cahiers du Cinéma, February 1964)

  • "…your father started to find his grand style [with LE PLAISIR]. I know his films much less well than you do and there are some I haven’t seen, but I think he found something there that he took to its peak in MADAME DE… and then in LOLA MONTES, which is to say: something profound made from stories that are nothing, something very oriental, arabesques and camera movements, people running and skipping up and down stairs over and over again. There’s a side to it that makes me think of German expressionism before it got too heavy, of Kandinsky at the start. And I, who am such a pessimist, will always remember that exclamation at the end of 'The Model' - 'Happiness is not cheerful…'”

    (DIALOGUES SUR LE CINEMA, Jean-Luc Godard and Marcel Ophuls, Editions Le Bord de l’eau, 2011; original conversation, 2002)

  • "Take a drawing by Matisse, a simple curve of a leg or a shoulder. Is there a basis, at the beginning when he starts drawing his curve? There isn’t. This is what I’m trying to say. And that’s what comprises the originality of Max Ophuls, which he acquired a little bit at a time, because in LIEBELEI, in LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, in his American films, it’s not there. It’s a freedom that is earned and that is found, that isn’t applied. On a basic level, it’s neither better nor worse as a way of making a film. But there’s something extremely original that we found so satisfying back in the day and that continues to satisfy me now, something purely romantic. The story of MADAME DE… is pretty weak – it’s a little novel by Louise de Vilmorin, it’s not exactly Dostoyevsky. But what Max Ophuls did transforms it, like Fragonard’s 'The Lock,' in which two lovers close a door so they can kiss – it’s not a weighty subject, as with Goya, and it becomes pure painting, if you will. There’s a kind of pure cinema of that era – you might even call it experimental – which has disappeared. There’s no literature…not that there’s no text or dialogue, but there’s no pre-literature."

    (DIALOGUES SUR LE CINEMA, Jean-Luc Godard and Marcel Ophuls, Editions Le Bord de l’eau, 2011; original conversation, 2002)

  • "What were we dreaming of when SUMMER WITH MONIKA was first shown in Paris? Ingmar Bergman was already doing what we are still accusing French directors of not doing. SUMMER WITH MONIKA was already AND GOD CREATED WOMAN, but done to perfection. And that last shot of NIGHTS OF CABIRIA when Giulietta Masina stares fixedly into the camera: have we forgotten that this, too, appeared in the last reel but one of SUMMER WITH MONIKA? Have we forgotten that we had already experienced – but with a thousand times more force and poetry – that sudden conspiracy between actor and spectator which so aroused André Bazin’s enthusiasm, when Harriet Andersson, laughing eyes clouded by confusion and riveted on the camera, calls on us to witness her disgust in choosing hell instead of heaven?"

    (“Bergmanorama,” Cahiers du Cinéma, July 1958)

  • "Genjuro is bathing with the fatal enchantress who has caught him in her net; the camera leaves the rock pool where they are disporting themselves, pans along the overflow which becomes a stream disappearing into the fields; at this point there is a swift dissolve to the furrows, other furrows seem to take their place, the camera continues tranquilly on its way, rises, and discovers a vast plain, then a garden in which we discover the two lovers again, a few months later, enjoying a picnic. Only masters of the cinema can make use of a dissolve to create a feeling which is here the very Proustian one of pleasure and regrets."

    (Arts, February 5, 1958)

  • "[The investigator] was added [to HELAS POUR MOI] after half of the editing because the film didn’t hold together. It is a good film but it could have been… It is not the intention of the movie. In MR. ARKADIN it was the intention. That’s why I say it was a better picture, because Orson Welles, even if it was only 80 percent his way of doing things that time, in the end it was part of the picture."

    (Interview with Gavin Smith, Film Comment, March-April 1996)

    "…there’s a sequence of shots [in MR. ARKADIN] where there’s a sort of rhythm that isn’t just shot/reverse shot, or from cutting either, but there’s a certain rhythm in the dialogue that’s just there, that’s both a very brilliant effect and something like a trail leading towards what all filmmakers are after, which is really montage to tell stories in a different way."

    (CINEMA: THE ARCHEOLOGY OF FILM AND THE MEMORY OF A CENTURY, Jean-Luc Godard and Youssef Ishaghpour, Talking Images Series, published by Berg, 2005)

  • "ELENA is Renoir’s most Mozartean film. Not so much in its exterior appearance, like THE RULES OF THE GAME, but in its philosophy. The man who finishes FRENCH CANCAN and prepares for ELENA is, morally, a little like the man who completes the Concerto for Clarinet and launches into THE MAGIC FLUTE. In substance, the same irony and the same distaste. In form, the same brilliant audacity of simplicity. To the question, What is cinema? ELENA replies: More than cinema."
    (Cahiers du Cinéma, special Renoir issue, December 1957)

  • "I shall always remember one spring evening in Cannes when, watching with the other idlers, I saw Cocteau shepherding into the Palais du Cinéma a young boy who was only at the beginning of his 400 blows. He guided him through the lights, whispering instructions: 'Don’t walk too quickly, don’t look down, look at the photographers, stand up straight, smile at France Roche.' Before my admiring eyes, here was the old angel Heurtebise, always in the thick of the fight, protecting the young ghost of Vigo under his great, black Academician’s wing."
    (ORPHEE, Cahiers du Cinéma, February 1964)

    "THE 400 BLOWS will be a film signed Frankness. Rapidity. Art. Novelty. Cinematograph. Originality. Impertinence. Seriousness. Tragedy. Renovation. Ubu-Roi. Fantasy. Ferocity. Affection. Universality. Tenderness."
    (LES QUATRE CENTS COUPS, Cahiers du Cinéma, February 1959)

  • "When I first made CONTEMPT I had a certain movie in mind and I tried to make it. But CONTEMPT came out completely different than I’d intended, and I forgot the kind of film I had wanted to make in the first place. Then when I saw RED DESERT at the Venice Film Festival, I said to myself: this is the kind of movie I wanted to make of CONTEMPT."
    (Panel discussion moderated by Gene Youngblood at the University of Southern California, 1968; published in Los Angeles Free Press, March 8, 15, 22 and 29, 1968)

27 comments

  • By Mark N.
    October 17, 2013
    02:13 PM

    No Marienbad? JLG loves that.
    Reply
  • By Cinemacannon
    October 17, 2013
    02:16 PM

    Ugetsu was another Godard favorite, he was all over Mizoguchi.
    Reply
    • Or using your Criterion.com account.

      You are logged in to your Criterion.com account as . Log out.

    • By Joe Turrell
      October 17, 2013
      02:23 PM

      Do you know what he thought of Sansho the Bailiff and The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums? I'd be intrigued to know.
    • By Cinemacannon
      October 17, 2013
      02:26 PM

      Oh man, I completely missed it on your list. Spot on work, kent.
    • By Glooby
      October 17, 2013
      05:47 PM

      That is in the list
  • By alex
    October 17, 2013
    04:06 PM

    No Fuller or Nic Ray?
    Reply
  • By Glooby
    October 17, 2013
    05:49 PM

    Sorry Cinemacannon, I didn't read ahead.
    Reply
  • By Erich Sargeant
    October 17, 2013
    06:30 PM

    A surprising and great list!
    Reply
  • By Dominic M.
    October 17, 2013
    07:26 PM

    Hmm, Godard once called Au Hasard Balthazar "the world in an hour and a half", wonder why it wasn't included.
    Reply
    • Or using your Criterion.com account.

      You are logged in to your Criterion.com account as . Log out.

    • By Cameren Lee
      October 17, 2013
      08:25 PM

      I read in an interview included in the booklet to the Weekend Criterion from when he was DEEP in his Mao man-crush where he talked about how that film should be destroyed. I guess that though the politics softened, his views of that film didn't. Also, remember that it stars his ex-wife.
    • By Gord
      October 19, 2013
      10:18 PM

      Wow. I had no idea Godard was married to Wiazemsky. He had some fine taste in woman.
  • By Dennis Watts
    October 17, 2013
    08:57 PM

    A wonderful list which, like his films, leave you with food for thought (Arkadin but not Citizen Kane). I don't think this was meant as a top ten favorites of all-time list.
    Reply
  • By Yojimbe
    October 18, 2013
    01:31 AM

    Funny, but I could put three or four of JLG's films on my top ten including; Breathless, My Life to Live, Contempt and Alphaville. Not to mention honorable mentions like; Band of Outsiders, Pierrot Le Fou, Two or Three Things I know About Her, Made in USA, Une Femme Mariee, Masculin Feminin and Weekend. And when will Le Petit Soldat, Les Caribiniers, A Woman is a Woman and La Chinoise ever make it to blu ray? Godard is one of the true geniuses (like Orson Welles) to have ever worked in cinema and evolved the language of film.
    Reply
  • By Tim
    October 18, 2013
    01:35 AM

    Wow, I'm surprised he picked films by directors who didnt like his films. He's old though, so he probably doesn't care. Good list!
    Reply
  • By Jon Dambacher
    October 18, 2013
    02:06 AM

    Thank you.
    Reply
  • By jon hildreth
    October 18, 2013
    09:31 AM

    Godard's comments are typically gnomic and it's a great list, even if as I suspect Godard didn't make it himself. These are all films I have watched again and again; I don't know about best, but all are important. I am surprised Bresson didn't make the cut at least for A Man Escaped.
    Reply
  • By Peter_Wilson
    October 18, 2013
    11:08 AM

    I'm tired of people commenting on almost every list on criterion, and recommending movies not in the collection. By the way, great list you got here. Although, Au Hasard Balthazar, The Great Dictator, Bigger Then Life, Journey to Italy, Summer Interlude, Pickpocket, Testament of Orpheus, To Be or Not to be, Les Cousins, Sansho the Bailiff, Through A Glass Darkly, Jules and Jim, The Exterminating Angel, Gertrud, and, Shock Corridor, were al praised by Godard.
    Reply
  • By Johan Sigg
    October 18, 2013
    09:49 PM

    I really like how intelligent and polite all these comments are. It reminds me that this is a good website with intelligent users. If only there were more. JLG's picks kind of surprise me a bit. I wish to know more of his thoughts on other great films. Really terrific list!
    Reply
  • By Peter_Wilson
    October 18, 2013
    10:38 PM

    Everyone who sees this film will be absolutely astonished... Because this film is really the world in an hour and a half. Jean-Luc Godard on Au hasard Balthazar, Cahiers du Cinema -- I also forgot to mention, Le Notti Bianche.
    Reply
  • By Kent Jones
    October 21, 2013
    09:48 AM

    Hi. As Dennis Watts suggests, this isn't meant to suggest Jean-Luc Godard's top ten films of all time. It's just a list of ten films in the Criterion collection about which he wrote or spoke, eloquently and provocatively (but not gnomically - I can't agree with that characterization), between 1957 and 2005. K
    Reply
    • Or using your Criterion.com account.

      You are logged in to your Criterion.com account as . Log out.

    • By Peter_Wilson
      April 05, 2014
      07:46 PM

      In that case this list is pointless, as it's not Jean-Luc Godard's actual top ten. And if the title of the list is going to be JLG's Criterion you should had all of the films that Godard praised in the Cahiers Du Cinema, other wise the list falls short. And basically it's your favorites of JLG's favorite criterions.
  • By Riccardo
    October 21, 2013
    12:27 PM

    JLG is the cinema.
    Reply
  • By Austin DeRaedt
    October 29, 2013
    05:34 PM

    I heard JLG is a big fan of Eddie Murphy's films.
    Reply
  • By E. Barnes
    October 31, 2013
    02:54 PM

    I suspect Godard likes -- really likes -- a heck of a lot of films. Like Quentin Tarantino, he's a true film buff. I know the feeling. It would be like asking me to name my ten favorite pieces of classical music. Fat chance I could make anything intelligible out of that. This list is good because it just does two things: (1) Finds ten Criterion films he happens to like, and (2) matches them with some truly revealing comments (revealing of Godard). I'm happy with that. Dayeinu.
    Reply
  • By Kat
    November 01, 2013
    07:37 AM

    With all due respect to Kent Jones, who put up a nice program at this year's New York Film Festival, if you can't get JLG maybe you shouldn't have someone else guessing what JLG would do/like/choose. I mean, there are no movies here after 1964. I have no doubt that Godard loves all of them, but it strikes me as a very conservative list for someone who's always been ahead of his time. Yes, there's mostly classical cinema on Criterion's stock, but there's also Pedro Costa.
    Reply
    • Or using your Criterion.com account.

      You are logged in to your Criterion.com account as . Log out.

    • By Steve
      November 17, 2013
      05:28 PM

      There are not many films made after '64 that he truly admires, he still raves about the Hollywood of old to this day in interviews and of course has long been of the opinion that cinema is over. Cassavetes' films are an exception, particularly The Killing of a Chinese Bookie as Gorin mentioned that Godard admired in his Criterion Top 10, as well as Kiarostami's work (cinema's end, in his eyes).
  • By Mahmood
    November 18, 2013
    05:30 AM

    I wonder, He didn't mention any of Fellini's Work. Otto e mejo, La strada nothing. Or any of Akira's.
    Reply

Or using your Criterion.com account.

You are logged in to your Criterion.com account as . Log out.