Godard Talks Hollywood, Auteurs and Anti-Semitism

I love Godard — From “Breathless” to “Weekend” … he’s nuts, but so is the world we live in


Jean-Luc Godard sat down in Switzerland the other day with British reporter Fiachra Gibbons and dished about being 80, making his last films and how the internet has taken over everthing. It was quite a conversation and worth repeating in parts.

'"Film is over. The auteur is dead. The future is cut-and-paste movie mashups." Like that.

Gibbons was in Switzerland to talk with Godard about his latest movie "Film Socialisme," which the Guardian calls "the latest salvo in his 40-year war against Hollywood."

Gibbons' take? "'Film Socialisme' is vintage late-Godard in all its baffling glory: a numbing assault on the eyes, brain and the buttocks, that takes liberties with your patience and mental endurance, but has an undeniable originality. There is no story of course, heavens no. 

Instead, we are at sea on a cacophonous Mediterranean cruise ship, a floating Las Vegas drowning in over-consumption, where a Greek chorus of actors and philosophers wander among the middle-aged passengers quoting Bismarck, Beckett, Derrida, Conrad and Goethe in French, German, Russian and Arabic."

It's not going to attract a large audience, but it will play well with college students, Marxists and old Godard fans the world over.

Me, baby boomer Franophile that I am, I love Godard. From "Breathless" to "Weekend," I could never get enough of him. I still love the guy. He's nuts, but so is the world we live in.

I spent the winter of 1969 in Paris watching every movie I could set my eyes on at the Cinemateque there. Every day. Day and night. I was hooked. I'm still hooked on movies. When I saw "Cinema Paradiso" I saw Godard in the aisles. When I saw "Night Market Hero" recently here in Taiwan, I saw Godard in the wings.

Godard's diehard disciples see it not just as a metaphor for Europe – a ship of aging malcontents adrift in their own history – but as a manifesto for a "new republic of images," free from the dead hand of corporate ownership and intellectual property laws. This new cinema will be cut and pasted together in a world beyond copyright, where droit d'auteur will soon seem as medieval as droit du seigneur.

Until now, Godard has shed little light on his creation, having gone AWOL just as the film was premiered at Cannes this year, leaving only the message: "Because of Greek-style problems, I cannot oblige you at Cannes. I would go to the death for the festival, but not a step further."

Sure, Godard is the guy who famously said "a story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order." I think he was kidding.

But once Gibbons gets Godard talking, the quotes come fast and furious: 

>> About Hollywood, or at least the Hollywood of the 1930s-1950s, Godard says: ""They could make films like no one else could. Now even the Norwegians can make films as bad as the Americans."

>> When Gibbons asks Jean-luc about about the apparent pressures of being seen as ''the auteur's auteur, a permanent visionary'', Godard replies: "I am not an auteur, well, not now anyway. We once believed we were auteurs but we weren't. We had no idea, really. Film is over. It's sad nobody is really exploring it. But what to do? And anyway, with mobile phones and everything, everyone is now an auteur."

>> About Godard's infamously controversial attitudes toward "les juifs," he tells the Guardian: "My answer to the person who will never ask me the right question about [my new movie ] is that the image I really like is the one about Palestine, the trapeze artists." (This is a metaphor for the beauty that will be born the day Jews and Arabs learn to work together, opines the leftwing Gibbons of the leftwing Guardian.)

>> Gibbons quotes ultra-trendy French ''philosophe'' Bernard Henri-Lévy — BHL — who has worked with Godard on a number of uncompleted and aborted projects about "the Jewish being," as saying of Godard that he is a man "trying to cure himself of his anti-Semitism." In his flic ''Film Socialisme," Godard again puts his hand in the wasps' nest — writes Gibbons — with such lines as: "How strange that Hollywood should be invented by the Jews."

Godard, of course, denies in the Guardian interview that he is anti-Semtiic or an antisemite. But my own take on Godard's attitude towards Jews is that he merely mirrors the entire history of Christendom. Every page of the the so-called "New" Testament has poisoned Europe and America with its centuries-old trumped-up charges of "the Jews killed Jesus" nonsense.

Every Christian who believes that Jesus is the only way to find God is a Scriptural anti-Semite, if truth be told. Godard is just a stupid man who inherited his anti-Semitism from centuries of the European disease.

Okay, what's Godard got on his plate next, as he sails into his 80s?

It's an unshot film titled "Adieu to Language", and according to the Guardian, "it's about 'a couple and a dog, and life and death and everything else.''

Just remember this when it comes to Godard: "Everyone is an auteur now. Film is over."