French cinema: 7 Jean-Luc Godard films to watch

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French cinema: 7 Jean-Luc Godard films to watch
Swiss film director Jean-Luc Godard, pictured at a press conference in 1971. (Photo by AFP)

The iconic French film director, best known for his works of the Nouvelle Vague cinema, has died at the age of 91 - if you're not familiar with his work here are the 5 films to watch to appreciate Jean-Luc Godard.


Godard never stopped experimenting, from early celebrations of Hollywood pizazz to 1970s political tracts before diving into digital and 3D.

Here is a selection of his best-known work;

A bout de souffle  (Breathless) 1960

Godard's first film catapulted him to fame as one of the leading members of the French New Wave movement led by young critics-cum-directors seeking to break the cinematic mould.


In the doomed romance between petty criminal Jean-Paul Belmondo and young American Jean Seberg, he combined many of his, and the New Wave's, first loves: Hollywood B-movies and film noir.

Le Mépris (Contempt) 1963

Set on the sun-drenched Italian island of Capri, Godard intersperses scenes from a film shoot of Homer's "The Odyssey" into the contemporary tale of a beautiful young Brigitte Bardot who falls quietly out of love with her husband after what she perceives as an act of disloyalty.

Pierrot le Fou (1965) 

Seen as his most autobiographical film, it has Belmondo as an unhappily married man going on a madcap crime spree with his ex-girlfriend (played by Godard's first wife Anna Karina, who he had just divorced). He ends up shooting her and then trying to blow himself up.

Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965)

Starring the B-movie cult hero Eddy Constantine and Karina, this futuristic dystopian tale is set in a city ruled by a tyrant demanding faithful adherence to the laws of science and logic.

It heralded the bleaker outlook Godard would explore in his later works.

Ici et ailleurs (1976) 

Made during his collective film-making period as part of the Dziga Vertov group, named after the Russian avant garde director, Godard intercut footage from his 1969 documentary of a Palestinian refugee camp with shots of people in the West watching the images on their television screens -- the "here and elsewhere" of the title.


As well as offering a sharp critique of the media age, Godard questioned himself as he constructed -- and manipulated -- documentary footage.

Sauve qui peut (Every Man for Himself) 1980 

Winner of a Cesar, a French Oscar, this plunge into the power dynamics between men and women saw Godard return to more mainstream film-making, with big stars including Gerard Depardieu and Alain Delon.

Adieu au langage  (Goodbye to Language) 2014 

Working virtually alone in his home in Switzerland, the films from Godard's late period still pushed narrative conventions and innovated with the latest technology.

Shot in 3D, "Goodbye to Language" partly followed the point of view of Godard's dog Roxy, using the silent star to explore our failure to communicate with each other.


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