Auteur and architect of the French New Wave, and an influence on like-minded film-makers from Scorsese to Tarantino, Jean-Luc Godard is the subject of an extensive season at BFI Southbank, featuring more than 100 examples of his work, from the famed feature films to shorts and TV work.
On Saturday 16 January the star of many of Godard’s early films, Anna Karina, will take part in question and answer sessions following screenings of Le Mépris (1963), a film said to be about her relationship with the director, and Vivre sa vie (1962) and Bande à part (1964), both of which she starred in. The BFI re-release of Le Mépris will also be screened in selected cinemas across the UK from Friday 1 January in an extended run as part of the season
Born in 1930, and active as a film critic from 1950, Godard made his first feature À bout de souffle in 1960. Part one of the season will focus on his early work and include an introductory talk from critic Laura Mulvey and season co-curator Michael Witt. Godard conceived the semi-improvised, location-shot À bout de soufflé – based on a treatment by François Truffaut – as a manifesto for a new type of filmmaking. It won him the first of many major awards – The Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival – and helped establish the French Nouvelle Vague as a bold new style in filmmaking.
Nouvelle Vague features being screened will include Pierrot le fou (1965) in which Pierrot (Jean-Paul Belmondo) abandons his comfortable Paris existence for adventure on the road with lover Marianne (Karina). Vivre sa vie (1962) is a Brechtian social fiction which follows Nana (played by Karina) as she learns how to be a sex worker, and was based on a popular sociological study of contemporary prostitution. Bande à part also stars Karina alongside Claude Brasseur and Sami Frey, as an incompetent trio of amateur crooks whose plan to burgle a rich old lady goes tragicomically wrong. The tone of the film is light and the infamous Madison dance scene and a sprint through the Louvre. Le Mépris is a stylish study of a rocky marriage and fraught professional relationships starring Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli. Seen as Godard’s most emotionally involving film, it was also his most successful, the one and only time that he worked with the backing of an American studio.
Other highlights include screenings of Le Petit soldat (1960), at once political thriller, existential drama and love story; and the romantic sci-fi adventure Alphaville (1965). There will also be a rare opportunity to see films outside Godard’s New Wave oeuvre including One Plus One (aka Sympathy for the Devil) (1968), in which Godard followed The Rolling Stones as they recorded Sympathy for the Devil
The season will continue in February. On 21 March, the BFI will bring Bande à Part (1964) to Blu-ray for the first time, featuring a specially commissioned video interview with Anna Karina, and interviews with Quentin Tarantino and cinematographer Raoul Coutard.
Jean-Luc Godard – Part One; BFI Southbank, London; until 16 March; www.whatson.bfi.org.uk.
Follow us on Twitter @asffest for the latest news in film in the UK and internationally.