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Thursday, Jun 16, 2011
by Jordan Cronk and Calum Marsh
In this final installment in ReFramed's dissection of Godard, Cronk and Marsh consider age, attitude, and the angst of misplaced elitism.

Calum Marsh: Now that Film Socialisme has been fortunate enough to finally receive a formal (if very limited) American theatrical release, the mainstream reviews are pouring in, and the results have been…well, not exactly effusive. What are your thoughts on how the film’s been generally received, Jordan?


Jordan Cronk: It’s funny in a sense. Coming out of the festival circuit last year, the film was pretty hotly tipped by critics and publications that I would consider authoritative: Johnathan Rosenbaum, Amy Taubin, Cinema Scope, etc. Hell, it sat at Number Two on Film Comment‘s best unreleased films of 2010 list. And now predictably, with mainstream critics getting a look at the film, the film is being construed as an affront not just to the senses, but to the cinema itself. Which is ironic, since this film, along with most of Godard’s ‘90s and 2000s work, is so obviously in love with the process of creation and the art form as a whole. I know this bothers you, as it does me, but is it fair to hold these opinions to the standard we do for some of the folks mentioned earlier? And does it even matter at this point, forty some odd years after general audiences stopped caring about Godard?


Tagged as: jean-luc godard
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Thursday, Jun 2, 2011
by Jordan Cronk and Calum Marsh
In Part 2 of ReFramed's Godard discussion, Cronk and Marsh review the French filmmaker's "second first" phase as a director.

Jordan Cronk: Now, Jean-Luc Godard has been pretty kind to us and to a series such as this by segregating his career into convenient little movements, but after wandering for a good decade or more in the wilderness of the late ‘60s and ‘70s, he himself seemed to even acknowledge the need for a return to form. At the time of its release, Godard called Every Man for Himself his “second first film,” and as we mentioned in our last column, this was the first widely accessible (comparatively speaking of course) film he made in nearly twelve years. It was a return to narrative, a return to characterization, and a return to at least some modicum of coherency; it also kick-started a decade that seems ripe for rediscovery and reassessment. I know you in particular may even prefer this decade to his runs of ‘60s films. Beyond the obvious characteristics and general linearity in relation to what directly preceded them, what is it about these films that make them continue to standout in a late-career catalogue that at times can seem impenetrable to the common viewer?


Calum Marsh: Well, as we discussed a little bit the last time around, I think Godard’s ‘60s films, masterpieces though many of them are, have had their reputations bolstered as a result of their historical value and confirmed status within the larger cultural canon. The films Godard made during the ‘80s, on the other hand, aren’t lucky enough to have history supporting them so vehemently—they thus need to not only stand apart on their own but alsoapart from those ‘60s “classics”. That means they have a lot working against them. But what’s funny is that once you actually pass the invisible hurdle and actually get right into those films—assuming you can find any of them, because apart from three of the weaker films from mid-decade none of these films are available on DVD in North America—you realize just how accessible and wholly enjoyable they are. These films are still quite dense, mind you, and tendto posit mo re sophisticated ideas and arguments than did the films which preceded them, but the general and pervasive idea that Godard totally lost his way after Week End starts to seem a little odd after you watch a film like Every Man For Himself or First Name: Carmen, which are fairly coherent and entertaining.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011
by Jordon Cronk and Calum Marsh
In this introductory entry in a continuing reevaluation of cinema's standard bearers, film fans Jordan Cronk and Calum Marsh dissect mid-period Godard, giving the French experimentalist and agent provocateur a long deserved defense of his post-'60s output.

Jordan Cronk: One of the reasons we wanted to embark on this series—and the reason we lifted the format of Counterbalance wholesale (thanks guys!)—is our mutual belief that the post-1968 work of Jean-Luc Godard is amongst the most vital cinema of the last 40 years or so, despite the general public and mainstream critical community’s near-complete disregard for it. An open dialogue between the two of us certainly isn’t going to change many minds already made up, but in most cases I believe that film fans aren’t even aware that Godard is still as prolific a filmmaker as he is. And, of course, you touched on this recently in your PopMatters essay on late-period Godard, which you aptly described as his “invisible cinema.” I’m curious to hear why you think this mindset has come to be the norm: Is it the simple fact that many of the films are not widely available, or is it - to be completely reductive- the fact that Godard moved from making his most accessible films to his most imposing and outwardly confrontational? I mean, the distance between Breathless and Film Socialisme is all but unmatched in modern cinema.


Calum Marsh: I think there are probably a lot of different factors at play here, and that those factors sort of play off of one another in a way which is depressingly cyclical. So you’re right that your average film fan probably isn’t even aware that Godard is still working, and that that lack of awareness is in large part due to his late-period work’s general unavailability, but then because people are unaware of it you’re never going to see it suddenly available—there’s no demand because there’s no supply and vice versa. I think what we tend to forget as film lovers is that we’re still primarily film consumers, and that our consumption is still an element of business; we’re talking about an industry which requires us to spend money, and if there’s no money to be made there’s unlikely to be product readily available for us to consume. The point being that as far as Godard’s current reputation is concerned, only the stuff that’s readily available on DVD—so essentially only his “first wave” work, spanning Breathless through to Two Or Three Things I Know About Her—is what counts to the people whose opinions form and then reify canons. Maybe the idea is that if it’s totally obscure or unavailable, it’s not worthwhile? That if it were good it would be around and easily watchable?


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