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.