The publication this month of six books devoted to the two emblematic filmmakers of the New Wave gives proof (if need be) of all the power of fascination that they continue to exercise, and above all, of the inexhaustible power of their works.
A few months after the death of Jean-Luc Godard, on September 13, and nearly forty years after that of François Truffaut, the two key figures of the New Wave continue to exercise their power of fascination and influence, as in witness the publication this month of six books devoted to them. A comic strip, a correspondence book, an encyclopaedia, a biography, a novel and a special issue of a film magazine which imprints a little on all these forms: each object is an opportunity to approach one of these two filmmakers from a very specific angle (historical, analytical, artistic). The best of them avoid the pitfall of dusty hagiography, which would willingly put these two names on a shelf in the history of cinema, but rather prefer to question these works in the present, enter into dialogue with them to prolong them and continue their questions.
GodardAntoine De Baecque, Grasset
Thirteen years after its original edition, here is the definitive edition of the biography of the “master of Rolle”, embellished with its final chapter entitled “Au Contraire” covering the period from 2010-2022. The opportunity for the historian specializing in the New Wave (who has already published the biographies of Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol and soon Rivette) to retrace the last years of the filmmaker, always marked by the artistic and political bubbling of the filmmaker. Take for proof the inventiveness of the “Godard-machine” of 2014, which seizes 3D like no other for Farewell to Language ; in a form of “do-it-yourself-poaching-smuggling” that refutes all the dominant and established use of 3D, JLG offers a technological and artisanal diversion of dazzling beauty. The chapter continues by discussing the manufacture of Picture Bookas well as its presentation at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, marked by its already legendary press conference in the form of happening funny and critical. But the most moving thing is undoubtedly the way in which a small friendly, intellectual and artistic group has united around the filmmaker, made up of Fabrice Aragno, Jean-Paul Battagia, Nicole Brenez, Mitra Farahani and Mathilde Incerti. Anne-Marie Miéville calls them the “Au Contraire” group, as if despite his status as an author and a genius, Godard still needed contradiction and dialectic to deploy the full extent of his critical thinking and his art. Finally, the ultimate statement Godardien comes to close these 800 pages of biography. His assisted suicide on September 13 appears to be his last statement, which concludes a lifetime of commitments in touch with the contemporary world.
Special issue n°1, “François Truffaut”, Cinema Notebooks
This first special edition of the team of Cinema Notebooks directed by Marcos Uzal shines with its heterogeneity and its plurality of approaches which paints a composite and nuanced portrait of François Truffaut. The quality of the issue owes a great deal to the richness of the archives available to the Cinema Notebooksbeginning with the critic’s own texts Notebooks yellow republished for the occasion, which make it possible to (re)discover the sharp and assured tone of the young Turk of the New Wave and to examine the critical fortune of his ideas. To these texts are added many articles and interviews published in the past (notably in the special issue “Le roman de François Truffaut” of 1984), such as the testimonies of Catherine Deneuve or Gérard Depardieu, who evoke their collaborations with the filmmaker, or an interview that has become legendary, in which several generations of Notebooks confronted each other (Truffaut, Daney, Jean Narboni and Serge Toubiana). This generational mixing is fully part of the pleasure of reading, since the names mentioned above are joined by the pens of Jean-Louis Comolli (who died last year), as well as that of Thierry Jousse (director of Notebooks from 1991 to 1996), who returned to service alongside the current team. In addition to these critical texts, several contemporary filmmakers were invited to discuss their relationship with François Truffaut’s cinema: Rebecca Zlotowski delivers a moving testimony and questions his work from the angle of feminism, while Arnaud Desplechin develops a reading of The Mississippi Mermaid, which he describes as “Truffaut’s most Godardian film”. This very broad panorama, which combines historical documents, testimonies and critical analyses, invites us to update our view, as if to make Truffaut our contemporary.
Jean-Luc Godard, an encyclopediaYoussef Ishaghpour, Exiles
Jean-Luc Godard, an encyclopedia first constitutes an invitation. By individually analyzing 29 major JLG films, Youssef Ishaghpour invites us to get rid of the legendary aura of the artist to return to the essential: his films. The work consists less of a sum-analysis that would deliver the “truth” of a monstrous work, than of a particularly enlightened companion, with whom to enter into dialogue to pursue each review of the films mentioned. The encyclopedic form thus allows the author to protect himself against a major pitfall for anyone who tries to analyze the work of Rolle’s master: that of developing an overly general and reductive vision by considering Godard’s work in a unified corpus. – radical misinterpretation to apprehend a work precisely characterized by its dialectical movement and the dynamics of its thought. Each film is considered as a singular body, responding to its own logic and its own system of rhymes: the precision of the analysis then makes it possible to unfold all the thought that covers a connection, a visual and rhythmic discovery or a quotation. On this last point, Ishaghpour’s analyzes prove to be particularly valuable, as Godard’s citational art is vast and dizzying, even intimidating. Ishaghpour’s erudite explanations enrich our view and help us to understand these works by connecting them to the history of art in general and that of cinema in particular. This is the most important contribution of the approach: to invite everyone to start a new dialogue with the films, to extend their formal and philosophical power again and again.
My little Truffle, my big Scottie. Correspondence, 1960-1965edited by Serge Toubiana, Denoël
Helen Scott was François Truffaut’s “American friend” (title of Serge Toubiana’s biography); an American press officer who will contribute to the discovery of his cinema in the United States, who will embody the voice of François Truffaut, in particular when she acts as his interpreter during his interviews with Hitchcock. From this half-friendly, half-professional collaboration, stem these 500 pages of correspondence, addressing both the production of films and their receptions and the artistic anxieties of the filmmaker. Reading these letters ends up giving the impression of reading a work by Truffaut in its own right. Not only because epistolary correspondence is one of the emblems of his cinema (and Arnaud Desplechin will remember it), but even more so, because the letters gradually draw an asymmetrical amorous passion, which is not without recall The Story of Adele H. Three letters out of four are written by Helen S.: both frank and funny, she expresses all her admiration for the young Turk of the New Wave (in this respect, the appeal formulas are particularly earthy, going from “my dear François” to “my little Truffle”, “François, my genius, my treasure” or “my darling Truffle”). In the time interval that separates the letters, a communicational dramaturgy of another time is invented, where the correspondents anticipate and interpret the prolonged silences, thus creating a form of epistolary romance that makes reading particularly pleasant. In addition to this pleasure of reading, this correspondence constitutes a major historical document on the reception of New Wave films in the United States, where Hiroshima, my love seems far too intellectual and where The Sign of Leo drastically divided. Finally, a whole retrospective pleasure emerges from these pages, in which Rozier and Demy are still “promising” filmmakers and where we are waiting to know if Breathless will be selected at Cannes.
I would have liked to see GodardPhilippe Dupuy, Futuropolis
As the past conditional of the title suggests, I always wanted to see Godard evokes an event that never happened: Philippe Dupuy’s meeting with the filmmaker. By making Godard a comic book character, Dupuy is not limiting himself to aping his character traits, but rather performing a film-loving act which would consist in maintaining an imaginary dialogue with a revered filmmaker. By building bridges between the arts, this comic book-essay (like there would be JLG’s film-essays) is akin to a Godardian exercise par excellence: questioning the figurative and plastic power specific to its artistic medium. Instead of false connections, camera gazes or unframing, we find a series of reflexive signs that refer to the materiality of comics (marks of erasers and Tipex, damaged paper, collages). More than an imaginary exchange of words, it is a properly artistic dialogue, through a formal audacity that feeds and prolongs certain Godardian motifs (the art of formula and witticism, formal breaks, the work graphics and typography, etc.). The reader’s thought is always solicited, especially when abstract plates come to break with the story, like so many formal and intellectual projections that evoke JLG’s unstructured editing. Anything but a legend of the past to be revered, Godard appears as an inexhaustible source of inspiration, whose power of work deserves to be again and again questioned and brought up to date – hard to imagine a finer tribute.
New Wave, novelby Patrick Roegiers, Grasset
During the reading of New Wave, novel, a question keeps coming back to our minds: but who are these Godards, Rivettes, Rohmers, Chabrols, Resnais and Vardas who populate this book? Of course, these names, we know them well. Through their films, their writings and all their public interventions, these filmmakers have never ceased to express their individuality, their relationship to the world and to art, even their intimacy. Hence the incredible feeling of closeness felt by any cinephile who has one day recognized himself in their work (it was enough for Serge Daney to read the article “De l’abjection” by Rivette to say to himself: “Still, I had found my family, I who had so few.”). As such, Patrick Roegiers’ book seems far from this artistic, emotional, even existential proximity; the descriptions completely stumble on the singularity of these artists, preferring to reduce them to already hackneyed caricatural traits. The method is (too) simple: the films are described in long disembodied descriptions, which serve above all to multiply the biographical paragraphs on each actor appearing on the screen. Instead of filling in the inconsistency of the characters, this informational bulimia ends up above all by equalizing and homogenizing them, as if to freeze them in a photograph of “the great family of French cinema”. A fantasized view of the mind that ends up committing aberrant approximations: why insist on the cinema of Claude Sautet or the Resnais of the 2000s, when Jacques Rozier is not even mentioned? Even if it means overflowing with the strict New Wave, why not talk about Jean Eustache, Philippe Garrel, Paul Vecchiali, even Guy Gilles, instead of devoting a whole chapter to Boy ! (1983) by Claude Sautet? One thing is certain, this New Wave is not ours.