Just when you think you’ve seen everything Jean-Luc Godard has ever shot, something like this surfaces. If you’re only now considering tucking into the feast that is Godard’s filmography, don’t let his abundance of uncollected odds, ends, clips, and shorts intimidate you. Not only do they promise a little thrill down the road when you’ve already digested his major works, but they offer quick bursts at any time of the revolutionary cinematic zest with which the filmmaker took on the world. With the man alive and working, I should perhaps say “the revolutionary cinematic zest with which the filmmaker takes on the world,” but that gets into one of the most fascinating conversations that swirls around him: has Godard still got it?
Some say yes, that his latest picture Film Socialisme presents the logical continuation of all Godard has ever represented; some say no, that the Godard to watch remains the scrappy star of the 1960s’ French New Wave. In his study Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, New Yorker film blogger Richard Brody somehow makes both claims.
In the chapter “Revolution (1968-1972)” he describes Godard’s improvised method of shooting a 1968 Jefferson Airplane concert:
He took over from the specialists and operated the camera from the window of Leacock-Pennebaker‘s office on West Forty-fifth street, shooting the band on the roof of the Schuyler Hotel across the street. (Pennebaker recalled him to be an amateurish cameraman who could not avoid the beginner’s pitfall of frequent zooming in and out.) The performance took place without a permit, at standard rock volume: as singer Grace Slick later wrote, “We did it, deciding that the cost of getting out of jail would be less than hiring a publicist…”
Amateurish or not, a piece of the footage has surfaced on YouTube. Listen to the Airplane perform “The House at Pooneil Corners,” watch Godard’s dramatic swings of focus and zoom as he attempts to convey the spectacle of the band and the spectacle of countless surprised Manhattanites at once, and think for yourself about this peculiar intersection of two bold lines in the era’s alternative zeitgeist. As Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner said in a 1986 interview, “Just for a while there, maybe for about 25 minutes in 1967, everything was perfect.” But these seven minutes in November 1968, from opening shouts to inevitable arrest, don’t seem so dull themselves.
If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.
If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!
Listen to Grace Slick’s Hair-Raising Vocals in the Isolated Track for “White Rabbit” (1967)
A Young Jean-Luc Godard Picks the 10 BestAmerican Films Ever Made (1963)
How Jean-Luc Godard Liberated Cinema: A Video Essay on How the Greatest Rule-Breaker in Film Made His Name
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.
The whole film ( One PM) that the clip is from is also on Youtube.
Part 1: http://youtu.be/Mtsep1p9inA
Part 2: http://youtu.be/z_WQaVaKv-U
Part 3: http://youtu.be/iiPrnziwcQI
And where are today’s youth? Did they just curl up inside their cages and escape from freedom?
I was there! On the roof! Lived in the Chelsea! What a morning!!!!!!!!!!
This has been available on DVD for a long time:
j.c., i am so envious!
i was only 6 at the time. watching it now, would have loved to be 18, there, on the roof , with you!
if only for a moment…
The casual audience is of course the focus here, with the band just providing the soundtrack
Iguanaseeyou, i agree, unfortunately
The sound is bad, not the Airplane. In fact it wasn’t the Airplane, it was beauty that killed the beast!
The world is full of surprises! So that is where The Beatles got the idea from! Wow.
This “has surfaced on youtube”? It “surfaced” in the documentary “Fly Jefferson Airplane” (available through Netflix) ten years ago…
Is that Jim Morrison and Pam in 1:46? :)
The Airplane were all about trying to evolve us to a better place, maybe naively so. House at Pooneil is an angry piece of music from a thoroughly unsettled time, the idea was to wake everyone up – in this case literally AND figuratively. I would have killed to be there and I wish this kind of passion still existed.
Lucky you, do you think this was before Beatles at roof with Let it be, Dont let me down?
Fantastic. FEEDS YOUR HEAD now more than ever when a big deal is to keep ATM fees at just $2 max… Really now that’s all we got to match up with the Airplane??
Caught them up at SUNY New Paltz and unforgetable.
Loved that pair looking up from their window right below (famous or not). They looked like could star in a Godard.
You just gotta love NYC. Grace is so gorgeous. Jack over the top as ever. And as to Godard? Where would the world of art be without the occasional loose cannon on the deck?
Ricky Leacock and D A Pennebaker (my father) made that performance happen. Godard had pretty much signed off on the film by then. He wanted to go home. See our website for more info on it at phfilms.com
At 16 in NYC a west village tennibopper as they
Called us we were at almost every show, the free ones in the park, the Fillmore gigs, Woodstock, Atlantic
City. Often pared with the Dead, jagger in Altmont, referred to them as the Grateful Airplane.. We laughed at thier jealously. The west Coast gave us a playful funk and the pranksters, while Millbrook meditated, Frisco Froliced !
With the RCA Building in the background….
Fascinating clip, overrated director, underrated band. Can Grace Slick REALLY be 75?
Man, that is one fantastic reminder. That band really sucked.
Home on leave after basic, shined on.
Gawd. They suck. And I used to like those guys!
Do you appear in the video?
My question is addressed to JC Robinson.
Just, let it be.
That version has a messed up left audio channel—
This version is mixed better; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAJJE5Wo_OY&list=RDXYr5D4lqC0w
Nope, just some random hipsters :-)
(response to Magda regarding Pam & Jim)
Im shocked that no one has mentioned it yet –
was this before the “Let it be” Beatles film or after ?
the roof concert scene is practically the same… who stole from who????
No Magda! I don’t know who the woman is but the man is my late father, actor Rip Torn, who is seen getting arrested at the end of the clip. Interestingly, Jim Morrison was a friend of my father’s and wanted to direct him in a film, but alas it never happened.
Could this roof concert has been the inspiration for the Beatles’GET BACK roof concert in 1969??
That is actor Rip Torn and Pamela. OK, it’s not Pamela, not sure who the chickyschnoodle is. Torn was arrested later for pushing a policeman while insisting they let the band play. He was a friend of the band and was involved in what was being filmed, which was a project from director Jean-Luc Godard and documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (Don’t Look Back, Monterey Pop) that aired in 1971 as “1 P.M.”, which was when the short happening on the rooftop occurred.
Does anybody who guy in the window right at the beginning is? He waves his arms in irritation and the camera moves onto happier folks.