Rarely Seen, Very Early Godard Film Surfaces on YouTube

Jean-Luc Godard, that liv­ing embod­i­ment of the nou­velle vague who did so much to tear down and rebuild the rela­tion­ship between cin­e­ma and its view­ers, has kept push­ing the bound­aries of his art form well into his eight­ies. But even he had to start some­where, and up until very recent­ly indeed, Godard enthu­si­asts looked to his first film Opéra­tion béton, a short 1955 doc­u­men­tary on the con­struc­tion of a Swiss dam that we fea­tured a few years ago, as the start­ing point of his career as a film­mak­er. But most of them sure­ly had more inter­est in Un Femme coquette, Godard­’s sec­ond and no doubt more for­ma­tive first fic­tion film, a nine-minute adap­ta­tion of a Mau­pas­sant sto­ry hard­ly ever seen until just last week.

Une Femme coquette is the most elu­sive rar­i­ty of the French New Wave, and pos­si­bly the most dif­fi­cult-to-see film by a name film­mak­er that isn’t believed to be irre­triev­ably lost,” wrote A.V. Club crit­ic Ignatiy Vish­n­evet­sky in a 2014 piece on his search for it. And so, for decades, near­ly every­one who want­ed to see Un Femme coquette had to make do with mere descrip­tions. In his Godard biog­ra­phy Every­thing Is Cin­e­maNew York­er crit­ic Richard Brody high­lights not only how the film­mak­er, in adapt­ing this “tale about a woman who, see­ing a pros­ti­tute beck­on to pass­ing men, decides to try the ges­ture her­self [ … ] turns the neces­si­ty of film­ing cheap­ly and rapid­ly, with­out movie lights, into an aes­thet­ic virtue,” but also how this “film about watch­ing, about try­ing to live with what one has watched, and about the inher­ent dan­gers of doing so” evokes “the per­ilous path [Godard] was tak­ing as he sought to enter the cin­e­ma and antic­i­pates the moral dan­gers that await­ed him there.”

The sud­den appear­ance of Un Femme coquette on “the dig­i­tal back chan­nels fre­quent­ed by obscure movie enthu­si­asts,” as Vish­n­evet­sky puts it, and com­plete with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles at that, would thrill even a casu­al Godard fan. As for the Breath­lessAlphav­ille, and Week­end direc­tor’s die-hard exegetes, one can only imag­ine the feel­ings they, or at least the ones who’ve yet brought them­selves to cast eyes upon this sacred text, have expe­ri­enced while watch­ing it. No mat­ter our lev­el of famil­iar­i­ty with Godard and his work, we can all feel the charge cin­e­ma his­to­ry has giv­en his shoe­string-bud­get­ed and at times rough-look­ing black-and-white short. But who, watch­ing it at one of its sparse ear­ly screen­ings, could have imag­ined what an aes­thet­ic rev­o­lu­tion­ary its direc­tor, screen­writer, and one-man crew would short­ly become — who, that is, besides Jean-Luc Godard?

via AV Club

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Intro­duc­tion to Jean-Luc Godard’s Inno­v­a­tive Film­mak­ing Through Five Video Essays

Jean-Luc Godard Takes Cannes’ Rejec­tion of Breath­less in Stride in 1960 Inter­view

The Entire­ty of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breath­less Art­ful­ly Com­pressed Into a 3 Minute Film

Jean-Luc Godard’s Debut, Opéra­tion béton (1955) — a Con­struc­tion Doc­u­men­tary

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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