Jean-Luc Godard Essential Blu-Ray Collection Reviewed
“Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world” – Jean-Luc Godard
The British Film Institute’s celebration of the life and works of Jean-Luc Godard is well underway. A filmmaker who knows no boundaries, the French New Wave heavy has set numerous precedents, questioned and even reinvented the conceptions of cinema over the past 55 years, whilst influencing an immeasurable amount of filmmakers across the globe in the process.
Beginning on the 1st of January until the 16th of March the season has already seen such distinguished works as Breathless, Alphaville, Vivre Sa Vie and Le Mépris return to the big screen. If like myself you don’t live in bloody London and won’t be able to catch any of Godard’s masterworks in the cinema (unless you’ve managed/will manage to catch the limited nationwide release of Le Mépris in your local multiplex), Studiocanal are treating us to Godard: The Essential Collection – a collection of five films never brought together in a single package before. After their successful run of Godard films on Blu-ray disc as part of The Studio Canal Collection, it seemed only appropriate to bring them together as one definitive to run alongside the BFI’s three month long retrospective.
Along with a new restoration of Alphaville, a film previously unavailable on Blu-ray in the UK, the set contains an extensive mix of Godard’s oeuvre including À Bout De Souffle, Une Femme Est Une Femme, Le Mépris and Pierrot Le Fou. Spread across five individual discs, the set boasts some of Godard’s career defining work as well as a number of impressive features. An introduction to each movie by film scholar Colin MacCabe gives a clear and concise overview that proves interesting viewing for seasoned cinephiles and newcomers alike.
As for the films, it would seem that it’s not only some of Godard’s masterpieces that have been selected, but Studiocanal have provided us with an example of each of his follies into the archetypal American genre film – the type of cinema Jean-Luc adored. The detective thriller/film noir aspects of Breathless, the musically tragicomedic elements of A Woman is a Woman and the science-fiction narrative of Alphaville all combine to provide us with an overtly eclectic mix of Godard’s back catalogue. Films about films by a filmmaker that knows so much about film, references and inferences in all five films only solidify our judgement of Godard not only as a maverick but also an auteur. His inclusion of Fritz Lang (Metropolis, M, The Big Heat) as the director in Le Mépris, nods to his other nouvelle vague counterparts such as Francois Truffaut and Jacques Rivette and his own personal intertextuality as Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character in Une femme est une femme claims ‘Breathless is on the telly’ are strokes of pure cinematic genius.
Other extras include three feature length documentaries on Godard’s work as well as The Dinosaur and the Baby – a 61-minute conversation between Godard and Fritz Lang following their collaboration on Le Mépris. The extras on all five discs are enough to please any cinephile and God-die-hard fan making this an essential piece of kit for any fans of European art cinema. The set also joins a number of nouvelle vague box sets available in the UK right now. With the recently released Jacques Rivette Collection from Arrow Video and Artificial Eye’s Francois Truffaut Collection, it’s never been easier to experience one of the most important eras in cinema history. Try and catch Le Mépris in cinemas whilst it’s still running, try and get down to BFI Southbank for the rest of the retrospective and after all that, grab yourself Godard: The Essential Collection and become lost in the world of the Marxist poet himself.