Monday, June 2, 2008

That Was Then, This is Now

Among the vast majority of film connoisseurs, buffs, fanatics, and cinema nitcrits the burst of outright enervated originality and pure artistic verve the first films (from 1960-67) of Jean-Luc Godard displayed are seared in the collective memory banks. At the time Godard seemed to be virtually reinventing the art of moviemaking, and his films swirled with passionate inventiveness, all of them celebrating the very blueprints of the movies yet simultaneously twisting them inside and out. His 1963 opus, Contempt (Criterion, $39.99, 103 minutes) , was a brilliant splash of Cinemascope on the big screens of the time, yet it still looks wondrous and feels powerful as a viewed-DVD today. A meditation on creativity and betrayal, it’s playful breeziness belies a truly moving underbelly, Godard’s imagery is both pop dazzle and restorative painting, his prolonged set pieces are truly hypnotic, and the casting simply exquisite; a luminous Bridgette Bardot, a piquant Michel Piccoli, a thundering Jack Palance, and a wise and battered (by Hollywood)Fritz Lang. Today’s audience can garner a bit of the same experience by watching a Tarantino concoction, both filmmakers share an adulation for cinema, both boldly steal and quote from the films they admire, and both manage to simultaneously craft a narrative and a self-reflexive commentary; the difference being that the Godard works are also steeped in art, politics, and, dare I say it, visual poetry.

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