Discover ten essential films to understand Jean-Luc Godard

SÃO PAULO, SP (FOLHAPRESS) – Jean-Luc Godard, who died this Tuesday (13), at the age of 91, left a monumental work and established his name as an unavoidable author in the history of cinema.

Sharing with François Truffaut the position of greatest icons of the nouvelle vague, the French-Swiss director made films that, although often hermetic, served as an influence for all subsequent generations of directors. The new Hollywood, for example, which emerged in the 1960s, owes a lot to him. As well as Brazilian filmmakers like Glauber Rocha and Rogério Sganzerla.

Discover ten essential films below to understand Godard’s work.


The film’s premiere, in 1960, caused a stir and provoked a revolution in cinema with its story of a thief, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, who teams up with a student, played by Jean Seberg, and arranges an escape from the authorities. One of his main innovations was the use of the “jump cut”, a montage technique that cuts the same shot, to create the impression that there was a brief jump in time in the film.

‘Live life’

Anna Karina, one of the filmmaker’s main muses, plays a Parisian girl who falls into prostitution through a story told in the form of episodes. A notable fact about this film is that the script fit on a single page of paper, and that the actors improvised in the scenes, something that has become one of the filmmaker’s main hallmarks.

‘The Contempt’

Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli are a couple involved with cinema in one of the French-Swiss director’s many metalinguistic incursions. For this film, which premiered in 1963, Godard relied on a fatter budget than he was used to, but that didn’t stop him from saying he hated the result. A detail: the scene of the argument between the main characters lasts 34 minutes.

‘Band Apart’

Another story of delinquency brushed with multiple cinematographic references. A pair of students take a liking to a charming classmate—Anna Karina, who else?—and together the three of them plot a heist. From him comes the famous sequence in which the actors run through the halls of the Louvre, trying to visit the museum in a hurry, which would later be honored by the trio Louis Garrel, Eva Green and Michael Pitt in “The Dreamers”, by Bernardo Bertolucci.

‘The Eleven O’Clock Demon’

In 1965, increasingly critical of consumer society, Godard cast Belmondo and Anna Karina to play a couple fleeing bourgeois Paris to try life under the Mediterranean sun — she, in the role of a militant assassin. The director would say that this “is not exactly a movie”, but that “it is life filling the screen, like a faucet fills a bathtub at the same time that it empties”.


Godard imagines the future, in 1965, in this story in which an American private detective has to travel to a city ruled by a despot who has banned freedom of expression – the cinematographic anecdotes show that the filmmaker even considered giving up the role of the tyrant to the semiologist and philosopher Roland Barthes.

‘French Week-End’

After targeting the consumer society, why not shoot darts at the car craze? In 1967, long before Cronenberg, with his “Crash: Strange Pleasures”, Godard already imagined his own motorized dystopia, in a plot that revolves around traffic of colossal proportions on the road and that descends into total chaos.

‘The Chinese’

May 1968 provoked a radicalization in Godard’s thinking, who flirted with the ideas of Mao Tse-Tung, and this feature, released that year, is already an example of how the director became increasingly experimental — even hermetic. Anne Wiazemsky, the filmmaker’s wife at the time, and Jean-Pierre Léaud, Truffaut’s favorite actor, play the role of students who delve into Maoism.

‘I salute you, Mary’

Even after the end of the dictatorship, in 1985, Godard was censored in Brazil. The reason was the plot of this film, which retells the story of the Virgin Mary, but in Paris in the 1980s, and that bothered Catholics. José Sarney himself, who was president of the Republic at the time, signed the veto – it is worth mentioning that the current Constitution, which prohibits prior censorship, would only be enacted three years later.

‘Image and Word’

Godard’s last film, this documentary released in 2018, is a great example of the filmmaker’s production in his later years — more than a linear story, it takes on the air of a semiotics class by studying topics such as Nazi iconography, scenes from Hollywood films and canvases by Cezanne. It marked the filmmaker’s last appearance in Cannes, where he was awarded for his artistic contribution by the jury chaired by Cate Blanchett.

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