Skip’s Quips: Cinema of the Irritating

Blog Sketch 082813A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (well, Manhattan), I was told by an otherwise rational budding critic that Jean-Luc Godard was the real French New Wave director–not François Truffaut.

In the words of Michael Caine’s character Peachy Carnehan in The Man Who Would Be King: “Pardon me while I fall down laughing.”

Yes, this was told to me in all seriousness, with the utmost authority. I guess if you make movies that are too enjoyable, it’s trendy to discount them in favor of more “experimental” cinema.

Frankly, I like to be entertained. And in general, Truffaut’s body of work is light-years more entertaining than Godard’s–Breathless aside.

You’re right: The critic’s point was that Godard was more of a New Wave exponent than Truffaut … not necessarily a better filmmaker (although I think that was implied). Yet I’ll have to disagree with this, too. Truffaut’s edgy cuts, intimate camera, and use of tricks ranging from irises to freeze-frames invigorated the cinema, bringing it close to an accessible, pertinent ideal. That his films are greater, in general, than Godard’s is just gravy. It’s François I think of when I think of La Nouvelle Vague, not Jean-Luc.

Do I consider Breathless a hallmark of world cinema? Of course. But I consider it a Truffaut film, anyway. Sans François, Godard’s films aren’t as good–and often veer on the irritating.

To be a “real” artist in any medium, one must excel in the field. That’s why I also prefer Alban Berg’s compositions to Arnold Schoenberg’s–despite the latter’s involvement in the development of 12-tone music. And I like Picasso’s art more than Braque’s, though they both had a hand in Cubism. The greater creator is the real one, the one whose works you’d rather absorb.

At least, that’s my reality. Is it everyone’s?

Ha. In my dreams.

3 thoughts on “Skip’s Quips: Cinema of the Irritating

  1. I see what you’re saying here. Still, I think it’s important to consider the cultural ramifications of their respective oeuvres. Think, for example, about Godard’s status an avant-garde filmmaker. Did his contributions lend to the core of the New Wave movement? Were his contributions more significant? I’m not sure of the answer, but they are questions worth considering. I also think it’s hard to point to just one person as the sort of forerunner of a particular movement; I know that for early film noir, for example, picking just one quintessential movie or director is nigh impossible.

    • You make some very good points. I do agree that one must consider a variety of factors when making assessments about genres, and I will admit that a number of filmmakers contributed to the shaping of the New Wave–including Godard, as well as directors such as Louis Malle. I don’t think Godard’s influence, however, was as strong as Truffaut’s on the category … mostly because I feel his body of work is inferior, less accessible and generally less well known. Yes, he was more avant-garde, but I think that has had an alienating effect. This sounds like a simplistic point, but I believe great directors embrace their audiences–not the other way around. And in doing so, they spark inspiration and broaden their influence. Your comment is very insightful, though, and I feel it adds a new perspective to this discussion. Thank you.

      • Any time! I absolutely see what you’re saying. Perhaps Godard’s contribution can be better seen as a behind-the-scenes boundary-pushing. Compare this to video games, for example. Peter Molyneux is notable for promising the world to gamers, and almost always failing to deliver on most of his promises due to technological limitations (and produces relatively inferior products as a result). Still, his ambition pushes the industry forward to imagine what they may one day be able to create.

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