Jean-Luc Godard is a name I’ve been familiar with for a while and from a very young age. I first discovered Godard because of Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino was in an interview discussing movies and whatnot and mentioned he named his company after a French film called Band Of Outsiders. I immediately tracked it down because I was a nerd and Tarantino is a favorite of mine; he has introduced me to so many films that I cherish to this day.
After watching Band Of Outsiders, I did my best to try to track down other Godard films. Contempt, Alphaville, Breathless, and other films have really impacted me. Recently The Criterion Collection reissued his 1980 film, Every Man For Himself. My familiarity with Godard is through his films from the ‘60s and ‘70s so anything past that is new to me, but I was happy to dive into a Godard that was a little alien.
Godard is an influential filmmaker and has grown as a director on each of his projects. To be honest, he is so diverse in many ways it’s difficult for me to describe a Godard film. Aside from the characterization in his screenplays he doesn’t have a definable “thing” and I think that makes him timeless. With a lot of filmmakers you can see traits of cinematography throughout their work, which makes their films recognizable, but not with Godard. He’s different. I haven’t seen all of Godard’s filmography but I can tell you that of the many I have seen I can’t identify a style. Unless that style is perfection, of course.
You may want to start talking about Every Man For Himself, eh?
While watching Every Man For Himself I was confused, uncomfortable, distraught, and just plain weirded out. Godard pushed the limits from a moral standpoint and a filmmaking one as well. There are many scenes of “slow-motion” that are jarring and uneven and it’s hard to explain; it feels if the movie is skipping but the slow motion is very sporadic and used at unusual times. It was something I’ve never seen before from Godard but that also goes to show you that he doesn’t have a style or “thing.” It’s like you’re in for a surprise each time you go into his territory.
I mentioned I was uncomfortable and that was because of some of the dialogue. There are a couple of scenes in which some older men fantasize about having sex with young girls. Yeah, this was weird and there were definitely some odd sequences in the film that left me sweaty and gross. Aside from the pedos hanging about, the film is highly sexualized and feels like some inner fantasies were inserted by Godard himself. I’m not calling him a pedophile by any means; those were claims by the characters because they are sexually repressed. There are a couple of sequences that seem like a fantasy Godard worked out on camera but that’s all speculation for me. At one point during the climax it turns into a Tinto Brass film because it’s sexy, funny, and absurd, but it works.
Of course Criterion put together a great package like always; you know what you’re getting with their releases. The transfer is flawless and the disc is stacked with special features. There is actually a fascinating Godard-directed short film on this disc that he used to secure financing for Every Man For Himself. It’s little things like this that make Criterion so cool; they work their hardest to bring everything they can to the table for each and every release and always make sure you get your money’s worth.
Every Man For Himself may not be Godard’s best but it’s one that’s memorable because of the direction he goes in. I’m almost tempted to say it’s out of character for him to make a film this dirty and sleazy but then again, he doesn’t have a style and he’s always surprising us. Godard 4 Lyfe.
Every Man For Himself was released by Criterion on February 3.