If I were faced with the choice of sitting down to watch a Michael Bay marathon or a single Jean-Luc Godard movie, I would take the marathon in a second. At least some of Bay's films could potentially be enjoyably bad and not just painful. If you've been following my blog, you should know that Jean-Luc Godard has become something of an arch-nemesis of mine. Worse still is that try as I might I can never seem to escape his wrath.
I have been forced to watch his films in three different film classes (in one case at a completely different institution than the other two)... in a row. I'm just hoping that I don't have to face him again this year, but if I do, you can bet I'm going to be back here to tell you just how awful they were. Each film of his I get forced to watch seems to only hate him even more. At this point, I'm pretty certain there is no way this man is ever going to win me over.
The guy may have made an impact on cinema, but you know who else did? Ed Wood. That doesn't make Plan 9 From Outer Space any closer to being a masterpiece. Even a terrible director can leave their mark on cinema, and that's what we have here. Jean-Luc Godard is nothing but a talentless, senseless, insane and incompetent director who never seems to have a clue what he is doing.
Look at Breathless for example, and one of the most famous things about it. Really? Your movie was too long so you just cut out random chunks and hoped you didn't accidentally cut out a crucial moment in your story? What happened to going through your rough cut and finding scenes that could be trimmed or which interfere with the pacing? Really, all the jump cuts do is make the movie way too jarring.
On top of that, when you get down to it, the main character in Breathless is kinda an idiot and I'm not sure Godard understood how the justice system is supposed to work. I mean, this guy shoots a police officer after multiple accounts of vehicle theft (so already a serious crime with an even more serious one top off of that) and decides rather than getting out of town while he has the chance, he's going to waste time trying to talk his American girlfriend into going with him. Couldn't he just get out of town and then call her on a payphone?
Also, there is the famous final scene, where the main character is shot and delivers a dying speech about the injustices of the world... except that what happened was perfectly just. This character, Michel, had already shot and killed one cop, so the police knew he was dangerous. He also happened to be holding a loaded gun and was marching toward the police. Said officers told him to put down the gun he was holding, and he didn't so they shot him.
Last I checked, that's standard police protocol in most places. The cops aren't normally supposed to use their guns, but if the subject is holding a dangerous weapon they are automatically considered a threat. Holding a gun of any sort in front of an officer gets you labelled as a danger, and if you don't put the gun down when they ask you to they have the right to open fire. Michel could have easily gotten out of his mess (especially since he didn't even want the gun in the first place) if he had just put the gun down when he was asked to. Then he could have done some jail time and then gotten back out on the streets, but he didn't, and now he is dead because of his stupidity.
So obviously Godard doesn't understand how authority works or how to convey messages of injustice, as is also evidenced by his later movie Tout Va Bien. Supposedly it is supposed to be conveying some sort of message about the political situation in France at the time and how it affected the people. Unfortunately that message is lost when the movie makes absolutely zero sense whatsoever. It keeps jumping back and forth seemingly at random, between scenes and segments that have nothing to do with each other.
Things happen for no apparent reason and several unrelated plot threads are forced together. What does the voice-over involving the two people wanting to make a movie have to do with Jane Fonda's character? Nothing. Scenes drag on far too long, and the whole thing is just one big incoherent mess. Now what else can be botched up? Oh, right, how could I forget Jean-Luc Godard's awful attempt to create a dystopian science fiction movie in Alphaville.
Again, really? The best you could do to make anything seem futuristic was throw around random astronomical terms. You can't just throw the word "galaxy" into a story and instantly have a genius work of science fiction. That's not how it works. As if that wasn't bad enough Godard's use of those words only shows that he has no idea what they mean (among other things he thinks light years are a unit of time, when in fact there is no logical way that could be possible). That's not even getting into the incoherent mess of a plot. It is quite possibly the laziest science fiction movie ever made, and that's saying a lot.
I don't see what people get out of Godard. He is not a good director, he doesn't even deserve to be ranked among the best directors. His movies make no sense and have baffling logic at best. In some cases he doesn't even put in the effort to get some idea of what the heck he is talking about (unlike say... Stanley Kubrick) and it shows vividly. His messages are lost in the confusing structures of his movies and many of them come off as rather pointless when examined closely.
I'm not even alone in feeling this way. One of Godard's own contemporaries, Ingmar Bergman had this to say on his work: “I’ve never been able to appreciate any of his films, nor even understand them… I find his films affected, intellectual, self-obsessed and, as cinema, without interest and frankly dull… I’ve always thought that he made films for critics.” I will confess that I have not seen much of Bergman, but as they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I am far more inclined to seek out any of Bergman's work than to willingly sit through another film directed by Jean-Luc Godard.