Jean-Luc Godard & Cinema as a Language

(A reflection I did for my Contemporary Film Theory class)

Jean-Luc Godard’s films are an aggressive example or case study to the debate on whether cinema is a language or language system. Godard intentionally challenged that basic formula that Metz talked about which “consists in making a large continuous unit that tells a story and calling it a ‘movie’.” He worked against the idea of the spectator retaining only the plot of a film and a “few images.” He questioned, like Metz, the idea “that two juxtaposed photographs must tell something.” There is evidence of his experimenting on the abilities or the language of film. Ana Karina in Une Femme est Une Femme flipping the egg with the pan and it never landing back on the pan is evidence to that. His long tracking shots in Weekend, his changing filter colours in Pierrot le Fou, or even his characters describing to the camera what they have done or what they are wearing in Made in USA.


Metz said that film should say things without “feeling obliged to manipulate image ‘like words,’ arranging them according to the rules of a pseudo-syntax whose necessity seemed less and less evident to the mature minds of” the new wave. Godard is one of those filmmakers where we see a matured cinema relative to Eisenstein. Although, his films still had meaning and he used them to express his thoughts on consumerism among other things, he did not follow Kuleshov’s ideas, in fact went against them. It is a way of realizing the importance of the content in a film in relation to the organization of the content in the film (editing). Ana Karina mentioning American movies multiple times and the movie posters on the walls signify a message whether it is an icon, index, or symbol, it is still meaningful and a form of expression and therefore an untranslatable language and therefore an art.



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