Celebrate Godard’s Best Films on Criterion

·4-min read

Jean Luc-Godard, who died Tuesday at the age of 91, was widely known as the King of the French New Wave. Since coming onto the scene in the 1960s, his seminal films such as “Breathless,” “Masculin, Feminin” and “Pierrot Le Fou,” introduced avante-garde techniques that have been since been replicated by innumerable filmmakers in the following decades.

In addition to a scathing intellectualism and stubborn stance against “the establishment” (ironically, including Hollywood itself), the Franco-Swiss director was best known for changing the rules of cinema — his use of long-takes, jump-cuts and actor asides are just a few of the innovative practices he employed in his films that are still used to this day.

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Thankfully, Godard left behind dozens of unforgettable films, many of which have been restored on Criterion. Below, check out some of Godard’s best films to celebrate the late director:

‘Pierrot le fou’

Godard perfects the Pop Art color art scheme in his seminal 1965 film “Pierre Le Fou,” which follows two lovers on the run in the French countryside, played by Godard’s longtime collaborator Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo. But the film is far from your typical romance, featuring a zig-zag tale of what Godard calls the “last romantic couple,” featuring a stylish mashup of comic-book illustrations and stunning landscapes courtesy of cinematographer Raoul Coutard.

Special Features: The new 2k edition includes an interview with Karina and a 2007 video essay about the film written and directed by Godard.

Buy Now: $22.49 $29.95 $22.99

‘Contempt’

“Contempt” is widely considered Godard’s formal entry into Hollywood, although the French New Wave director still managed to thumb his nose at the industry’s commercial excess through his subversive techniques. The story follows a respected screenwriter played by Michel Piccoli, hired to doctor a new a script of “The Odyssey.” But things go awry when his wife (played by Brigitte Bardot) becomes paranoid that he’s using her to advance his career.

Buy Now: $64.99 $71.45

‘Every Man For Himself’

“Every Man for Himself” is one of Godard’s most daring and experimental films, featuring a slow-down “decomposition” technique while examining the lives of three separate, but intertwined characters: a TV screenwriter (Jacque Dutronc), his ex (Nathalie Baye) and a sex worker (Isabelle Huppert). Made twenty years into his career, the film is noted as Godard’s “second debut” as a filmmaker after a decade of avante-garde moviemaking.

Special Features: The Blu-ray special edition includes a short video created by Godard, a new video essay by critic Colin MacCabe and new interviews with Huppert and producer Marin Karmitz.

Buy Now: $43.75 $43.02

‘Masculin Feminin’

In “Masculin Feminin,” Jean-Pierre Léaud and Chantal Goya strike up a tempestuous affair in the throbbing youth culture of 1960s Paris. The film has all the fitting elements of a romantic comedy, but also manages to pack in satire and tragedy in only the way Godard can. One chapter title is aptly named “The Children of Marx and Coca-Cola,” poking fun at the idealistic intellectualism of the era.

‘Breathless’

“Breathless,” which follows a petty thug (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who camps out at his girlfriend’s house after killing a policeman, might be one of Godard’s best screenplays, including so many quotable lines it’s hard to just pick one. The best might be when Belmondo’s girlfriend, played by Jean Seberg, asks a writer what his greatest ambition in life is, to which he responds, “to become immortal and then die.”

Special Features: The Blu-ray special edition features archival interviews with Godard, Belmondo, Seberg and Jean-Pierre Melville, two video essays and a 1993 documentary about the making of “Breathless.”

Buy Now: $27.98 $39.95 $27.99

‘My Life to Live’

Through a discrete tableaux of daydreams and dance sequences, Godard traces the downward spiral of sex work when a young Parisian Nana (played by Godard’s greatest muse Anna Karina) becomes a prostitute after a failed career as an actor. The 1962 film is peak French New Wave, combining brilliant visual design with an enthralling storyline.

Buy Now: $20.73 $39.95 $27.99

‘Week-End’

This scathing satire is one of Godard’s most beloved works, following an upper-class couple who travel across the French countryside in order to collect the inheritance of a dying relative. The film features one of the most famous cinematic sequences in film history, in which a camera seamlessly tracks along an interminable traffic jam. Rich with historical and literary references, the story doubles as a call to revolution as it tracks its characters’ exaggerated retreat to savagery.

Buy Now: $21.26 $39.95 $19.99

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