Multiplying the Possibilities of Cinema
Associate Professor Don E. Levine on Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard
For about a half century, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature Don E. Levine has been screening the films of Jean-Luc Godard, the innovative director who shaped the French New Wave of cinema. So when Godard died in September at age 91, Levine’s thoughts naturally went to the legacy of the enigmatic director.
“He had a productive life,” says Levine, who began screening A Bout de Souffle (Breathless, 1960), the director’s groundbreaking first film for students in 1973. “He found a way out the other end from what he had started. He leaves us with hope at the end of his last film,” Levine adds, referring to Le Livre d’Image (The Image Book, 2018), the director’s self-reflexive homage to the literary and the cinematic.
With an oeuvre of nearly forty films, Godard threw out Hollywood rules by quoting history, philosophy, politics, and poetry alike. He implements the jump cut when we expect the steady shot, with characters who simultaneously repel and move us. His disjointed storytelling frustrates and endears. Levine has been a guide to Godard for nearly three generations of students in his avant-garde film classes at UMass, and he recommends several works in particular for those looking to experience the influential director’s vision.