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All the things ...
on June 25, 2012
"(Richard Brody's) Everything is Cinema", famous French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy is quoted as commenting on the back cover, "is better than a biography, it is a novel". Fiction, in other words. I prefer to invoke the title of a Charles Mingus composition, viz "All the things you'd be by now if Sigmund Freud's wife were your mother": Over nearly 600 pages, page by page, precisely and adoringly, emerges the profile of a total neurotic, a mysogenist misanthrope, a miser.
A bit of a private life component may be the spice of a biography, but if nothing else but his private (ie off-screen) life is advanced to determine and explain all of Godard's films and video activities, the reader tires rather quickly: In the end, Le mépris (1963) is an excellent and intelligent film because Alberto Moravia's underlying novel is great (sociological rather than psychological) analysis, and Godard a skilled and innovative metteur en scene.
Some things are irrelevant, like his failed alliance with a relatively more mature Marina Vlady - Anne-Marie Miéville, the author rightly remarks, will be the first and only of Godard's women of equal caliber. And whether Godard held hands with Brigitte Bardot walking up the stairs of Curzio Malaparte's avant-gardist villa is about as irrelevant as his "accusation" of François Truffaut of having had a candid affair with Jacqueline Bisset during the turning of La nuit américaine (1973), and not showing it in that movie... ("how come only the director has no affair in that film?").
Brody's method of endless narration makes it difficult for him, and subsequently the reader, to in any defined way assess the weight/quality of Godard's individual films. This is perhaps the main weakness of the book. Also, it contains a series of factual errors in the assessment of the bitter feud with Truffaut, which (as can be read up in the latter's many biographies) was basically instigated by Godard's vile and foul sneering. Truffaut was not the only one who got that treatment, but he is the one who most decidedly stood up against the intellectual smear campaign.
Not an easy subject; a wealth of material, well written without any doubt, but still: not going anywhere in particular.
fbus 37 - Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard by Richard Brody - 26/6/2012