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New York Lauds Godard with Awesome Retrospective

Jean-Luc Godard (left) on the set of "Le Mepris", 1963

Fifty years ago this fall, from September 10-19, 1963, the first New York Film Festival was held. The cinema world was different in those days. In an era before home video and DVDs, the few venues for film fanatics to see non-mainstream or foreign films were repertory cinemas, college film societies or festivals. The top grossing film that year was Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. And although Beatlemania had reached a critical mass in Britain, the band had yet to conquer America.

In France, the New Wave was all the rage, with Jean-Luc Godard as one of its leading lights, having already produced an impressive body of work since his 1960 debut feature Breathless. And in September 1963, Godard made his debut at the New York Film Festival, which presented Ro.Go.Pa.G, a so-called "portmanteau" film consisting of four shorts, directed by himself, Roberto Rosellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Ugo Gregoretti. Since then, Godard has gone on to be the director whose work has been featured at the New York Film Festival more times than any other filmmaker. So it only seems fitting that to celebrate the half century since his auspicious debut, the festival's organizers, the Film Society of Lincoln Center, have chosen to honor him with a huge retrospective of his features and shorts, which is truly awesome in scope.
Kicking off on Wednesday, October 9, half way through this year's NYFF, which continues until October 17, the retrospective, entitled Jean-Luc Godard: The Spirit of the Forms, will run daily until October 30 and present more than thirty of Godard's features, as well as many of his rarely screened short films.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest directors of all time, in a 2002 Sight & Sound poll, Godard was ranked #3. In 2010, he received an honorary Oscar, although he didn't attend the ceremony. There's no word on whether Mr. Godard (who turns 83 on December 3) will be in attendance for any of the retrospective screenings this month, although fans no doubt would relish the chance to catch a glimpse of the man who changed the course of cinematic history not only in the way films are made, but also in how stories are told.
Indeed, it is difficult to overstate Godard's importance and impact on world cinema, but also his influence on a diverse group of directors including Martin Scorsese, Brian de Palma, Jim Jarmusch, Steven Soderberg, among others, and of course, Quentin Tarantino, who named his production company A Band Apart, after Band à Part (1964), which also featured a dance number to which Tarantino paid homage 30 years later in Pulp Fiction.
The program will include popular classics such as Alphaville, Breathless, Masculine/Feminine, and Weekend, but also more obscure work that might not be familiar to viewers unless they are hard-core Godard afficionados. A retrospective like this doesn't come round very often on either side of the Atlantic, and offers a rare opportunity to see some masterpieces of the French New Wave, many of them beautiful newly struck prints, but also work that's seldom seen on the big screen. So, Godardites of the world unite, mark your calendars and make your way to Manhattan for what promises to be some of the most exciting film programming of the season.
Jean-Luc Godard: The Spirit of the Forms is co-curated by Kent Jones and Jake Perlin. For more information, visit the Film Society of Lincoln Center website:


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