GODARD’S REPUTATION AND THE MAP OF CINEMA
When Jean-Luc Godard died last year, the response divided along generational lines. Many older cinephiles found themselves thinking back to their youth and recalling the impact of his early work. But what did he mean to those who had grown up in the age of video, or streaming?
The first half-dozen films have become classics, and many of his later works seem to anticipate what are now called ‘essay films’. Indeed, Godard often spoke of making films as an alternative form of writing novels or essays. It’s certainly much too early to attempt any definitive verdict on his career – except to say there will never be another like it in the history of cinema, since cinema itself has changed irrevocably. But maybe we can use Godard’s vast output, and his fluctuating reputation across the decades, to map what may prove to be the final half-century of that institution?