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Everything Is Cinema

The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard

Richard Brody


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ISBN10: 0805080155
ISBN13: 9780805080155

Trade Paperback

720 Pages



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When Jean-Luc Godard wed the ideals of filmmaking to the realities of autobiography and current events, he changed the nature of cinema. Unlike any earlier films, Godard's work shifts fluidly from fiction to documentary, from criticism to art. Godard himself also projects shifting images—cultural hero, fierce loner, shrewd businessman. Hailed by filmmakers as a—if not the—key influence on cinema, Godard has entered the modern canon, a figure as mysterious as he is indispensable.

In Everything Is Cinema, critic Richard Brody has amassed hundreds of interviews to demystify the elusive director and his work. Paying as much attention to Godard's technical inventions as to the political forces of the postwar world, Brody traces an arc from the director's early critical writing, through his popular success with Breathless, to the grander vision of his later years. Brody vividly depicts Godard's wealthy conservative family, his fluid politics, and his tumultuous experiences with women and fellow New Wave filmmakers.

Everything Is Cinema shows decisively the lasting mark that Godard has left on cinema.


Praise for Everything Is Cinema

"An honest, intelligent, and often eloquent treatment of a major motion picture artist . . . a roller coaster of exciting ideas. Like a Godard film, the journey [is] worth it."—Jeanine Basinger, The New York Times

"Richard Brody's Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard is a story of transformation, a painstaking account of a lifelong artistic journey . . . [A] meticulously detailed book . . . Everything Is Cinema works its way methodically through Godard's career, beginning with his days as a young cinephile in the early 1950s, writing for Parisian film journals like La Gazette du Cinéma and, later, the newly founded Cahiers du Cinéma. Brody explains that Godard's entree into the French film industry, via writing criticism, was 'revolutionary and didactic': Godard and his contemporaries—among them future filmmakers of the nouvelle vague including François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette and Maurice Schérer (better known to filmgoers as Eric Rohmer)—educated themselves by making pilgrimages to screenings at the Cinémathèque and the Cine-Club du Quartier Latin, where they might see three or four films a day."—Stephanie Zacharek, The New York Times

"Admirable . . . Exactly the sort of scrupulous and passionate work significant movie figures deserve and almost never receive."—Richard Schickel, Los Angeles Times

"The increasing availability of the works of Jean-Luc Godard on DVD makes this the perfect moment for Richard Brody's massive, ambitious new biography of the French Nouvelle Vague pioneer . . . Brody seamlessly integrates the oft-told story—the transformation of Godard and his fellow Cahiers du Cinéma critics into auteurs of the most glorious national cinema of the postwar period—with reams of new material he has gathered over seven years of research. He seems to have missed no one, interviewing Godard himself, all three of his wives including his frequent star Anna Karina, his Maoist collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin, and literally dozens of people who were in the room or on the set at important moments in Godard's life. He is attentive to the ideological hair-splitting and political extremism of the Gorin years—a mad, molten period largely lost to legend until now. To his credit, Brody doesn't glide over Godard's occasional anti-Semitic remarks or his problems with women (Karina maintains that being slapped in public by him simply constituted proof of his love), or the deterioration of his relationship with François Truffaut. However, geniuses all have their flaws, and Brody goes to great length to contextualize these without excusing them, the better to unmask and explain this famously inscrutable artist and his work. All in all, Brody has given us the most satisfying—and epic—movie biography of the year so far."—DGA Quarterly

"Perhaps the most impressive thing about Brody's Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard is that it's 700 large-format pages long, yet winds up seeming too short—a tribute to both the author and his 77-year-old subject . . . Brody's main strength, apart from the fact that he's never boring, is his ease in clarifying the intricacies of French politics and philosophy as they interact with Godard's evolution. Sometimes these two specialties even come together, bristling with Godardian paradox: 'Breathless was both a work of existential engagement with the world—an engagement that was constant, essential, and involuntary, inasmuch as it was a collage of preexisting material—and therefore also a work of Sartrean bad faith, made by a thinker who did not think but was thought' . . . Brody is very good at locating the seeds of Godard's theoretical positions in his earliest criticism and then structuring his book around these conclusions . . . Highly original and frequently provocative . . . Brody is attentive to the paths leading from Masculine Féminin to what he terms 'first-person' filmmaking by relative beginners (The Mother and the Whore, Clerks, Slacker, and Go Fish) . . . It's fascinating to learn about some of Godard's wilder casting schemes, such as those involving William Faulkner and Richard Nixon. And overall, the amount of fresh information offered in Everything Is Cinema makes this hefty monument an unfailing page-turner."—Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Village Voice

"Richard Brody, the most engaging film critic at The New Yorker these days, paid a visit to Godard's reclusive base in Rolle in the summer of 2000 and came face to face with his subject's intimidating and elusive persona. That encounter led to this eye-opening, superbly narrated, and broadly accessible 600-plus-page critical biography. This book's principal virtue, underlying its trenchantly judged account, is Brody's determination to grapple with Godard's public image—rebel, martyr, seer—while insisting on its inextricability from his personal crisis. In fact, Brody's treatment of the hair-raising fascist-associated provocations of the director's early cinephilic days, his troubled relationships, the 'intellectual suicide' of his Maoist period, and the variously moralizing, antimodernist, and prejudicial strains in his thinking are certain to stir up debate . . . This multifaceted portrait provides something far more valuable and complex than a simple-minded myth-busting corrective . . . Brody grounds his work in a treasure trove of extensive new interviews with the filmmaker's friends and collaborators, from his Fifties companions to seemingly every producer and crew member he could find. Undaunted by Godard's legendary stature, Everything is Cinema is essential reading for those inclined to a full critical reckoning with his achievements and tumultuous life."—Paul Fileri, Film Comment

"Because Godard's cinema encompasses everything, so does Brody's book. Among its great achievements is that the account of the student riots in Paris is as riveting as Godard's films themselves . . . Everything is Cinema, by unlocking Godard's cinema—and cinema in general—gives us a greater understanding of, well, everything."—Forbes

"Brody has done both Godard fanatics and budding film students a great service, producing an overview of one of the few directors absolutely indispensable to the medium in which he toils. A revelatory, satisfying feast."—Artforum

"Richard Brody's biography of Godard—arguably the most important, enigmatic, and exciting filmmaker of the second half of the 20th century—effortlessly weaves intellectual history, a personal saga, and an authoritative reading of the films themselves into a seamless web. It virtually crackles with intelligence, and is a must read for anyone interested in cinema."—Peter Biskind, author of Gods and Monsters: Thirty Years of Writing on Film and Culture

"Full of lucid analysis and human context, Richard Brody's book performs a heroic act in rescuing Godard and his growing shelf of works from the prison of myth and theory, from the cult of youth and the cult of the '60s, restoring him to his place as an engaged, hard-working artist."—Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude

"Godard changed the movies as much as the American masters he grew up on: Welles, Hawks, Hitchcock, and the rest. He is as original as Picasso—but unlike Picasso, he has been denied the biography he has always deserved. This is it. Just at the moment when the New Wave turns fifty, Richard Brody has given us Everything is Cinema, a remarkable book which describes with sharp intelligence a great and elusive artist's times, intellect, passions, and work."—Wes Anderson, writer and director of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic

"Everything Is Cinema is better than a biography, it is a novel. And a great novel, in which one discovers the story of a man who almost picked the wrong art form, a struggling writer who became an immense filmmaker."—Bernard-Henri Lévy, author of American Vertigo

"Meticulously detailed biography of the renowned filmmaker, from his early days as a critic to success as director of such classic French New Wave films as Contempt and Alphaville. Born in 1930, art-school reject Godard spent the immediate postwar years watching every movie he possibly could, mostly at the Cinematheque in Paris. He became a teenage critic for Cahiers du cinema, where he honed his attention to detail and ultimately crafted the theory that would become the basis of his own films: What happens on screen is connected to what occurs in everyday life. The moderate success of a short movie shot in Geneva called Une Femme coquette allowed him to return to France in the hopes of directing a feature which would 'rival Citizen Kane in outsized ambition.' What ensued was a memorable series of films that changed the face of cinema-audacious, radical works like Breathless and Weekend (which ended with the famous title cards, "end of story" and "end of cinema"). Godard never enjoyed much commercial success, but he wowed the cognoscenti and such up-and-coming directors as George Lucas and Brian De Palma. New Yorker editor, film critic and independent moviemaker Brody draws on interviews with those closest to Godard to chronicle memorable events in his life and also offers in-depth discussion of the films. Taking a page from his subject, Brody mixes art and documentary to consider Godard's existence, forever aware that what occurred in the director's life was directly related to his films, which themselves drew on the high-pitched political climate of the 1960s and '70s before becoming more formal and elegiac in later years. Intoxicating and informative, a personal glimpse at one of the masters of cinema that will appeal to casual readers and filmgoers as well as Godard's devoted fans."—Kirkus Reviews

"Even if Breathless means more to you as an adjective than a noun, you know who director Jean-Luc Godard is, however indirectly. His influence has pervaded the cinematic landscape, informing the work of everyone from Woody Allen to Quentin Tarantino—the latter director, in homage, even tweaked the title of Godard's film Bande à part into the name of his production company, A Band Apart. But Godard's relationship with the cinema goes much deeper than influential reciprocity. Cinema, as we know it, could not exist without Godard, just as he, in turn, processes life through cinema's lens. With descriptive clarity, Brody fluidly intertwines the stories of Godard's existence and the life of cinema so tightly that they become one, turning this biography into a history. Brody does well in objectively showcasing the development and rationale of an idealistic auteur's life threaded through the annals of film. Essential for academic and large public library film collections."—Ben Malczewski, Library Journal

"Comprehensive and fascinating, this critical biography of one of the leading filmmakers of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard, by New Yorker editor and film critic Brody offers the significant events and achievements of the cinematic innovator who combined an eye-opening concoction of art, politics, music, personal values and social mores. The author reveals an isolated yet driven creative genius who rises from writing articles for the pioneering Cahiers du Cinéma magazine with Truffaut, Rivette and Rohmer to soaring early successes with his films Breathless, Contempt, Masculine Feminine, A Married Woman to the later controversial gems, First Name: Carmen, Hail Mary and Detective. Godard, according to Brody, compares in critical importance to Picasso in his artistry, as the director's puzzling complexity is revealed through scores of interviews with family, colleagues and crew. Throughout the book, the key personal elements of Godard's chaotic love life provide added spark. This is a completely enjoyable and revealing account of an enigmatic director whose singular creativity will not allow him to make commercial compromises."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


In the second edition, dated June 1950, of a thin newspaper-like magazine published in Paris, La Gazette du cinéma, a nineteen-year-old writer made a modest debut. Jean-Luc...