Essential Viewing: “Godardloop” Turns 50 Years of Cinema Into A Split-Screen Work of Art
One of the most elegant and eloquent testaments to a cinematic artist.
Editor’s Note: Keyframe presents the online debut of Godardloop, a multi-part video essay on the films of Jean-Luc Godard. Produced by Michael Baute and edited by Bettina Blickwede, this video explores a treasure trove of imagery found in dozens of Godard’s features and shorts, grouping them among several distinct themes. Godardloop is, in my opinion, one of the most elegant and eloquent testaments to the pure cinematic beauty found in the work of this controversial and often confounding artist. 47 films spanning 50 years of filmmaking are channeled into a stream of images that attests to an inimitable talent: an artist who transforms the world simply by how he looks at it through a camera.
Godardloop was originally produced as a 26-minute installation (details of which are in the statement by Baute printed below), and was intended for viewing on a large screen. As such, some of the visual density may be lost in online viewing, particularly in the opening “Title” sequence – but for the most part the splendors of this montage remain intact. The complete Godardloop is embedded below, taken from Fandor’s Vimeo page. Additionally, we have uploaded the nine distinct segments of Godardloop as separate videos for greater convenience of online viewing. Those segments can be found throughout the remainder of this entry, as well as on Fandor’s YouTube page. – Kevin B. Lee
In 2010 Jean-Luc Godard was awarded Switzerland’s Grand Prix Design for his lifetime-achievements. The Swiss Office of Culture needed something to convey Godard’s relation to design to be shown at the accompanying exhibition. They approached me with this task and I outlined the idea of a loop concentrating on recurring formal motifs in Godard’s work. Several of these motifs I already had in mind before I re-watched the movies, like Godard’s specific ways of depicting and using architecture, colors, sound, typography, writing, reading and portraiture in film.
My original intention was to present these in a more historical way, thus displaying a development of techniques and motifs from his early cinephile works in narrative cinema between 1958 and 1968, to the period of militancy and video between 1968 and 1977, to his post-classical return to cinema between 1977 and 1991, to his ongoing work in more essayistic modes of production. In September 2010 the Swiss of Office of Culture commissioned the loop.
While rewatching all of Godard’s movies between September and October 2010, I made around 1.000 short excerpts of shots and sequences and organized them in various folders. 439 of these excerpts are included in the final loop, which lasts 26 minutes and 50 seconds.
In the beginning of the editing process I rewatched these excerpts with Bettina Blickwede, who is a professional editor, working in narrative and non-narrative cinema. We quickly decided against the idea of presenting the excerpts in a historical way. Instead, we tried to identify and select a manageable number of patterns (the names of the folders the excerpts have been organized in) and quickly became aware that we needed some non-linear, non-sequential way of presenting them.
At first Bettina was quite reluctant to use multiple-screens, because split screens distract you from perceiving the autonomy and integrity of the single shot. But during the editing process we became more and more aware of the analytical and creative possibilities of split-screen.
In contrast to Godard’s way of quoting excerpts from movies (e.g. in Histoire(s) du cinéma) we decided to respect the different aspect ratios of the images, so during the editing we also had to deal with problems of size in relating the different shots.
We first finished the “Title” sequence. Technically it seemed to be the most difficult, because a maximum number of frames is presented inside one image. But if anything else would have failed, we still would have had this sequence to be sent to Switzerland, since Godard’s title-sequences comprise his techniques in a nutshell.
We then slowly finished one sequence after the other. Some of the finished sequences had to be left out of the final loop, because the loop would have become too long and thus strenuous to be watched in an exhibition. For example there’s a sequence relating travelling-shots from JLG’s movies in double and quadruple split-screen which had to be left out.
Apart from the selective process of relating, positioning and timing the shots inside the image, the most interesting technical aspect of the work was how to deal with the overlapping sound of the sources we used. We only became aware of the possibilities of sound in split-screen during the last days of editing. We worked on that for several days, highlighting some aspects, suppressing others by means of mixing sounds, while also trying to preserve a sort of cacophony which is to be found often in Godard’s movies. I hope this will be conceivable in the online presentation.
Michael Baute lives in Berlin, Germany. He works as an author, critic and curator and in various media-related projects. Since 2001 he is a contributor to the weblog newfilmkritik. In 2006 he (together with Volker Pantenburg) published a book on Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter. Recently he’s been the artistic director of Kunst der vermittlung, a website and screening series exploring the art of video-form criticism.
Concept, Realisation: Michael Baute
Editing: Bettina Blickwede
Year of Production: 2010
Colour & Black/White, 27 Minutes
Thanks to: Erik Stein, Volker Pantenburg
Made for the exhibition celebrating the Swiss Confederation‘s Grand Prix Design 2010 for Godard, which was shown at MUSEUM FÜR GESTALTUNG ZÜRICH in 2010/2011
Titles (3’36‘‘) – Cars (2’11‘‘) – Revolvers (1’12‘‘) – Forms (2’47‘‘) – Hands (3’33‘‘) – Reading (3’54‘‘) – Writing (2’06‘‘) – Portraits (2’45‘‘) – Image-Relations (4’35‘‘)
À bout de souffle (1960)
Une femme est une femme (1961)
Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux (1962)
Le petit soldat (1963)
Les carabiniers (1963)
Le mépris (1963)
Bande à part (1964)
Une femme mariée: Suite de fragments d’un film tourné en 1964 (1964)
Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965)
Pierrot le fou (1965)
Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis (1966)
Made in U.S.A (1966)
2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle (1967)
La chinoise (1967)
Week End (1967)
Un film comme les autres (1968)
Le gai savoir (1969)
Vladimir et Rosa (1970)
British Sounds (1970)
Le vent d’est (1970)
Lotte in Italia (1971)
Tout va bien (1972)
Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication (1976)
Ici et ailleurs (1976)
Comment ça va? (1978)
Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980)
Scénario du film ‘Passion’ (1982)
Prénom Carmen (1983)
‘Je vous salue, Marie’ (1985)
King Lear (1987)
On s’est tous défilé (1988)
Puissance de la parole (1988)
Histoire(s) du cinéma: Une histoire seule (1989)
Nouvelle vague (1990)
Allemagne 90 neuf zéro (1991)
Hélas pour moi (1993)
JLG/JLG – Autoportrait de décembre (1994)
Histoire(s) du cinéma: Fatale beauté (1997)
De l’origine du XXIe siècle (2000)
The Old Place (2000)
Éloge de l’amour (2001)
Liberté et patrie (2002)
Notre musique (2004)
Film socialisme (2010)