Une Femme Coquette may not sound like anything special—a 9-minute no-budget short film, shot on a borrowed 16mm camera by a 24-year-old amateur with no formal film school training. But the short, which was the subject of our article “Neither lost nor found: On the trail of an elusive icon’s rarest film” back in 2014, has for decades been a sought-after item for art-house buffs and rare movie fiends. Filmed in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1955, it was the first attempt at a narrative film by the iconic French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard—a pivotal figure in the evolution of movie style, who would make his feature debut just five years later, with the hugely influential and perennially cool Breathless.
Never distributed, Une Femme Coquette has had less than half a dozen public screenings since the 1960s; we were able to track down the only known 16mm print to a national film archive in Europe, where it was being stored unlisted for a private owner, to be loaned out only with the personal permission of Jean-Luc Godard himself. This makes it the holy grail of the game-changing New Wave era—a film so rare that it has often been listed as lost by biographies and film history books. And it might as well have been. No other surviving narrative film by a major, big-name director has been as difficult to see—until now.
Earlier this week, a copy of Une Femme Coquette surfaced on the digital back channels frequented by obscure movie enthusiasts. An enterprising user named David Heslin has uploaded this rarity of rarities to YouTube, complete with English subtitles. Credited to “Hans Lucas,” a German pseudonym that the Franco-Swiss Godard would sometimes employ during his brief career as a film critic, Une Femme Coquette was the budding director’s modern update of a Guy De Maupassant short story called “The Signal.”
via AV Club
This video essay from Fandor was made for the Thought in Action: The Art of the Essay Film season at the BFI in August 2013. It’s creator Kevin B Lee was commissioned by the BFI to explore the somewhat indefinable genre essay film. Lee says “I spent several weeks reflecting on what the essay film is. This led to a video essay and text published via the BFI’s magazine Sight & Sound that aimed to argue for what true value this as-yet loosely-defined mode of filmmaking could bring to a world that is already drowning in media. Using the video essay to take a polemical stance was a galvanizing experience for me, as it clarified a great deal of my own sense of purpose in being a film critic in a landscape where critical opinions are abundantly available. This video features the work of Santiago Alvarez, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais and many others”.
This history covers the filmmaking tradition often referred to as cinéma militant, which emerged in France during the events of May 1968 and flourished for a decade. While some films produced were created by established filmmakers, including Chris Marker, Jean-Luc Godard, and William Klein, others were helmed by left-wing filmmakers working in the extreme margins of French cinema. This latter group gave voice to underrepresented populations, such as undocumented immigrants (sans papiers), entry-level factory workers (ouvriers spécialisés), highly intellectual Marxist-Leninist collectives, and militant special interest groups. While this book spans the broad history of this uncharted tradition, it particularly focuses on these lesser-known figures and works and the films of Cinélutte, Les groupes medvedkine, Atelier de recherche cinématographique, Cinéthique, and the influential Marxist filmmaker Jean-Pierre Thorn. Each represent a certain tendency of this movement in French film history, offering an invaluable account of a tradition that also sought to share untold histories.
Screenings and discussion: Jean-Luc Godard: Out-takes from a Retrospective
Michael Witt and Michael Temple, curators of the Jean-Luc Godard season at the BFI January-March 2016, will present and show a range of material that did not make it into the main retrospective. This will include a selection of trailers made by Godard for his own films, and several documentaries made about Godard at different moments of his long and eventful career (titles to be confirmed):
- Le Parti des choses: Bardot et Godard, Jacques Rozier, 1963, 10 minutes
- Paparazzi, Jacques Rozier, 1964, 22 minutes
- One to One: Jean-Luc Godard Speaks, Mike Dibb, 1968, 10 minutes
- Jean-Luc Godard in America, Ralph Thanhauser, 1970, 45 minutes
- Godard 1980, Jon Jost and Donald Ranvaud, 1980, 17 minutes
- Godards Kameramänner, Michael Klier, 1981, 20 minutes
- François Musy on Sound, Direct Sound, Godard, Larry Sider, 2003, 40 minutes
- Marcel Ophuls & Jean-Luc Godard: The Meeting in St Gervais, Frédéric Choffat and Vincent Lowy, 2011, 44 minutes.
Godard’s work of the past six decades has consistently innovated, provoked and inspired. His vast and varied output includes short films, video essays, self-portraits, commercial commissions, TV films and series, books, a major exhibition, and 35 features. Born in 1930, and active as a critic from 1950, his level of creativity remains undimmed: his 2014 foray into 3D, Adieu au langage, is as fresh and inventive as anything he made since his landmark features of the 60s, his TV work of the 70s and his video essays of the 80s and 90s. This retrospective offers a wonderful opportunity to take stock of Godard’s achievement to date, and to consider his feature films anew within the context of his output as a multifaceted poet of word, image and sound.
Michael Witt is Professor of Cinema at the University of Roehampton and author of Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian. Michael Temple is Reader in Film and Media at Birkbeck and co-editor of several books on Godard
To attend this event, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bimi-presents-screenings-and-discussion-jean-luc-godard-out-takes-from-a-retrospective-tickets-19967768132
Serge Bard, Eric Baudelaire, Ericka Beckman, Cinema Action, Patrick Deval, Lav Diaz, Mati Diop, Stephen Dwoskin, Luke Fowler, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Johan Grimonprez, Marc Karlin, Stuart Marshall, Anne-Marie Miéville, Pere Portabella, Yvonne Rainer, Jackie Raynal, Anne Charlotte Robertson, Helke Sander, Jon Sanders, James Scott, Albert Serra, Leslie Thornton, Humphry Trevelyan
Curated by Dan Kidner
‘The Inoperative Community’ is an exhibition of experimental narrative film and video that address ideas of community and the shifting nature of social relations. It draws on work made since 1968 for cinema, television and the gallery, reflecting the overlapping and entangled histories of these sites. The exhibition’s title is borrowed from Jean-Luc Nancy’s 1983 essay of the same name, and while this connection did not determine the selection of works, they all bear witness in their own way to what Nancy characterised as the ‘dissolution, the dislocation, or the conflagration of community’. Many concern the limits of political activism and the fate of left political subcultures, and all use narrative as a means to explore social and political issues.
Encompassing over fifty hours of material the exhibition can be navigated by means of a printed or downloadable programme. Each visitor will only be able to see a fraction of the works on offer, but connections can be made between works on any particular course through the exhibition, which has been designed to accommodate both prolonged viewing and shorter visits. A screening room will show five daily programmes, in a more structured approach to the exhibition’s historical and political framework. These begin with an Anglo-French focus before expanding to include international filmmakers reflecting on the radical political movements of the 1960s and 1970s.
The exhibition focuses on a period that could be described as the long 1970s (1968-84) – all the works were either made during this time, or reflect on the radical social and political movements of the era. The defiant video installation about the Aids crisis, Journal of the Plague Year (1984) by Stuart Marshall (1949–93, UK) has been specially restored for the exhibition. Also included is a new edit – within an installation designed for the exhibition – of Peggy and Fred in Hell (1984–2015) by Leslie Thornton (b. 1951, USA), featuring footage shot whilst in residence at Raven Row; and newly available reels from the epic Five Year Diary (1981–97) by Anne Charlotte Robertson (1949–2012, USA), preserved by the Harvard Film Archive, will be screened for the first time in the UK.
Extended gallery opening hours: 11am-7pm, Wednesday to Sunday
One the most influential films in cinema history, Dziga Vertov’s exhilarating ode to Bolshevik Russia returns to cinemas across the UK from 31 July 2015.
‘I am the camera eye, I am the mechanical eye. I am the machine which shows you the world as only I can see it’
– Dziga Vertov
“Man with a Movie Camera” met with bewilderment on its release but is now recognised as one of the most radical films of Soviet cinema, and a major influence on Godard, Marker and others.
It’s a great city-symphony: the ‘Kino-Eye’ turns the camera into the protagonist, providing an impressionistic, lyrical portrait of a day in the life of Moscow’s masses at work and at play. But Vertov also investigates film itself, wittily transforming the world caught by his lens with a dazzling array of experimental camera and editing techniques. The constant invention remains astonishing to this day.
Barbican 7.30pm 13 May 2014 Cinema 2/ Introduction by Kodwo Eshun
On October 21 1967, over 100,000 marchers assembled in Washington D.C. for the Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam protest. It was the largest anti-war gathering yet, bringing together a wide cross-section of liberals, radicals and hippies. For many, this marked the transition from simple anti-war demonstration to direct action that aimed to stop the war machine. Chris Marker was there with a camera.
France 1968 Dir Chris Marker 28 min
During the chilling and feverish year of 1967, an international collective of world-renowned filmmakers (including Jean-Luc Godard, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda) came together in a spirit of bonhomie and common purpose to make this profoundly unapologetic anti-war film, which captured the mood of events to come in 1968.
France 1967 Dirs Jean-Luc Godard, Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda 115 min