Gifts for Trekkies, Anglophiles, and arthouse obscurists
Essentials Directors Series: Jean-Luc GodardWellspring Media, $59.95
Forty-five years, three wives, and 80 films after he first picked up a camera, Jean-Luc Godard is still going strong. Now 77 years old, the onetime poster boy for the French New Wave hasn't lost an ounce of his daring or aesthetic brazenness. Case in point: His 2001 philosophical rumination, In Praise of Love, was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was heralded as one of the best movies of that year by countless critics; it was also abstract and erudite and willfully strange, and, try as I might, I couldn't make heads or tails of it. This holiday season, DVD distributor Genius Products is releasing a four-disc box set of films that span the great Frenchman's career, from his earliest New Wave breakouts, which announced a bold new presence on the international film scene, to one of his most recent releases, Notre Musique, an experimental three-part meditation on the nature of war. The set opens with Godard's most famous picture, 1960's Breathless, which, by this point, has moved beyond its reputation as a mere revolutionary artistic masterpiece and entered into the rarefied air of the cultural touchstone, where images become part of the collective consciousness. It's a remarkable thing when a piece of art that was once considered the height of aesthetic insolence and rebellion develops into a cultural given, but one look at Jean Seberg in her New York Herald Tribune T-shirt or the defiantly cocked angle of Jean-Paul Belmondo's fedora, and it's clear that Breathless is a film that exists free of time and context. This set also features 1963's Le Petit Soldat, about two lovers on opposite sides of the Algerian war for independence; the other feature Godard released in that fertile year, Les Carabinieres, an avant-garde look at war in an unnamed land; and, finally, 2004's Musique, which is as challenging a film as Godard has ever made. At an age when most men have resigned themselves to their accomplishments and failures, Godard is still out for blood, as if for him, life is that car Michel Poiccard talks about in Breathless: "Don't use the brakes," he urges. "Cars are made to go, not to stop!"