Way back in 1962, during a panel discussion at the Cannes Film Festival, a fellow French filmmaker (either Henri-Georges Clouzot or George Franju) said to Jean-Luc Godard: “But you must admit that a script should have a beginning, a middle and an end.” Godard’s answer, since famously appended to the question and passed around for decades as a full Godard quote: “Yes, but not necessarily in that order.”
For Godard, the beginning this 2014 film awards season was Friday January 2, when New York Times critic Manohla Dargis suggested that his 3D drama Goodbye to Language merits Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The middle came the very next day, Saturday January 3, when the National Society of Film Critics surprised everyone by picking Godard’s film over Boyhood as the year’s best. The end? Well, if all goes according to NY-NY-LA convention, Godard will be honored at the Oscars and not show up.
There was no real script either, just a series of written prose pieces with jottings and ideas. [co-star Kamel] Abdelli recalls: “In the text there were a lot of references to authors, poets, philosophers, painters and mathematicians, so each time he gave us the text to read we had to go straight on to Google to try and make sense of it.”
“You couldn’t read the scenario – you could feel it and look at it. You can read some phrases and dialogues, but it didn’t reveal who would speak the dialogue.” Godard makes Mike Leigh look like a bullet train. “We were rehearsing for almost two years,” says [co-star Zoé] Bruneau. “We gave him two years of our lives, a time that seemed to go on longer since the shoot was always being postponed.”
The video above is from March of last year, when Boyhood director Richard Linklater introduced and post-screening discussed Godard’s Every Man For Himself for the Austin Film Society.