View image Jean-Luc Godard, Pop Star.
Following up on my recent posts about the commercial realities behind mid-century European "art films," and the various ways critics make sales pitches to exclusive audiences: Here's something fun and provocative from a 1964 French TV interview with Jean-Luc Godard, excerpts of which are included on the extras disc for the Criterion edition of "Contempt." (I transcribed the subtitles.) Like famed producer Bruce Dickinson, Godard put his pants on one leg at a time, but once they were on he made hits:
Q: Jean-Luc Godard, with "Contempt" you're once again on everyone's lips....
G: So much the better if it helps the movie.... I wouldn't really care as long as they go to my movies. That's what's important.
Q: What do you think of reviews?
G: I think much more highly of them than most people do. It's probably because I was a critic once, and I said a lot of bad things. I was cruel and mean to a lot of people. And though my opinions haven't changed, when I read bad reviews, the important thing for me is the discussion that's taking place. Whether it's good or bad is not the issue for me....
Q: Do you believe there's such a thing as a fair review?
G: (shrugs) Yes, but criticism isn't an artistic creation. It will always be inferior. Seventy-five percent of critics are only in that line of work temporarily. That's why critics are always bitter and sad towards those they praise and those they disparage.
Q: You became a director after having been a critic. Do you think it's a step up?
G: Yes, being a critic was a good experience. It's good training.
Q: Doesn't it run the risk of stifling the imagination?
G: No. It made me love everything. It taught me not to be narrow-minded, not to ignore Renoir in favor of Billy Wilder, or something like that. I like them both, even though they are extreme opposites. [...]
Q: ... Even with all her clothes on, ["Contempt" star Brigitte Bardot is] still a gold mine. [...] Those who would like to see Miss Bardot undress in a movie made by a bad or vulgar director wouldn't dare go see it. But with you their conscience is clean because it's art --
G: Good for them. They're right. If they find her pretty, as I do, there's no --
Q: Some of your films have been failures. How does that affect you?
G: One of my films in particular, "Les Carabiniers," wasn't even a failure. It was... nothing at all.