Godard A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy

Colin MacCabe

Faber & Faber



Trade Paperback

456 Pages



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Jean-Luc Godard's early films revolutionized the language of cinema. Hugely prolific in his first decade—Breathless, Contempt, Pierrot le Fou, Alphaville, and Made in USA are just a handful of the seminal works he directed—Godard introduced filmgoers to the generation of stars associated with the trumpeted sexuality of postwar movies and culture: Brigitte Bardot, Jean Seberg, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Anna Karina.

As the 1960s wore on, however, Godard's life was transformed. The Hollywood he had idolized began to disgust him, and in the midst of the socialist ferment in France, his second wife introduced him to the activist student left. From 1968 to 1972, Europe's greatest director worked in the service of Maoist politics, and continued thereafter to experiment on the far peripheries of the medium he had transformed. His extraordinary later works are little seen or appreciated, yet he remains one of Europe's most influential artists.

Drawing on his own working experience with Godard and his coterie, Colin MacCabe, in this first biography of the director, has written a thrilling account of the French cinema's transformation in the hands of Truffaut, Rohmer, Rivette, and Chabrol—critics who toppled the old aesthetics by becoming, legendarily, directors themselves—and Godard's determination to make cinema the greatest of the arts.


Praise for Godard

"Part biography, part cultural analysis, and part tribute . . . [Godard] is a well-informed examination of a brilliant and tireless man."—Richard Simon Chang, The New York Times Book Review

"MacCabe . . . has written a self-consciously Godardian biography of Godard [that] illuminates why [he] remains vital."—A. S. Hamrah, Newsday

"A provocative polemic [that] deserves the highest praise . . . [MacCabe] has a natural talent for describing life [and] does a superb job at tracing the evolution of Godard's ideas . . . [This study gives] a vivid feeling for Godard at work . . . [An] excellent book."—David Thomson, The Nation

"Wide-ranging . . . This biography will prove a helpful starting point for exploring the man and his films."—Robin Buss, The Times Literary Supplement

"[MacCabe's] discursive forays into the evolution of leftist political theory and modernist aesthetics [reveal] the author at his sharpest and most equal to the task [at hand]."—Jonathan Kiefer, San Francisco Chronicle

"MacCabe's book [provides] a wonderful history of a wonderful period in cinema."—Nagle Jackson, The Trenton Times

"McCabe's book gives a thrilling sense of the intellectual, aesthetic, and political excitement of the period . . . [He] is expert at providing lightning-quick socio-political background."—Keith Garebian, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
"This is, at last, the book Godard deserves, one that does justice to the life and work of the most original filmmaker of the twentieth century. MacCabe vividly recreates the social and political turmoil of post-war France in which Godard came of age, moves fluidly from the theoretical to the personal, and captures at once the essence of the Nouvelle Vague and the particularity of individual films. A remarkable achievement."—Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

"Jean-Luc Godard is the single most important individual in the history of cinema from 1960 [to] the ascension of Steven Spielberg . . . [Godard] is filled with a wealth of illuminating, even surprising, material."—J. Hoberman, Film Comment

"Godard's importance in film history is indisputable . . . [He] emerges from this biography . . . as a character of intense, single-minded devotion to personal vision."—Dana Polan, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Illuminating . . . Approached as a provisional take on an intellectual, political, and aesthetic life . . . Godard is very satisfying."—Annie Wagner, The Stranger

"A solid, beautiful-mind-vs.-the-Establishment valentine . . . MacCabe's Godard is cast squarely in the prestigious intellectual-pioneer spirit of Freud."—Howard Hampton, The Village Voice

"Adds considerably to our understanding of Godard . . . No one who wishes to study his career in any depth can afford to be without it."—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Cineaste

"MacCabe is terrific in giving concise shape to the political history of the 1960s, from which Godard's work then is inseparable . . . The vein of elegiac, uncompromising resistance that pervades Godard's work is present here, as is its beauty."—Publishers Weekly

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Colin MacCabe is Distinguished Professor of English and Film at the University of Pittsburgh; teaches at the University of Essex; and serves as the Chairman of the London Consortium, of which he was a founder. Most recently he is the author and producer, respectively, of The Eloquence of the Vulgar and Badassss.....Cinema.
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  • Colin MacCabe

  • Colin MacCabe is Distinguished Professor of English and Film at the University of Pittsburgh, where he has taught since 1985. He also teaches at the University of Exeter and serves as chairman of the London Consortium, which he helped to found in 1995. Recently MacCabe has been the author and producer, respectively, of The Eloquence of the Vulgar and BaadAsssss Cinema. He also edits Critical Quarterly.