Richard Brody’s “Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard” is a story of transformation, a painstaking account of a lifelong artistic journey. Now we know how one of the greatest of all filmmakers — the man who so radically changed cinema in 1959 with his debut feature, “Breathless” — became an intolerable gasbag. That probably wasn’t Brody’s aim in writing this exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, critical biography. As Brody, a film critic and editor at The New Yorker, makes clear in the preface, he still believes in Godard’s relevance, claiming that the resolutely not-retired filmmaker, who has lived in Rolle, Switzerland, for the past 30 years, continues to work “at an extraordinarily high level of artistic achievement.”
That’s a lovely, optimistic sentiment, but one that much of Godard’s post-1967 output doesn’t deserve: Empty shadowboxes like “First Name: Carmen” (1983) or “Notre Musique” (2004) seem designed to alienate viewers rather than draw them closer, which is what happens when any artist begins to live entirely inside his or her own head. It’s the artists we love best who are most capable of disappointing us, and anyone who has taken pleasure in the boldness of the movies Godard made from 1959 through 1967 — he produced an astonishing 15 full-length features in that period, beginning with “Breathless” and including “Contempt,” “Pierrot le Fou” and “Weekend” — would have to know that pain is part of love. If we didn’t, how carefully could we have been watching his movies in the first place?
more from the NY Times Book Review here.