The Museo Reina Sofía presents a retrospective on one of the vital artists and thinkers of our time: film-maker Jean-Luc Godard (1930). The series spotlights his twenty-first-century productions and his ventures into the potential of the digital image, where film is rewritten as a present-day art.
At 89, Jean-Luc Godard sits among the most avant-garde film-makers and, rather than lingering on past roles — writer, activist, poet — he has reinvented himself as a thinker through images. In his later years, Godard has made Goya’s famous maxim his own: I’m still learning; new knowledge related to the limitless exploration of the digital image, understood not from the fetishism of a new technique, but as the possibility of engendering a new discourse, a new useful language for another experience. This period also stresses the importance of a group of his collaborators: cinematographers Fabrice Aragno and Jean-Paul Battaglia, film historian Nicole Brenez, and photographer and film-maker Anne-Marie Miéville, Godard’s companion in his exile in Rolle, Switzerland.
The series begins after Histoire(s) de cinema (1988-1998), a gargantuan project that would take him a decade and in which he would officiate the history of the 20th century through successive multiplications of film histories, stretching to his recent participation in international festivals with brief pieces, the letters by an artist celebrating his concurrent disappearance and omnipresence.
In the series, four programmes form thematic strands. Firstly, Museum: two sessions focusing on how the film-maker questions the institution, “the old place”. On one side, filming, in essay form, for MoMA, ranging over memory, time and the role of art (The Old Place, with Anne-Marie Miéville, 1999), and, on the other, exploring the installation of an exhibition at the Pompidou, in itself a history of civilization (Souvenir d´utopie, Anne-Marie Miéville, 2006, and Reportage amateur (maquette expo), with Anne-Marie Miéville, 2006).
The second programme, entitled Language and Catastrophe, encompasses the trilogy Goodbye to Language, Film Socialisme and The Image Book, three feature-length films in which a new digital vocabulary sets the scene to speak of contemporary catastrophe and hope for the future. Interspersed with this trilogy is the screening of Film Catastrophe. The third programme, History, includes the epilogue to Histoire(s) de cinema, Godard’s version of the 20th century as a legacy of brutality and, finally, a devastating critique of other film-makers through the ethics of images. To conclude, the programme Apparitions presents the director’s film portraits — in JLG/JLG – Self-Portrait in December we get a look into his austerity and isolation in Rolle; in the rest, brief letters Godard sent to festivals where he questions himself, invoking absurdity and existential solitude (Buster Keaton and Samuel Beckett) while examining the rituals of cinema.