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Despite an Oscar win, Godard keeps Hollywood at arm's length

Text by Thibault Worth

Latest update : 2010-11-13

Jean-Luc Godard will be honoured Saturday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Saturday. The decision by the director of "Breathless"to skip the ceremony has revived an old debate about his disdain for Hollywood.

On 13 November, the US-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present iconoclastic Franco-Swiss filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard an honorary Oscar for his lifetime contributions to film.

But Godard, 79, will not attend the Governors Awards, an auxiliary to the main Academy Awards that was created for awarding lifetime achievement Oscars only.

Anne-Marie Mieville, Godard’s partner and collaborator, told news daily The Australian that Godard, 79, was “too old” to travel so far to collect a “piece of metal.” 

The couple lives in Rolle, Switzerland, near Geneva.

Godard seemed less than impressed once he understood that he was being honoured at the Governors Awards, and not the main Oscar ceremony on Feb. 27.

According to several media reports, including one in the weekly news magazine Paris Match, he told Mieville "It’s not the Oscars."

His decision has revived speculation as to whether his Oscar no-show is the latest chapter in a long career of snubbing Hollywood.

The French New Wave and Tinseltown

Godard is often credited with freeing film from the constraints of linearity and narrative storytelling.

His first film “Breathless” (1960) was a jazzy, reference-laden take on the American gangster genre that remains a classic of modern cinema. 

“Like all the New Wave guys, he started out loving American movies,” says Lisa Nesselson, art critic for FRANCE 24.


However as time went on, Godard developed a distaste for the big budget Hollywood movie-making machine.

In 1963 film Le Mepris (Contempt), a rich American producer hires a European director to make his film, but ultimately dislikes his work.

In Eloge d’amour (In Praise of Love), released in 2002, he slammed American director Steven Spielberg for “stealing” European memories of World War II in his film Schindler’s List.

Academy Awards a ‘circus’

As for snubbing the Oscars, Franck Garbarz, a film critic for the review Positif, told FRANCE 24 that the Academy Awards are still seen as a “circus” by most French intellectuals and artists.

“It’s a reactionary response," he says. “[They] cling to an old-fashioned idea of art for art’s sake.”

Garbarz said he thinks it’s a shame Godard can’t take the compliment.

“No matter what you think of Hollywood, it is still an honour to receive such a prize,” he says.  “He should have the courtesy and decency to go and collect it.”

Francis Ford Coppola, American actor Eli Wallach, and film historian Kevin Brownlow will also receive honorary Oscars.

Date created : 2010-11-10


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