(Just a single rule: mix-tape-style, no more than one film per director. You know, because otherwise the whole thing would be pointless.)
Crime • dir. Jean-Luc Godard • 1960 • France
You know what? Film directors are not cool. At least, they’re not cool like lead singers in bands are. Or even, for that matter, like actors often are. Film directors tend to be confident. Many are charismatic. And, well, you’d hope at least they’re creative. But cool? No. Directing a film is too similar to heading a corporation. When it gets right down to it, the person shouting “action” is pretty much the CEO. (His or her producer, the chairman of the board.) The director is the boss. Nobody works longer hours, and nobody frets more over budgets, schedules, and whether or not it’s going to rain next Wednesday when the outdoor shooting starts. It may only be apocryphal but I heard once that Michael Bay keeps getting work because he has good hair and is good in meetings. (Chris Martin out of Coldplay is just about the only rock star I can picture working the slides of a PowerPoint presentation – and I think we can all agree what side of cool or not cool he falls.)
Jean-Luc Godard, on the other hand, is about as cool as it gets (in his Ray Ban sunglasses and smoking yet another Gauloises). In the 1960s, especially, he broke the mould – in a prolific run of films shot through with dazzling invention, insouciant youthfulness, and a freewheeling disregard for the traditional dos and don’ts of narrative filmmaking. He led and others followed. At his best, though, who could hope to keep up? Godard did not so much capture the zeitgeist, as create it. Sure, you can compare him to other filmmakers – see what he took, and the trail that he blazed – but he has more in common with John Lennon, John Coltrane, Jackson Pollack, Jack Kerouac: other restless seekers of that most alluring thing, what’s next? Even as early as Breathless, his first feature film, Godard is already in a rush: shooting on the fly, out and about in Paris… jump cuts… a mishmash of genres… ambiguous ending… You simply can’t miss the bracing newness of it all, and want, somehow, to be where it’s at.