"From Hollywood to the Third World, from the mainstream to the avant-garde, Godard'sname is perhaps the only one that occurs wherever cinema is discussed or produced.And yet he lives a life as far removed from the conventional image of a moviemakeras it is possible to imagine. For over a decade now he has based himself in the small Swissvillage of Rolle, halfway between Lausanne and Geneva ... Like a shaman he alternatesbetween almost total withdrawal from the world and sudden blazes of interest. Whatenables him to escape his intense privacy is his obsession with the images and soundsof the cinema. It is this intensity of Godard's commitment to the cinema that makeshis life more than just a record of an extraordinary individual but also, inevitably,a history of European culture since World War II."
- Colin Miles McCabe
"I can say how I picture Godard. He's a man who works a lot, so he is, necessarily,completely alone. But his is not just any solitude, it's an extraordinarily populoussolitude, populated not by dreams, fantasies, or projects, but by actions, things,and even people. A multiple, creative solitude... He has always been alone. Godard wasahead of everyone, he left his mark on everyone, but not in ways that would haveled to commercial success; instead, he continued along his own line, a vanishingtrace, a line always broken, zigzagging, subterranean."
- Gilles Deleuze
"The cinema is the only art which, as Cocteau says (in Orphée, I believe), 'films death at work.' Whoever one films is growing older and will die.So one is filming a moment of death at work. Painting is static: 'the cinema is interestingbecause it seizes life and the mortal side of life.'"
- Jean-Luc Godard
In a first period
the old testament
a human being
is rescued from ruin
by another human being
In a second period
the new testament
a human being
is rescued from ruin
by another human being
But the woman discovers that the other man
is the same as the first
that the second is
(still as before)
the same as the first.
So this is a revelation.
And if man proclaimed the mystery,
it is woman who revealed the secret.
Nouvelle Vague, the film, was released in 1990 to a worldwide chorus of critical acclaim. At a pressconference in Munich in October of that year, Jean-Luc Godard illuminated one ofthe ways in which this work differed from its distinguished predecessors. "In makingthis film," he said, "I heard a great deal of music; music produced by Manfred Eicher.I can well imagine how musicians are inspired and influenced by these sounds. AndI too have immersed myself in this music, and I have felt, in my work, like a musician."
Cut to September 1996: Another press conference, this time at the Toronto Film Festival,to launch For Ever Mozart. JLG is asked to comment on his continuing association with the ECM producer, bythis point in its seventh year. "Manfred began our relationship," Godard says, "bysending me some music. It was new music of Arvo Pärt and, especially, David Darling,music which I had never heard of before. And after listening, I wrote to him and asked himto send me more records of his company. And I had the feeling, the way he was producingsound, that we were more or less in the same country: he with sounds, me with images. And the music that he sends me is music that brings me to some ideas in movie making.In fact, some of the records brought me to a picture called Nouvelle Vagueand later other ones And I began to imagine things due to that kind of music."
November 1996. François Gorin writes in France's Télérama: "After Passion, the mad scientist incarcerated in his Rolle studio began to toy with fragments,splinters of music mixed with the sounds of the film and dialogues. Rather more subtlethan the work of the rappers, the 'sampling' of Nouvelle Vague(1990) incorporated 20th century composition (Schoenberg, Hindemith) but also musicianssuch as Dino Saluzzi and David Darling. This is because JLG was rubbing shoulderswith the highly elitist (sic ) German record label ECM. He talks about this in a conspiratorial tone, but his eyessuggest something friendlier: 'A man named Manfred Eicher sent us some music whichmade us feel like making a film. Or, let's say, made us feel something cinematic... Often the sounds gave us the feeling of being orphaned from images, or exiled from aland of images ... It was like hearing music from films which didn't exist.'"
The feeling is mutual. It should be evident to listeners to music on ECM that the chain of influence runsboth from and to the world of film. Godard is amongst the film-makers whose workhas left its imprint on Manfred Eicher's approach to record production. Eicher citesthe1962 Vivre Sa Vie(My Life to Live) as the film that first made him aware of Godard's extraordinary sensitivity to image,sound and rhythm, and his choice of music, giving an early hint of "the movie-makeras composer". Bergman's Through a Glass Darklyand Tarkovsky's Stalkeralso made comparably strong impressions. "There are not many film-makers," Eichernotes, "who have the capacity to present you with an experience that still has amoving impact, on another level, when you close your eyes. This was true of Vivre Sa Vie, with its juxtaposition of line and rhythm, music and silence, and it has been trueof Godard's work ever since. Silence is an acoustic effect, but only where soundscan be heard. The introduction of silence, as in Vivre Sa Vie, is to me one of the most specific and dramatic effect in his early work.
"Nouvelle Vagueestablishes the element of water as a persuasive Godard image; it receives powerfulvisual and sonic definition in the sparse imagery and the sound of the waves. Wecome to associate the landscape surrounding Lake Geneva with the despair and alienationof the protagonists' solitude. In this film, Jean-Luc Godard intensifies the dynamicsby careful use of music, dialogue and everyday sounds, such as birdcalls, barkingdogs, car horns always devoted to the story, evoking the material world and itsemotional correlatives. Music as a melancholy commentary in a sculpture of sound and image.'I try to work not with an idea of vertical sound,' he says, 'where there are manytracks distinctive from one another, but horizontally, where there are many, manysounds but still it's as though every sound is becoming one general speech, whether it'smusic, dialogue or natural sound'. JLG's films are highly complex scores a remarkablecomposer indeed."
Introducing Nouvelle Vagueat the Cannes Festival in 1990, JLG offered an inspired analogy between tennis andthe cinema: "There is an exchange. We can shoot and, being shot, not die. There isa shooting script in tennis. There is a rhythm and a cadence. It is very musical.There is a silent dialogue. If you see a Guitry film without the sound, it will be the same.My film without the sound will be improved. However, if you 'see' the soundtrackwithout the images, it will have an even greater impact."
On Nouvelle Vague, the album, we take Jean-Luc Godard at his word. This is the first time that a Godardfilm has been presented to the public minus the pictures. To our knowledge it isthe first time that a completefilm soundtrack music, dialogues, sounds appears on compact disc. We feel thatthe result is revelatory and that Godard's achievement, on purely sonic terms, meritscomparison with the output of vanguard contemporary composers working with text andsound.
"Godard, with large cuts of the scissors, divides the material into fragments, producingsound miniatures, as pure elements ..." So writes Claire Bartoli in her impressionisticessay "Interior View: Jean-Luc Godard's Nouvelle Vague". One must add that Bartoli has no choice but to "see the soundtrack without theimages": she happens to be blind. "The music goes back and forth between the words.I should know by now that they are not there for their own sake, as Jean-Luc Godardplays the game of rediscovering them ... Godard dislodges the sounds of the world, fashionsthem, isolates them from the life peculiar to them: a bark, a strain of music, afew words by a writer, the ring of a bell, the sounds of waves ... The emotion isengendered by the very substance of the sound."
"Music becomes text" in Godard's films, writes Mary Lea Bandy of the New York Museumof Modern Art, "no longer restricted to the background":"[Godard] achieves a sensoryintricacy by overlapping dialogue, music and sound effects with visually rhythmicvariations of slow takes and rapid cuts in rich juxtapositions."
After Nouvelle Vague, music from ECM became an integral component of Jean-Luc Godard's films. It canbe heard in, for example, the Histoire(s) du Cinémaseries, in Allemagne neuf zéro, Hélas pour moi, JLG/JLGand, most recently, For Ever Mozart
The complete soundtrack of Nouvelle Vague incorporates music by Dino Saluzzi, DavidDarling, Paul Hindemith, Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Giger, Patti Smith, Meredith Monk,Heinz Holliger, and Werner Pirchner, and the voices of Alain Delon, Domiziana Giordano,Roland Amstutz and Laurent Cote. The double CD package, in slipcase, includes a 96-pagethree-language textbook with the essay Interior Viewby Claire Bartoli.