Jean-Luc Godard has become many things: a director, an editor, an actor, a film critic, an artist, a radical, a poet, a historian, a philosopher, an influencer. The list goes on and on, but one more credit should be tacked to his name: architect. At least, that’s what the British Film Institute argues in their appropriately-titled “Jean-Luc Godard as Architect,” their latest six-minute video exploration on the French New Wave multi-hyphenate.
Now, of course, Godard never put brick to metal in his career. So the BFI isn’t saying he’s an architect in the traditional sense. What Richard Martin, the narrator of the video essay and the author behind “The Architecture of David Lynch,” argues, is that the 85-year-old filmmaker can be qualified as such based on how he keeps “building, capturing and arranging spaces” throughout his varied work. Specifically, how architecture shapes us, and how buildings and spaces change over time. Paris, naturally, is the key location of choice for the on-set here, focusing on how joyful the city is depicted in his earlier works and, later, how grim and menacing the same place can appear in his challenging 1965 noir political thriller “Alphaville.” And 1967’s road-trip drama “Weekend” gets credited for how his understanding of space changes when he hits the road, most notably during a nine-minute heavy traffic sequence and also a car crash depiction that’s almost comical, he believes, in its design.
Also given special consideration is 1963’s dramatic comedy “Le Mépris” — which, from its memorizing opening segment, uses the dilapidated lots of abandoned film studios on the outskirts of Rome to show how peeling walls and forgotten posters can symbolize both the end of the studio system and the once-glamorous age of filmmaking inside the visionary’s eyes. And keeping his focus on that film, Martin would be remiss not to mention the 30-minute scene staged around a modern Rome apartment. Specifically, how the couple’s interactions away from each other in their practically-unfurnished home shows how their relationship is doomed from the start.
Architecture often comes from the constructions of the mind. And with this new video, Martin once again contemplates how locations can structure films as a whole. So check out the video below, and see how Godard continues to build new names for himself in his spacious career.