Legendary filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard made an extremely rare personal appearance to accept the 2019 FIAF Award in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 11. The award was presented by the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) at the Cinémathèque Suisse, which has provided IndieWire with exclusive video of the occasion below. Frédéric Maire, President of FIAF and director of the Cinémathèque Suisse, was on hand to present the award to the filmmaker. “I’m unsettled and emotional, and I think you are, too,” he said in his introductory remarks.
Godard sat down with Maire to discuss his latest film, “The Image Book,” a kaleidoscopic meditation on the nature of cinema built around film clips, literary texts, and classical music. The film received a Special Palme d’Or at Cannes prior to its release last fall.
“To tell that history, both in images and in words, for cinema to speak for itself. My last film, for example, is made exclusively from films,” the filmmaker said in his native Swiss French. “I try to reach something of the language that painting had, that music had, that cinema also had a little during the silent era, and that it has lost. It lost it in favor of what we called talking pictures.”
The subject of silent film came up earlier in the discussion, when Maire asked Godard about his work with the FIAF dating back to 1979, when the organization helped him find archival footage from the 1940s. Godard mentions a photo from the first FIAF congress in 1929, featuring Jean George Auriol, founder of the Revue du Cinéma, the French film magazine that became Cahiers du Cinéma.
“That photograph in the congress of La Sarraz,” said Godard, “for me, it’s a picture of the end of cinema that came from silent film and the Lumière brothers. It’s an archive in that sense. … One that has largely been lost.”
Godard then pivoted from silent film to another transition in film history: The advent of digital streaming and video on demand services.
“Today, another loss, in my opinion, will be the end of DVDs in a certain way. With the new, what’s it called, Netflix and all that. …People use it to watch one film the way they want, and they don’t really go to theaters anymore.”
Netflix recently received a public flogging from Steven Spielberg, when the filmmaker mounted a campaign to make the Academy reconsider Oscar eligibility rules for streaming movies.
Watch IndieWire’s exclusive video of Godard holding court at the Cinémathèque Suisse below.