At the Limit of Breath: Poems on the Films of Jean-Luc Godard (Robert Kroetsch Series)
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"I wanted this to be a narrative. So finally Jean-Luc went all the way: every line in the script a quotation from somewhere else. Every blessed line. Love doesn't die. It's people who die. Love just goes away." -from "NOUVELLE VAGUE / New Wave (1990)" Stephen Scobie celebrates "the greatest film director of his age" with poetry exploring 44 of Godard's films. Subtle yet profound unities play from poem to poem. Characters, locations, images, and the generous use of quotation jump-cut and recur to send the imagination reeling through the larger works of both artists. Readers will be seduced to linger within the writing and encouraged to seek beyond, to Godard's own oeuvre. The book is sharply envisioned and carefully cadenced so as to delight readers who may not be familiar with Godard's films. Those already acquainted with Godard's work will find At the limit of breath a most rewarding experience.
most fundamental aspects of cinematic narrative and language, while still producing images of piercing clarity and beauty. My own fascination with Godard began in 1965, with the first movie of his I ever saw: Bande à Part (the circumstances of that first viewing are recorded on pages 9–10). It has continued unabated ever since, even through the “difficult” years of his political cinema. In this book, I set myself the goal of celebrating Godard by writing poems based on his films: one poem for
must judge for themselves. p. v People in love This quotation is adapted from Godard on Godard, trans. Tom Milne, New York, 1972, page 173. In the original, the first line reads “People in life quote as they please.” I mistyped “life” as “love” (no doubt a significant slip); but when I eventually discovered my error, I had grown so fond of the misquoted version that I decided to let it stand. p. vii An image This passage is freely adapted and translated from the writing of the French poet and
Seine and Oise Liberation Front, while playing a drum solo in front of a rather placid pond. Quoted (without any attribution in the film) from “Les Chants de Maldoror,” by the Comte de Lautréamont (Isidore Ducasse), French Symbolist/ Decadent poet, 1846–70. The line recurs, in even more comic form, in Soigne Ta Droite (1987) — see page 52. p. 30 Please allow me to introduce myself First line of the song “Sympathy for the Devil,” by The Rolling Stones. Godard’s film shows the Stones at work in
avid tennis player, and appears, actually playing, in JLG / JLG. p. 37 know which way the wind blows Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Dylan’s line — “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” — was, rather oddly, the source for the name of the American revolutionary group The Weathermen. Godard’s soundtrack repeatedly plays an insipid rock song about the romance between a Weather Man and a Weather Girl, which, to my relief, I have been unable to trace. p. 37 Some of
1985 This is hard to say: cinema will die soon, very young, without having given everything it could. The two of them sit on soft cushions, at right angles, each has to twist to see the other. His back is to the camera. Still looking for the road to the Word, she does the ironing. He plays tennis. In dreams (he says) several directors are at work. Northern dreams (she says) are paler and more violent. If I have made images (he says) instead of children, does that make me any less human? Your