The most inexhaustible landscapes for me remain faces and bodies: I like to look at people, to look at them in order to love them. It's like dancing with someone, except with a camera you don't touch them. I just want to tell them that I'd like to put my hand on them.—Agnès Godard
In film after film over the last twenty years, Agnès Godard (b. 1951) has demonstrated an unerring ability to create arresting images that draw the audience into the world onscreen rather than announce their own virtuosity. Among the world's most important cinematographers, Godard's work in collaboration with filmmakers from Wim Wenders to Agnès Varda to Claire Denis has exerted a determining influence on much of the most ambitious contemporary filmmaking.
A child of the French provinces, Godard studied journalism before finding the courage to pursue a career in cinema and enroll in photography at the famed Paris film school IDHEC. Following her first job as a cinematographer on Wenders' Chambre 666 (1982), Godard continued to work on Wenders projects as well as on films by Joseph Losey and Agnès Varda. Befriending another IDHEC graduate, Claire Denis, Godard became one of Denis' closest collaborators, shooting almost all of her films since 1990 while also working with a number of remarkable directors – including André Téchiné and Claude Berri.
Godard's multifaceted style is grounded in her strong preference for saturated colors and a freely mobile, often handheld camera. Distilling the art of the cinematographer to its essential elements Godard avoids baroque camera movement or complicated visual effects, using light and color to illuminate and reveal the human figure and the world it inhabits, rendering them simultaneously recognizable and extraordinary.
This program is presented in conjunction with the Consulate General of France, Boston and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, New York. Special thanks: Anne Miller—Cultural Attaché, Consulate General of France in Boston; Nathalie Charles—Film/TV and New Media Department, French Embassy Cultural Services; Marie Losier.
Directed by Erick Zonca. With Élodie Bouchez, Natacha Régnier, Grégoire Colin
France 1998, 35mm, color, 113 min. French with English subtitles
The first feature film by Erick Zonca follows the friendship between two young women struggling to find their way in contemporary Paris. Supporting each other emotionally and financially, their bond is threatened when one falls in love with a rich and dangerously charming reprobate. With its naturalistic lighting and understated palette, Godard's cinematography creates an engrossing realism punctuated by frequent flashes of vibrant color. Shooting on super 16mm, Godard makes extensive and understated use of the handheld camera; its proximity to the characters establishes a haunting intimacy as they grapple with love and betrayal.
Directed by Claire Denis. With Mati Diop, Alex Descas, Nicole Dogue
France/Germany 2008, 35mm, color, 100 min. French and German with English subtitles
One of Claire Denis' most moving and accessible works, the recent 35 Shots of Rum is a melancholy homage to the great Yasujiro Ozu and in particular his Late Spring (1949), echoing the Japanese master's delicate exploration of the deep devotion between a father and his daughter who is on the verge of leaving home. Denis' version is based on the story of her own mother and grandfather who were gradually pulled apart from one another by conflicting romantic love interests. Godard's cinematography provides indispensable support for the film's narrative which is built on an elliptical series of quotidian events. A bold use of rich, saturated colors, both light and dark, gives 35 Shots of Rum an engrossing texture, a sense of vital warmth and familiarity.