When I heard that Godard wasn't going to be picking up his honorary Oscar at a special ceremony of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Hollywood next month, I smiled to myself and thanked goodness that some things never change. Yes, it is a terribly French thing to do, and yes, Godard seems too old to be keeping up with such an attitude of resistance (I mean even Charlie Chaplin finally made amends with the Academy in his old age), but his actions are consistent with the kind of avant-garde filmmaking and controversial attitudes that have punctuated his career. Just this past week I spoke with a number of students who saw the French New Wave master's Breathless(1960) for the first time at a special screening at Vancouver's Pacific Cinematheque, and I was reminded how powerfully relevant and contemporary Godard's films read to today's audiences. Ironically enough, the banter, tension and flirting between Belmondo and Seberg's characters (petty French thief meets aspiring American journalist) echoes themes of Godard's own love-hate relationship with American culture-- filmic and socio-political-- that relate to his decision to skip the awards. It is also a love-hate relationship that many of us as Canadians relate to well.
In this sense, I would argue that Godard has remained both loyal and consistent with his course of action, something that is highlighted in this brilliant 1960's interview clip embedded below (an interview in French with English subtitles-- I have also embedded the original French trailer for Breathless for those needing a quick Godard fix). Note how his opinions and casual indifference regarding film reviews and criticism are shaped by his own earlier career as a film critic and also note how all of his awards have come from European (and one Canadian!) film institution. Does anyone really blame him for keeping not attending? I just love Godard's wife's cutting response to it all: "He's getting old for that kind of thing. Would you go all that way just for a bit of metal?"