Visual Contemporaries: Woody Allen & Jean-Luc Godard


The other night I stumbled across a list of The Fifty Best Living Directors, which I apprehensively opened. However, I found myself agreeing with most of the list and was very surprised at some of the obscure directors they included (Agnes Varda and Wong Kar Wai being particular ones that they elaborated on). Woody Allen came in at #7, and Jean-Luc Godard came in at #2.

Though noticeably different, Allen and Godard share many similar tendencies. Godard is 5 years older than Allen, and Godard’s career took off almost 10 years before Allen’s, so it is safe to assume that Godard was an influence on Allen.

In this clip from 1965’s Pierrot Le Fou, Godard breaks the 4th wall, in the same way Allen does in 1977’s Annie Hall.

Godard casted his absolutely beautiful wife, the lovely Anna Karina, in his  films from 1961-1967, the years in which they were married. Her character most of the time is very flighty and lively compared to the protagonist, who usually is apprehensive, pensive and/or weighed down with a burden on the conscience. Godard recycled Karina in the same way Allen recast Diane Keaton.

In Godard’s 1962 film Une Femme est Une Femme, Karina and Jean Claude Brialy’s character use books as arguments to assault each other intellectually, not unlike Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in Annie Hall.

In Godard’s 1964 film, Bande a part, he has his characters (including Karina as Odile) see how fast they can sprint through the Louvre. Allen’s characters frequently attend the museum, at a much slower pace. Though a corollary cannot be clearly drawn here, it is important that both auteurs extract conversation from a place not frequently used in films: the museum.

Also note the narrator in Bande a Part, a technique similar to Allen’s overbearing use in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Even when Allen is not  acting in his film, he emulates himself clearly in the characters, as he is most evidently “Vicky” in that movie. I enjoyed the film, nevertheless. Though it could be because Penelope Cruz is one of my favorite actors.


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