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Godard: The Essential Collection Blu-ray review

Five of the acclaimed director’s most celebrated films get a high-definition release.

Jean-Luc Godard
Credit: Studiocanal

Anyone who considers themselves a real connoisseur of cinema will no doubt reference Jean-Luc Godard when they talk about the great directors in the film industry. The French writer and director was one of the leaders of the French New Wave cinema movement in the late 50s through to the late 60s. His early work was a key influence on American cinema in the 70s and at the age of 85 he’s still making movies. To celebrate the critically-acclaimed auteur’s lasting impact on cinema, Studiocanal is releasing Blu-ray boxset Godard: The Essential Collection.

Godard: The Essential Collection contains five of Godard’s most revered films; Breathless/ À Bout De Souffle (1959), Une Femme Est Une Femme (1961), Le M épris/Contempt (1963), Pierrot Le Fou (1965) and Alphaville (1965). It serves as both a timely reminder for long-time fans of Godard’s work at his best and a great introduction for those new to his work.

Out of the films featured in this release Breathless/ À Bout De Souffle is perhaps the most well-known. The film stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as youthful criminal Michel, a man on the run in Paris at the end of the 50s. The film went on to be remade in 1983 with Richard Gere in the lead but it’s the original that is the true masterpiece. From Godard’s slick and expert direction, through to the gripping and twisting storyline, Breathless is a true French cinema classic and it stands up to repeat viewings.

As good a film as Breathless is, it’s Pierrot Le Fou that I enjoyed the most. Anna Karina stars as Marianne Renoir, a young babysitter who accompanies Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a bored husband who leaves his family to run way to the South of France from Paris, after a body is found in her apartment. The film expertly moves from family drama to mystery as Ferdinand realises Marianne, who is also his ex-girlfriend, may be on the run herself from gangsters.

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The weakest link in the collection in my opinion is Alphaville. A futuristic tale telling the story of Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine), an American private eye sent to another planet to find malevolent scientist Von Braun (Howard Vernon). The film doesn’t feel quite as tight as Godard’s other works and for the first half not a great deal actually happens. For my taste the story was far too slow with little to keep me gripped and I definitely preferred the other four movies.

The boxset contains over six hours of extra material, some of which is exclusive to the release including new interview with Anna Karina and a booklet featuring essays on each of the five films from critics and directors. Other extras include introductions to the movies, trailers, posters and fantastic in-depth featurettes.

Worthy of comment is the quality of the boxset. All five films look stunning in high-definition with a clarity that is very impressive, especially given how long ago they were first released. The quality of the films, and indeed Godard’s distinctive direction, is really highlighted with the clarity of the picture and sound. The restoration work done on the films is truly maginificent.

Godard: The Essential Collection is a must-have set for those who really immerse themselves in the world of film. The casual film fan may find the films featured here a bit difficult to get into and it’s safe to say an understand of French New Wave and the history of cinema is likely to aid your enjoyment of this collection. Godard is iconic for a reason and The Essential Collection reminds you that there’s no one like him, and there quite possibly never will be again.

Cast: Various Director: Jean-Luc Godard Writer: Jean-Luc Godard Released By: Studiocanal Certificate: 15 Duration: 502 mins Release Date: 1st February 2016

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