cutting on the action

photography and film – facts, ideas, values

FILM DIRECTOR GODARD glasses, darky







A member of a Godard forum I subscribe to wonders if anyone has a date for this photograph.

It’s probably the most well-known, iconic photograph of Godard. Dark glasses, fag (Gitaine or Galois?). Looking at 24 frames or so. Not in a second though.

If you know Godard it has to be the 60s during the New Wave. Would there be many of him before this?

If you looked at the photo alone – epoché prior knowledge – just the image: age, hair style and glasses. I’d go for personal history of specs. When did he start and stop wearing those. Many years? Did they break and he had to buy another pair? Or did he put them away in a draw or an old glasses case? Are they just shades or prescription? That and looking for other versions of the same photograph. Is this a cropped version?

The date question wasn’t mine. I thought I could find a date quickly and did, 1960, though what I discovered at the bottom of another copy of this photograph, doesn’t guarantee it’s correct – looking so intently at versions of this photograph made me wonder if it was posed. Let’s have a look to see if there are any other versions. Is it the only one or were others taken at the same time? Was it perhaps an impromptu photograph taken by a hanger on or something he orchestrated for publicity?


Does he look as if he might put you straight on these questions?





Does he look here as if he is going to put a date on anything? You might get a divertimento on time discipline.

He looks suspiciously like a contented blind man. You take a photograph. He hears the click. He smiles. You take another. There is that strange slanting of the shoulder: is that the slant of the smoker as he knocks his cigarette on the ash-tray?

You know the kind of thing: black glasses, white stick – tapping down the street. Curb edges. Street light poles. Other pedestrians politely getting out of the way so he can find the familiar objects he uses to guide himself. Getting on a bus first. Even ladies give up their seat on le Metro. Get the girl: you can’t see whether she’s beautiful or not, its all in the voice. Or vice versa.





I decided to help find the date of the photo using Google Images. It’s not very difficult. Instead of looking for websites using Wordy Google, find images and then work from the images to the website in which it’s embedded. Often it’s a route to aspects of the topic you’re interested in that might not have come up on a ordinary search. I’m visually orientated, so a diagram of something is always my first port of call before tackling an explanation.

What shall we look up as an example. Say serotonin. Familiar word but not much idea what it is. Brain for sure. But lets Google Images: serotonin.

Ah what’s that knobbly picture, looks interesting.





This Godard spec fag pic has the hand holding the film missing. To me that’s the most interesting bit. In the first photo, it’s easy to see he uses his thumb and index finger through which he will pull the film strip. Why would someone cut that piece off?

Strange how you can set off on one journey and end up on another.

Hair is always the give away. Though who knows. Can Godard remember? Who took it would be interesting. My guess is there is only one of these. It gets fiddled with in photo-editing software. Maybe they think by cropping and altering copywrite images they won’t be recognised. Or maybe they feel they can do a better job of balancing the image.

Where there is more of the image it’s possible to discern more of room behind hime. Pleated curtain. The corner of the door frame.





It’s only with this version we see how the film runs over his index finger – while held by thumb and second finger – over the back of his hand, spiralling over the inside of wrist, to shoulder, chest or back.











Crop his hand and the eyes. Is the eye you can see through the lens really looking at a frame? It seems to be directing its gaze to the right of the strip of film.


O.k. you got there before me. Did anyone else get a photo taken of himself like this. Eisenstein. As every film student knows Godard and Eisenstein have a direct line through montage. There are plenty of sources if you haven’t a clue what that’s all about. Godard and Eisenstein is a short post in Godard Montage, and more importantly Le Gai Savoir Godard and Eisenstein — notions of intellectual cinema by Ruth Perlmutter in Jump Cut.


There’s extrapolation and there extrapolation. If Godard is not paying homage to Eisenstein through his own image I’d be surprised. Mind you, it’s easy to get carried away. All film people who use celluloid and edit in it rather than digitising and then returning the edit to film for projection, look at bits of film.

But anyone who has looked into Godard and editing know he looked upon montage as more than mere editing.

Take a trip into the world of Godard and Montage. Read The Cinema Alone: Essays on the work of Jean-Luc Godard 1985-2000, edited by Michael Temple and James S. Williams. The whole of Chapter 2 Montage, My Beautiful care, or Histories of the cinematograph by Michael Witt is available in the Google Book version.




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January 25, 2015 - Posted by | Godard |

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