940. Je vous salue, Marie / Hail Mary (1984, Jean-Luc Godard)

Joyeux Noel! screened Saturday December 15 2007 on New Yorker DVD in Weehawken NJ

TSPDT rank #899 IMDb Wiki

Godard's controversial take on the gospel story of Mary ranks in my mind as his most sensual work, startlingly direct in its exploration of the aching rift between material and spiritual reality. Godard appropriates the mystery of the immaculate conception to revisit the themes of womanly identity and freedom that he had explored in his '60s films with Anna Karina. As a young Mary whose pregnancy rends her sense of self from her own body, Myriem Roussel exhibits Karina's curiosity with the mysteries within and around her. In a parallel manner, the film makes between Mary and her milieu of similarly befuddled human beings, and beautiful landscape shots of nature, ample in sensory stimulation yet unyielding in meaning. Godard's film is preceded by Anne-Marie Mieville's 27 minute short The Book of Mary, a brilliantly evocative, Bressonian study of a young girl's experience of her parents' split; like the feature, it explores the psychological and existential effect of an event that rends one's conception of reality. At their best, both films evoke a genuine sense of wonder and sage acceptance of the world's irresolutions and mysteries.

Historical Reviews

On the Sunday prior to the two screenings of the picture at the New York Film Festival, John Cardinal O'Connor denounced Hail Mary from the pulpit of St. Patrick's Cathedral and told potential protesters that he would be with them in spirit. Monday-evening moviegoers were forced to run a gauntlet created by some 5,000 demonstrators reciting the rosary and shouting "Shame." Police and festival officials were surprised by the size and vociferousness of the crowd, and there were moments when they feared an ugly clash...But mostly the movie reads as a middle-aged man's wistful, somewhat pathetic fantasy about how a young woman can be dominated by a powerful father figure without resort to sex. There may be sacrilege in that thought, but there is even more banality. Had the director not pressed his other religious allusions home so crudely, it is one that might have passed unnoted except by devoted cinephiles...That shock value worked up the ire of American Catholics. Fear of pressure from them caused an arm of Columbia Pictures, itself a Coca- Cola subsidiary, to drop distribution of the picture. (It has been picked up by an independent concern.) Catholic activists have called on New York Governor Mario Cuomo to fire his arts chairman, Kitty Carlisle Hart, because the festival receives a modest subsidy from the state arts council (as well as from the National Endowment for the Arts). At least one lay group is protesting to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that the screening of Hail Mary violates their religious rights.

- Richard Schickel for Time Magazine, October 21 1985

One would imagine a film which has generated such heat to contain an unorthodox, daring interpretation of its subject matter. Surprisingly, in this case the opposite is true -- unless, of course, one is willing to see the very fact that even saints have genitals as something of a revelation. Rather than too much, Godard bestowes too little flesh and blood on his Mary. He fails to impart more than an abstract sense to her initial bewilderment and ultimate compliance. He strives to represent her with so much reverence that he almost ends up not representing her at all...

Stylistically, Hail Mary fits into the pattern that in recent years has become Godard's trademark. He employs a fragmented, associative narrative with drastic cuts and a plethora of side-references. As in Passion or First Name: Carmen, in Hail Mary this style looks mannered and soon becomes tiresome to watch. In particular, Godard fails to convince that his multitude of images adds up to a clear and consistent vocabulary. Planes taking off or waves on the beach have so many symbolic connotations that their mere inclusion looks gratuitous, or cosmetic at best. Not all is bad, fortunately. Whatever the general conception of his film, Godard remains a director who knows his camera, and Hail Mary contains many an enthralling shot, inspired scene, or interesting composition. But this cannot make up for the general impression of the film: that it is essentially flawed, and undeserving of the attention it has received. The showing of Hail Mary is preceded by The Book of Mary, a half-hour long reflection on the reaction of a young girl to the imminent divorce of her parents. The unpretentious direction of Godard's associate Anne-Marie Mieville and impeccable acting make this appetizer far more palatable than the main course.

- From Michael Bos' review for the MIT Tech, November 26, 1985

'Hail Mary'' may be a serious film, but it's not especially provocative or entertaining... 'The Book of Mary,'' directed and edited by Miss Mieville, Mr. Godard's long-time collaborator and associate, has the luminous clarity of prose stripped of all superfluous adverbs and adjectives. In a series of short, sharply detailed scenes, separated by blackouts, it records the state of mind of Mary, the only child of bickering parents who, at long last, decide to split. Mary loves each equally, and demonstrates love in spontaneous ways that are immensely sad without being pathetic.

- Vincent Camby, The New York Times, October 7 1985

Dear Cardinal Bernardin,

Tonight, at about the time "Hail Mary" opens its Chicago run, you will be conducting a special service at Holy Name Cathedral. Your purpose is to honor the Virgin Mary, in response to the new French film by Jean-Luc Godard, which has been condemned by the Pope and others as an attack on her...

While you are conducting your service tonight, other Catholics will be picketing Facets Multimedia, which is showing the film. You have indicated that you believe picketing is not a wise choice; that it only draws attention to a film.

My own feeling is that the people on the picket line will be protesting a film most of them have not seen and will not see. The irony is this: With their special devotion to Mary, they are perhaps the only people in town who might find this film genuinely interesting...

The story is hard to follow (despite its familiarity!). Scenes are shapeless and often lead nowhere. There is a curious detachment, a lack of emotion. The actors are too passive. Although some of the story elements, such as Gabriel arriving in a jet plane, may sound satirical, the film handles them in a serious, deadpan, non-comic way. I cannot recommend "Hail Mary" - except, ironically, as a film that could inspire an interesting discussion.

- Roger Ebert, from his 1 1/2 star review, The Chicago Sun-Times, April 4, 1986

Blasphemy is just about the last thing on Jean-Luc Godard's mind in this modern-day (1985) transposition of the nativity story; just as he did in First Name: Carmen, Godard has placed a mythic story in a cramped everyday setting to see if there is still any connection between the immediate and the eternal, the flesh and the spirit, the purely fortuitous and the transcendently ordered. The mysteries are respected, and even evoked with awe during a ravishing centerpiece sequence that cuts between Mary's anguished attempts to understand what is happening to her body and a magisterial series of sunsets and landscapes. The real scandal, for anyone who has followed Godard through his Marxist period, is how much genuine spiritual longing the film contains--no longer content with a materialist analysis of the state of the world, he's attempting here to film the intangible.

- Dave Kehr, The Chicago Reader

This Australian site analyzes the ruling of the Australian censor board allowing the film to be released with the US equivalent of an R rating as opposed to an NC-17.

General assessments

Bill Mousoulis considers Hail Mary to be one of the three best films of all time:

Far from blasphemous, this film is possibly Godard's sincerest and most spiritual work. It feels like he was inspired making this film - every nature shot is sublime, every human interaction is sweet (for Godard), and the music (Bach and Dvorak) just soars. Directed with a light touch, this film is a blessing.

The only thing that can be said categorically about this film is that it does not deserve the amount of attention it has received. In style and content, it is scarcely different from the other films which Godard made during his post-Marxist return to commercial film-making in the mid 1980s. All of the films which he made in this period, which include Détective, Passion, Prénom: Carmen and King Lear, are abstract, free-form films, inspired by previous works, which place the role of the image way above that of narrative, characterisation and dialogue. The result is indeed a new kind of cinema, but one which excludes the majority of cinema goers and often irritates with its pretentious self-congratulation as much as it impresses with its innovative flair.With that in mind, Je vous salue, Marie can hardly be considered (as some have stated) a landmark film. It does occasionally impress with the quality of its camera work (one area where Godard cannot be faulted), but the lack of focus, the muddling of so many Biblical references, the wooden acting, the lack of a single coherent purpose simply makes the film slow, plodding and irritating.

- James Travers for filmsdefrance.com

Set to gusts of classical music and punctuated with images of nature (sunsets, rippling water, rustling trees), Hail Mary is limpid, serene, and, for all the pubic hair on display, glowingly chaste. The copious doses of female nudity, the main factor in raising the ire of protesters, are in fact central to Godard's incantation of the intangible. "Does the soul have a body?" Marie asks her gynecologist, and it is by focusing on their bodies and surfaces that the director can extract the characters' soulful essences into the open. It is often forgotten that Godard's picture was always meant as a companion piece to The Book of Mary, Anne-Marie Miéville's lovely 25-minute short about a couple's imploding marriage as viewed by their young daughter; besides setting the melancholic tone and supplying the formation of a consciousness as its structure, Miéville's short anticipates and complements Godard's in the weight and intensity given to objects and bodies. This sense of physicality becomes enlarged in the film, where the movements of women throwing a basketball around are as imbued with wonder as the child growing inside Marie's belly... "Despair" is routinely used to describe the tone of the filmmaker's later period, yet, because the post-Dziga Vertov Godard believes as deeply in the power of the medium as the young cinephile of the Cahiers du Cinéma era, the film's feeling is ultimately one of refreshed hope. Indeed, Hail Mary's last 10 minutes or so remain among the most life-affirming movements in the director's career, bringing together form and content to celebrate the title character's celestial awareness and, possibly mirroring the auteur's own spiritual renewal, a new chance for humanity.

- Four-star review by Fernando Croce at Slant Magazine

Questia offers free preview pages from the essays found in Jean-Luc Godard's Hail Mary: Women and the Sacred in Film Southern Illinois University Press, 1993. (Access to the full text of the essays require subscription to Questia). Some nuggets visible in the previews, as follows:

Laura Mulvey:

The film dwells on Joseph's almost unbearable sexual frustration, his conviction that Mary's pregnancy proves her infidelity, his reluctance to accept chastity as a precondition of love, and his ultimate reconciliation with her soul and spirituality by accepting her virginity and her pregnancy. In the meantime, the camera, essentially destined to be voyeur rather than lover, has unlimited access to the carnal joy of her image. Godard makes no attempt to reconcile theme and image. His film shares the deep ambivalence aroused by the female body in a tradition of Christian ideology that fetishizes the virgin birth.

David Sterritt:

It is not difficult... to approach the Mary figure and the Joseph figure of Godard's film in terms of psychology and emotional response. Thisis noteworthy since Godard's films are often very resistant in these respects. From the beginning of his career he has been concerned, to a greater or lesser degree in any given film, with distancing his audience from the hearts and minds of his characters so that neither psychological identification nor narrative momentum will obscure the ideological or theoretical issues that are his primary concern. Unlike the characters in, say, Weekend or Numéro deux-- to name representative films made (respectively) before and after Godard's problematic Dziga Vertov group period--the Mary and Joseph figures of Hail Mary, are immediately accessible as real, vulnerable, multidimensional human personalities with problems that adult viewers can speculate on from the vantage points of their own experiences.

Ellen Draper:

A barrier of sacred sexual difference looms between Godard and Maryand inevitably becomes the central theme of the film. No resolution is possible, so the film forces its viewer into the subject positioning epitomized by Joseph, who is bullied by Gabriel until he agrees to look at Mary without touching her. In a similar fashion, the viewer is pummeled by Godard's camera work and editing into an acceptance of Mary that precludes the possibility of empathetic interaction. Something like Joseph's resignation to his role ("Je resterais," he tells Mary) consigns the viewer to the uncomfortable position of watching Mary exposed physically and emotionally by Godard while the viewer is held at a distance via cuts and camera angles.

Mary, Joseph and Godard Gerald Peary recounts his interview with the star of the film in the Boston Phoenix:

Godard’s Mary is the French basketball-playing daughter of a gas-station attendant who finds herself mysteriously pregnant. She was played by 23-year-old Myriem Roussel, a tall, thin, beautiful Moroccan who had met Godard when she was 19 and went on to appear in hisPassion and Prénom Carmen.” At Berlin, she sat silent at the press conference and chainsmoked while Godard pontificated. But later that day, the shy actress met with me for her first, and only, English-language interview. She said she and Godard had planned Hail Mary for three years. “We worked with video. Godard forced me to write down a diary of my thoughts, not regular writing but from my depths. I had no religious education, so I had to study the Bible. I watched Pasolini’s film, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, and also Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. Godard loves that film, and I understand why he loves it. And I had to learn basketball. Godard wanted to do a basketball scene very much.” She noted that basketball has symbolic, spiritual associations: “the moon, the stomach when you are pregnant."

She was adamant about her controversial nudity. “Mary is a virgin, but Mary is a woman, too. For me, the decision was to show her in 1985 as an actual contemporary person. Maybe if we’d set the film in Biblical times, it could be shocking, but not now.” She also explained why she seems so mean and insensitive to the modern-day Joseph, her Hail Mary boyfriend, refusing to have any amorous contact with him. “It’s not that Mary hates men or that she’s scared of sex. It’s only because she has been chosen for that special birth. She’s predestined to act that way.”

She thought a moment about that answer, then added, “Anyway, I was like that too. When I was young, I had a boyfriend for two years. I gave him permission to hold my hand, but that was all.”

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Joseph comes to trust what Mary is telling him, but not before he whines a lot about not getting any loving. He's not the most compassionate person that could have been charged with the paternity of the Christ child. At the start of the movie, he is taking out his frustrations over Mary's refusals by toying with another woman (a young Juliette Binoche in only her fourth movie), and he shows as little concern for this second girlfriend's feelings as he does for the emotional turmoil his fiancée has been thrown into. Joseph won't be satisfied until he sees Mary naked, plain and simple. Gabriel eventually knocks him into line, however, forcing him to dress like a grown-up (Joseph had been wearing dark shades and kept his collar popped up until that point) and physically forcing him to vow to leave Mary's virtue where it is. If he doesn't, Joseph will mess up the divine plan. In a self-reflexive move, Godard illustrates the notion of God's Will being disrupted by having Gabriel forget his proper lines whenever he's faced with Joseph's impudence, something the little girl consistently points out to the older angel.

- Jamie S. Rich for DVD Talk

At the heart of Hail Mary is the love story between Mary and Joseph. For Mary, Joseph's love means nothing if he distrusts her, and does not accept a pregnancy he cannot understand. This trust becomes Joseph's leap of faith and, for Godard, his own attempt to find spiritual meaning both in love and in femininity. The film posits that any sense of woman as "other" or "mystery" begins with Eve and is continued by Mary, women that defied the natural order of the world, and required men to love them not despite their singular character, but because of it. Any controversy the film caused should have been about Godard's meditation on Mary as an untouchably beautiful yet sexualized virgin.

Matt Peterson for the Brooklyn Rail

Let there be light: Godard and God

The rapturous views of nature and the man-made world border on the idolatrous in their pure beauty. Instead of conventional images of faith, Godard offers faith in images—the proof that miracles are possible because existence, as he presents it here, is already a miracle.

- Richard Brody, The New Yorker

This is actually the most Bressonian I've seen Godard get, for while his post-1970s style certainly seems more and more influenced by Bresson, this film not only employs a kind of essentialist, fragmented stylistics similar to that of Bresson, but also comes close to using actors as models (again, toeing the line between the next step to a film like Forever Mozart where actors are not even characters any more), and more importantly approaches Bressonian thematics (and cinematics), namely by telling the story of Mary's (modern day) pregnancy in the split, meeting, and otherwise conflict and confluence between body and spirit. Mary sees the soul as having a body, whereas Joseph (who continually wants to kiss and/or make love to Mary) sees the body as having a soul; and I for one see much of this as allegory for what one can photograph in the cinema, as the existence of bodies in front of the camera seems obvious, but the soul less so. But the melancholy of the film, the beauty and sublimity, it does not just come from the positioning of items in front of the camera does it? Thus while Godard may have been trying for several things in this film, a picture of contemporary youth, or at least faith in contemporary youth, a more every-day picture of Mary and Joseph's life together, and a larger emphasis on psychology in their story, because I approached the film from the reflexive content of Forever Mozart and that film's questioning of the use and placement of art in the world, Hail Mary appeared to me first and foremost as using a story about bodily spirituality (or spiritual body-ness) to test, question, and otherwise explore the representation and expression of those things through cinema.

- Daniel Kasman

The essentially unanswerable question Marie is forced to confront by her circumstance, as Godard states it, is where does the body end and the soul begin? Are they ultimately interchangeable, or is the existence of one conditioned by the other? Forbidding stuff, to be sure, but to hear him tell it this is a routine matter everyone faces; though never quite so forcefully as Marie and Joseph do. To regard Hail, Mary as a work of even marginal piety in this context, as some critics did, comes dangerously close to flirtation with that soft-witted outpost of Creationist dogma known as Intelligent Design. In retelling of the Annunciation and the Virgin Birth, in removing from them every implication we might consider Spiritual, Jean-Luc Godard leaves us with a world where every event is, like Cinema itself, conditioned by light; a luminance so common that its power seems to escape everyone else’s notice, but before which Marie and Joseph feel compelled to surrender themselves, body and soul.

Whether it’s the light of the sun or the moon, the mud-gray light trickling through a bedroom window in mid-morning, the florescent glare thrown on students in a classroom, or on a Shell station after dark, the guiding lights in Hail, Mary are strange and enigmatic, but their sources are never in doubt. And whatever spiritual dimensions you or I might conjure out of them are created by us, the viewers, more than God or Godard or anybody else.

- Tom Sutpen at Flickhead

Dissenting opinions

One of my professors perfectly summed up my feelings on Godard. He has the uncanny ability to cut his film in threes. During the first act, you're quick to announce him as the Savior of cinema. By the second act, you've scratched that thought. And by the third, you think he's a hack. I defended the purpose of this three-act structure for Weekend, but, here, even more so than the self-righteousness of something like Tout va bien, he gets so lost in his own mind, you quickly lose sight of anything he's trying to say.

- Joe Bowman

While I've admittedly never been much for art films, the next paragraph will attempt to replicated the experience of watching Hail Mary. For this activity, you will need some loud, bombastic classical music, and several photographs of nature. Whenever you see {NATURE}, put one of the pictures in front of this review for a few moments. Whenever you see {MUSIC}, play a random interval between two and ten seconds of the music. Ready? here we go.IN THIS REVIEW The experience of watching Jean-Luc Godard's {MUSIC} Hail Mary is both frustrating and alienating. {NATURE} Cut into the scenes and conversations are brief {NATURE} clips of {MUSIC} short aural and visual breaks, which I'm sure were supposed to {NATURE} signify something deep and thought {MUSIC} provoking. There is an odd side story dropped into the center of Hail Mary involving the affair IN THIS REVIEW of a professor and student that doesn't connect to the rest of the film. The music is loud, and isn't at {NATURE} all appropriate for the scenes in which it is placed. Sometimes it's only a few notes of one of Bach's piano concertos, or it {NATURE} may be several bars of an organ fugue. The images of nature work in IN THIS REVIEW much {MUSIC} the same way...In the end, I really just found the whole affair surprisingly dull. The audio/visual twitches made it impossible to doze off, but there wasn't enough in the cinematography, characters, dialogue, or ideas to keep me engaged for over an hour. When I sit down to a highly controversial film, I expect to see something challenging and potentially explosive. American audiences could have problems with the extensive nudity in the film, but it is never gratuitous or sexual. Aside from a few bizarre internal monologues from Marie, I see few ways that religious groups would be upset with the ideas of the film, either. It's a pretty simple retelling of the story. Ultimately, I think that is Hail Mary's downfall. The controversy surrounding the film has made it far more important than it should have been. In the end, it's a dull and lesser work in a master filmmaker's canon. Had the Catholic Church left well enough alone, the people who will now check out what all the fuss is about would probably never had heard about it in the first place.

- Judge Joel Pearce for DVD Verdict

Other reviews:

Time Out New York

Matthew Hundley

Peter Chattaway on Arts and Faith

Gary Tooze on the 2006 New Yorker DVD:

Audio and optional English subtitles (although not listed in the menu they were removable on my system) are fine and we thank NY'er for bringing this out as many have fans have patiently waited for its release. With an update of the Virgin birth relocated to contemporary Paris - one couldn't ask for a more enticing premise. Surely a 'must-own' for Godard fans.

On the significance of Hail Mary in the continuum of Godard's career:

Je Vous Salue, Marie is ostensibly a re-creation of the Virgin birth in modern times. But it is also an attempt to return to zero, to the beginning, to that "natural" moment between the birth of the image and its representation. Marie is the metaphor for this beginning -- nature shall represent her. But what shall represent nature? This asymptote of image regression, the attempt to return to a zero which does not exist, is the Law of virgin birth... Godard's "post-Marxist" return to the cinema in the 1980's was marked by an increased interest for filming adaptations of past works rather than original stories: Passion invokes major paintings from the past; Prenom: Carmen. (1983) is loosely based upon the opera; Je Vous Salue, Mary (1985) retells the story of the Virgin Mother in modern terms; King Lear (1987) speaks for itself. The narratives chosen rework the past into the present, creating and blending the new and the old into one filmic text. It is as if Godard has realised that all narratives are basically exhausted; certainly his own artistic output has been a major factor in bringing this about. What is left, then, is to examine the image itself: deconstruct it, reconstruct it, use it as the starting-point for narrative investigation. Certainly Je Vous Salue, Mary is a substantial part of this investigation. The lushness of its images and the beauty of its subjects create in the viewer a reverence. It is a reverence not for narrative, camerawork, editing, or any other of the cinematic "tricks" in Godard's past; it is the reverence of image itself, image which seems to be apart from reality while still being a part of it at the same time. The texts of Godard in this "later" period invent a new cinema, a new filmic medium based on other mediums, other works, other texts, other schools of thought. They seek to capture a past they already know is internally false, thereby spiralling in on themselves. Je Vous Salue, Mary is the perfect example of such a text -- it is a film that looks so beautiful, so inherently new and perfect, but it is also a film which ultimately reveals this articulation as pretence. These are texts which set up the old Laws again just to knock them down, or invent new ones for the sole purpose of breaking them in the very next moment. They are texts which neither deny nor subvert postmodern simulation because they work within it, always aware that they are simulating the fact that they are denying or subverting the postmodern simulacrum. Thus a new type of simulation is born, the simulation of simulation. Can this really be a new road out of the postmodern and onto/into new ground, toward a new field of textual practice, one which exists beyond the grip of the postmodern while at the same time is firmly held in its grasp?

- Glen Norton

Godard famously pondered, in 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, whether it was more suitable to concentrate on the woman or the leaves before deciding that "both, on this October evening, trembled slightly." Hail Mary is similarly inclined, a product of Godard's unquenchable desire to inculcate dual vision in his viewers, getting them to see the narrative, and the cinematic convention that props it up. Godard once remarked of cinematic violence that "it's not blood, it's red," and Hail Mary similarly seeks to debunk its partial attempt at updating the Virgin Mary for 1980s France. Godard seeds Hail Mary with Bach and Dvorak, soaring, grandiose music appropriate for a religious epic, and then intentionally undercuts it, interrupting the music arbitrarily with dialogue, nature sounds, and industrial clanging. Hail Mary keeps one eye peeled for its updated Holy Family but is more intrigued by the slow ripple of waves on the shore, or the texture of Mary's bare belly. It is understandable that Catholics would have been put off by Godard's Mary: She is entirely, stunningly corporeal, with Godard preferring the contours of her legs, her breasts, and her face to her spiritual dilemma.What he has lost sight of, and what Hail Mary marked essentially the last gasp of, is that a Godard wrenched entirely free of his roots in potboilers and women's films is a Godard out of touch with what makes movies cinematic. No one, outside of Godard's personal cheerleading section in the world of film criticism, wants to sit through a filmed philosophy lecture. Ideas, such as they are, only have value when appended to a story, to characters, to something tangible. Godard has chosen to embrace the abstruse, finding ideas more trustworthy companions than people. The result has been two decades of diminishing returns from the man who was once, but is no longer, the world's greatest filmmaker.

- Saul Austerlitz for Slate

I think Godard now believes that the squawking, grating sounds of the modern world are howls of grief, of protest at the conditions of being human -- that if you listen closely enough and follow these sounds to their sources, what you'll find are creatures in pain. Noise is music ruined, electric lights and globes are poor reminders of moons and suns, sex is a bad substitute for real oneness, men are lousy imitations of God.How is he to represent or suggest the other world, the unseeable world, especially in feature films -- maybe the most this-worldly of all the arts? Godard is too much the skeptic or perhaps just too reticent to do what Welles and Peckinpah did, which was to treat the worlds they filmed as settings for their inner dramas; the landscapes of "Chimes at Midnight" and "Major Dundee" are as deep, eerie and peculiar as any Tanguy -- the frame is used as an opening into a man's mind....

Godard's images -- the landscapes, the moon, the water, Mary's belly -- and the always-interrupted classical music aren't actual depths, they're indications that depths and essences exist. They're signs, reminders. Godard isn't showing us what he's daydreaming about; he's showing us what sets him off. (I imagine a boy burying his head in his mother's lap and listening, and remembering.) His mind is on the unseeable, and he's convinced there's no way to show it...In "Every Man" and "Passion" and "Carmen" you could still get the impression that Godard was trying to get a handle on his misery, trying to get the better of it. The sweetness of "Hail Mary" is that he's no longer trying to end-run, barrel through or outwit it. He's being perfectly upfront about how he feels. He's forlorn and knows it, but he's also at relative peace; he has stopped trying to get over his reflex to pull back. His sincerity and resignation are what make the movie so pure and give it its air of grace. He is saying in a small voice that he feels shut off from the sources of creation, that he's alienated from contemporary culture, feature films and his own sexuality, and that there seems to be nothing he can do about all this. All that remains is to try to be virtuous, and to daydream. "Hail Mary" is a graceful admission of defeat -- Godard's acceptance of his new role as a mere toiler.

- Ray Sawhill

Video clips

"The Book of Mary" - Excerpt One - with English subs - Mary's dance of death to the final movement of Mahler's Symphony No. 9 in D Major. Not to be missed:

"The Book of Mary" - Excerpt Two - without subs:

A killer music video mashing clips from Hail, Mary with The Strokes' "Hard to Explain" helps bring out the teen angst angle of the film:

Godard's video "notes à propos du film 'Je vous salue, Marie'" in its entirety. French, no subs.

Jean-Luc Godard - Online resources

Wikipedia Pages: English and French

Cinema = Godard = Cinema - Possibly the most valuable Godard resource online

The BFI website has an area devoted to Godard, with a biography, an interview with Anna Karina, and various writings and links.

Great Directors Biography by Craig Keller for Senses of Cinema - offers a great summary of the contentiousness surrounding Godard's past and present stature as an artist:

In discussing the cinema of Jean-Luc Godard, one inevitably arrives at the question of where exactly to mark this artist's own “leaps forward” on the timeline of a long and prolific career; and in addressing that question, one first must decide how to make the distinction between “before” and “after,” and then how many times to make the distinction. Could one, for instance, find numerous points of departure through Godard's body of work, and cite as examples the liberated debut feature À Bout de souffle (Breathless, 1959), the serial video works of the 1970s, and, from the 1980s onward, the advent of the transcendental film-essays? On the contrary, could one plead the case for a single break that occurred when, in 1968, Godard dedicated himself to an expressly Marxist agenda, whereby the next several films stood as aggressively didactic, anti-bourgeois “blackboards”? The first instance grants a priori that Godard's body of work can be read as a movement that passes through many aesthetic phases but never fails to constitute an oeuvre that, examined from any point, yields a poetic and cinematic value consistent with or building upon those films that have come before. It is the second standpoint, however, that has been so consistently adopted by a number of prominent (that is, visible) film critics and historians. This flank, whose American roster includes but is not limited to Roger Ebert, Anthony Lane, Andrew Sarris, and David Thomson, have long confused the evolution of the artist Godard with some kind of fundamental betrayal. For this group, Godard is a filmmaker who will forever be associated with pop-art palettes, love-and-guns on the run, and the intellectual exuberance of a breezy pre-Vietnam '60s youth; but who will never be forgiven for discarding the earlier use of Hollywood reference points (which the filmmaker's latter-day antagonists had perceived in any case not as aesthetic critique but as blank cool cultural homage), exhibiting overtly political (even left-wing) tendencies, exploring in his two television series the possibilities of a different medium of transmission, and then settling on a mode of filmmaking that incorporates narrative cadenzas, historical scrutiny, visual poetry, literary citation, and a dominant mood of elegiac contemplativeness. In short, Godard has evolved from making films of great complexity and beauty to making films of even greater complexity that frequently approach the sublime.

Biographical timeline by Carleton College curiously ends at 1970

Jean Luc Godard's MySpace page offers the same biographical data in narrative form, and offers a generous helping of quotes.

More Godard quotes can be found hereFrom a press conference with Godard at the 1995 Montreal Film Festival:

Video has its own specificity. It can be used for its uniqueness, but, in my opinion, rarely is. One of its main interests is that you can work at it at home, if you can afford it or have a production company that allows you to do so. You can therefore work a bit more, perhaps, like a painter or a musician, and realize that the image is not only space but also time...On video, I love doing superimpositions, real superimpositions, almost as in music, where movements mix - sometimes slowly, sometimes brutally - then something happens. You can have two images at the same time, much like you can have two ideas at the same time, and you can commute between the two, which, to me, seems very close to childhood. Cinema has reached adulthood and you can reflect more. In cinema, you write the novel. But you have to have a philosophical idea in order to write a good novel.

From the same conference - Godard on the Internet, the Information Highway and how they will affect the future of movies:

I am a total ignoramus on that front, mon ami. I don't know what it is, I already have a hard time dealing with the "Play" button on my VCR. I can no longer even iron my clothes: too many buttons to the iron. Although, hopefully, I still have a fair number of years to live, I hope the police won't force me to use a computer. Don't forget highways were invented by Adolf Hitler and a few others of the same ilk. I don't think a highway helps knowing and appreciating a landscape. Same thing, for me, applies to the "information highway...In today's configuration of cinema, I think my films, and those of Jean-Marie Straub, Jean Vigo, John Casavetes, may be less seen than they used to be, since it's technology - CD-ROMs, the Internet - that will determine "the classics,' the 'necessary' films, unless Cinemath�ques and Film archives manage to protect them, but they're so weak, and cinema is not, like painting, a 'fine' art. No Cinemath�que can be as successful as the Louvre Museum, simply because cinema, as it was born, and born only a hundred years ago, is still a mechanical art...

mp3 audio clip of Godard interviewed by Serge Daney (in French)

Biographical essay by Charles Taylor for Salon.com repudiates most of Godard's post-60s work

Biography by filmsdefrance.com

An account of Gordard's religious leanings, quoting liberally from Colin McCabe's Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at Seventy, Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York (2003)

Gerald Peary offers a review of McCabe's biography

I’m always amazed that critics can praise a Godard film without ever getting down to explicating what’s literally happening in a scene. They write as if these films were telling their stories straightforwardly. Without help from the presskits, could journalists discern even the sketchy plots they refer to? A great deal of the fascination of Godard’s late works comes from his refusal of the most elementary forms of exposition–picking out characters, explaining their relations, and the like. There is always a story, but it’s about three-quarters hidden, and this seems to me to require a lot more analysis than people tend to give it.

- David Bordwell, from his illustrated survey of aspect ratios in Godard films