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Jewish Journal story on Godard’s anti-Semitism inspires New York Times

by Danielle Berrin

November 2, 2010 | 11:25 am

Mazel Tov to The New York Times for lending credence to a Jewish Journal report on French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard’s alleged anti-Semitism. (Nevermind that it took them a month to pay attention - we’re not counting.)

Godard, a seminal and brilliant auteur filmmaker was selected to receive an honorary Oscar for his prolific body of work, which includes more than 70 films—but the decision to honor him sparked controversy in some circles, raising questions about Godard’s personal and artistic politics.

Times Hollywood correspondent Michael Cieply writes:

Over the last month, articles in the Jewish press — including a cover story titled “Is Jean-Luc Godard an Anti-Semite?” in The Jewish Journal — have revived a simmering debate over whether Mr. Godard, an avowed anti-Zionist and advocate for Palestinian rights, is also anti-Jewish. And this close examination of his posture toward Jews has put a shadow over plans by the academy to honor him at the Nov. 13 banquet

Spokespeople for the 79-year-old Godard recently announced he would not show for the ceremony. Whether his decline to participate is related to charges of anti-Semitism is inconclusive, but there has been speculation since the announcement that he would not attend. After all, the reigning King of French New Wave couldn’t be caught dead near the likes of Hollywood.

As Journal contributing editor Tom Tugend noted in his story, “[Godard] and his cohorts, among them Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer, rebelled against the traditional French movie, and later against all things Hollywood.”

Whether or not Godard is a verifiable anti-Semite is still in question. In a recent post, I suggested that Godard’s anti-Jewish sentiments may not be hardcore Jew-hatred, but a kind of casual anti-Semitism that is pervasive in French culture.

“There is a casual anti-Semitism in French culture that is quite different than that of the virulent anti-Semitism of the extreme French right, and that is very much connected to a kind of antagonism towards Jews in power,” Maureen Turim, professor of English at the University of Florida, explained.

Film critic Bill Krohn, the Hollywood correspondent for the iconic French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema, may have picked up on this in his defense of Godard. He excused Godard for calling Braunberger a “sale Juif ” (filthy Jew), by dismissing the remark as banter between friends, insisting it was a reference to Jean Renoir’s indictment of French anti-Semitism “La grande illusion.”

Turim, who is at work on a book about Jews, Anti-Semitism, and Resistance in the French Cinema, thinks Krohn is missing the point.

“No amount of reference to ‘La grande illusion’ allows you to make that kind of comment,” Turim said by phone from Gainesville, Florida where she is teaching a graduate seminar on Godard. “It’s not a joke; it’s not a joke in ‘La grande illusion,’ which is one of the strongest statements in the history of French film that anti-Semitism exists in France, and that it’s a horrible thing, and you can’t just turn it into a joke.”

“Godard should just say ‘I’m sorry, I spoke terribly.’ But there’s a whole way that people find to excuse such unconscious anti Semitism that runs through [French] culture.”

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