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Jewish Journal

Pardon His French

by Naomi Pfefferman

September 5, 2002 | 8:00 pm

French director Jean-Luc Godard.

French director Jean-Luc Godard.

There's still no love lost between iconoclastic French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and Hollywood, as his new film, "In Praise of Love," suggests. The picture began stirring controversy at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival when the flick -- and its director -- dissed Tinseltown, Steven Spielberg and "Schindler's List."

In one storyline of this film about a struggling young artist, the artist complains that Hollywood reduces everything to "a story with Julia Roberts," according to reviews. In a subplot, ugly Americans representing a studio, "Steven Spielberg Associates," seek to option the story of two elderly French resistance veterans. "The Americans have no real past," one character asserts. "They have no memory of their own... So they buy the pasts of others ... or they sell talking images."

Godard, of the masterpieces "Weekend" and "Breathless,"had implied as much at Cannes when reporters asked what he thought of Spielberg and "Schindler's List." Puffing on his trademark cigar, the guy who helped invent the French New Wave said, "[Spielberg] had no idea about the Holocaust, so he went and looked elsewhere for inspiration."

While Godard's devotion to older Hollywood is evident in his 1960s films such "Alphaville," "Love's" not-so-pro-American sentiments have raised ire among some critics. The New Yorker called "Love's" Sept. 6 theatrical release, which comes as Americans are mourning the anniversary of Sept. 11, "bold" and "reckless." Others dubbed the film's anti-American sentiments a "sniveling diatribe" or "philosophically trite."

But Godard is unlikely change his mind. As he told The Guardian about Hollywood, "It's a rather tyrannical power."

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