Last week it was reported that acclaimed French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard was missing after the Academy’s invitation to receive a lifetime-achievement award went unanswered, and no one seemed to be able to locate the 79-year-old. It turns out he wasn’t in the tub smoking cigarettes and reading Balzac as I speculated, but just puttering around his neighborhood in a Hyundai. What? It’s not that weird. I hear Truffaut had a Ford Fiesta.
“I got the letter,” says the 79-year-old director of respected films such as Breathless (1960), starring Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Contempt (1963), with Brigitte Bardot.
Godard says nothing more except “Thank you” as he strides towards a two-storey pink cottage he rents from the local greengrocer on a quiet, leafy street in the picturesque village of Rolle, not far from Geneva, Switzerland.
In black jeans, black turtleneck sweater and creased black jacket, he seems colour co-ordinated with his little black Hyundai car. His wispy white hair and untidy beard give a mad professor look to one of the best-known figures in film history.
It is left to Anne-Marie Mieville, his partner in life and in work, to explain his feelings about the honour. “He just told me, ‘It’s not the Oscars,’ ” she says, referring to his reaction on learning about the award. “At first he thought it was going to be part of the same ceremony, then he realised it [the lifetime achievement awards] was a separate thing in November.”
Not that it would make any difference. “Jean-Luc won’t go to America, he’s getting old for that kind of thing. Would you go all that way just for a bit of metal?”
That was yesterday, from a report, strangely, in The Australian. Today, however, The Hollywood Reporter sounds much more optimistic that Godard will attend:
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Tuesday it had received “a cordial, handwritten note” from 79-year-old Godard in response to its notification that he would receive a statuette.
“In it,” the academy said, “Godard graciously thanked the organization for the honor and referred to himself as ‘the fourth musketeer,’ in acknowledgment of the fact that three others (film historian Kevin Brownlow, Francis Ford Coppola and Eli Wallach) are among the year’s honorees. His note, relayed to the Academy late last week via an assistant to Godard, indicated that, schedule permitting, he would come to Los Angeles for the November 13 Governors Awards event.” [THR]
First he will, then he won’t — it’s almost as if 80-year-old Frenchmen are notoriously impulsive. I also like the “schedule permitting” clause. He’s 80. What’s he got to do? “Well, I was gonna eat breakfast around 5:30, maybe watch a little Judge Judy and then stare at the wall for six hours. I’m not sure I’ll be able to squeeze it in.”