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22 SEPTEMBER 2014

Jean-Luc Godard's Critical Appropriation of Graphic Design

"The films of Jean–Luc Godard have been written about perhaps more than any other cinematic works, often through the lens of cultural theory, but not nearly enough attention has been paid to the role of designed objects in his films. Collages of art, literature, language, objects, and words, Godard's films have an instant, impactful, graphic quality, but are far from simple pop artifacts. The thesis this presentation derives from, 'Objects to be Read, Words to be Seen: Design and Visual Language in the Films of Jean–Luc Godard 1959–1967,' explores and interprets the role of visual language within the films–title sequences, intertitles, handwritten utterances, and printed matter in the form of newspapers, magazines, and posters.

By examining le graphisme within the cultural context of Paris during the 1960s, this thesis seeks to amplify the significance of graphic design in Godard's first fifteen films, beginning with 1960's À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) and ending with 1967's Weekend. While Godard was not a practicing graphic designer in the traditional sense, he was an amateur de design, an autodidact whose obsession with designed objects, graphic language and print media resulted in the most iconic body of work in 1960s France."

(Laura Forde, 30 April 2010)

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TAGS

1960s • A Bout de Souffle (1959) • amateur de design • appropriation • autodidact • Breathless (1959) • cinematic visual language • cinematic works • critical appropriationcultural context • cultural theory • design and visual language • design sense • designed objects • designed thingsend titlesFrancegraphic design • graphic language • graphic quality • hand lettering • handwritten utterances • iconic body of work • intertitlesJean-Luc Godard • Laura Forde • le graphisme • magazinesnewspapersParisPierrot le Fou (1965)postersprint media • printed matter • title sequencetitle stillsTwo Or Three Things I Know About Hertypographyvideo lecturevisual languagevisual sensibilityWeekend

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
08 APRIL 2011

The typography of Jean-Luc Godard

"To me watching the films of Jean–Luc Godard is like watching a white Rauschenberg painting or listing to John Cage's '4:33': it isn't something I do for entertainment. They're historically significant because he broke all the rules in the book, but I just don't enjoy watching them. Since I only add titles from films I've seen myself there weren't many Godard films present in the Movie title stills collection.

On december 3rd, Atelier Carvalho Bernau released a free typeface to celebrate Godard's 80th birthday. The typeface was inspired by the title sequences of Godard's 'Made in U.S.A' (1966) and '2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle' (1967). When I started googling I found surprisingly few stills or videos from Godard's films, that's why I decided to add the most interesting ones to the Movie title stills collection.

I've located almost all films from the earlier part of Godard's career and took all stills containing typography: titles from the opening title sequences, intertitles and end ('Fin') titles. Like silent films Godard used lots of intertitles, which make his films much more typographic than other films from the '60s and 70's.

It's quite interesting to see the designs evolve. In this digital age it's refreshing to see type that isn't made on a computer: the imperfect and handmade look of the letterforms, the bad kerning, the large gaps between letters and words, the justified blocks of text, the awkwardly dotted capital I's. Even when he used an existing typeface – like Antique Olive in 'Week end' (1967) – the letterforms look as if they were cut out with an Exacto knife.

Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980) is the last film featuring custom typefaces. In his later films Godard used existing typefaces like Futura, Univers, Helvetica and Garamond."

(Christian Annyas, 16 December 2010)

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
08 APRIL 2011

Atelier Carvalho Bernau: Bon anniversaire, Jean-Luc!

"Bon Anniversaire, Jean–Luc!

Our favourite director turns EIGHTY, and we want to celebrate (with) him, with everyone.

We were always in love with the title sequence lettering to Godard's movies Made in U.S.A. and 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d'elle. So as an hommage to Jean–Luc, to the Nouvelle Vague, to Seberg, Karina, Faithfull & Cie., we present you our Jean–Luc typeface, as a birthday gift for everyone. Voilà!

We didn't find out who originally made the lettering for these two movies. Some speculate it could have been Godard himself – Godard's interest in graphic design and typography is clear, with many of his other films employing such strong typography–only titles and intertitles. They are almost a self–sufficient entity, another character in the movie, another comment.

This style of lettering is so interesting to us because it is such a clear renunciation of the 'pretty', classical title screens that were common in that time's more conservative films. It has a more vernacular and brutishly low–brow character; this lettering comes from the street:

We can not prove this at all, but we think it may be derived from the stencil letters of the Plaque Découpée Universelle, a lettering device invented in the 1870s by a certain Joseph A. David, and first seen in France at the 1878 Exposition Universelle, where it found broad appeal and rapid adoption. We think this style of lettering was absorbed into the public domain vernacular of French lettering, and that the 2 ou 3 choses titles are derived from these quotidien lettering style, as it would seem to fit Godard's obsession with vernacular typography."

(Atelier Carvalho Bernau Design, 2010)

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TAGS

1878201080th birthdayAnna KarinaanniversaryAtelier Carvalho Bernaudesign formalism • Exposition Universelle • fontfree fontsgraphic designhommageJean SebergJean-Luc Godard • Jean-Luc typeface • Jean-Paul Belmondo • JLG • Joseph A. David • Kai Bernau • letterformletteringMade In U.S.A.NetherlandsNouvelle Vagueoctogenarian • Plaque Decoupee Universelle • Susana Carvalho • The HagueTwo Or Three Things I Know About Hertype foundrytypeface • typeface design • typography • vernacular typography • visual design

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 FEBRUARY 2005

The limits of language (galaxies & cell division in a coffee cup)

"Perhaps it is a link enabling us...to pass from one subject to another, therefore to live together. But since social relations are always ambiguous...since thought divides as much as it unites...since words unite or isolate by what they express or omit...since an immense gulf separates my subjective awareness...from the objective truth I represent for other...since I constantly blame myself, though I feel innocent...since every event transforms my daily life...since I constantly fail to communicate...since each failure makes me aware of solitude...since...since I cannot escape crushing objectivity or isolating subjectivity...since I cannot rise to the state of being, or fall into nothingness...I must listen, I must look around more than ever. The world... my kin... my twin. The world alone...today when revolutions are impossible and wars threaten me...when capitalism is unsure of its rights and the working class retreats...when the lighting progress of science...brings the future terribly near...when the future is closer than the present...when the distant galaxies are at my door...my kin, my twin... Where is the beginning? But what beginning? God created heaven and earth. But one should be able to put it better. To say that the limits of language, of my language...are those of the world, of my world...and that in speaking, I limit the world, I end it. And when mysterious, logical death abolishes these limits...there will be no question, no answer, just vagueness. But what if things come into focus again...this can only be through the rebirth of conscience. Everything follows from this."

(Jean Luc Godard)

Fig.1 Godard, Jean Luc (1967). "Deux ou trois choses que je sais d'elle" [Two or three things I know about her]. 84 mins

[Godard uses a simple sequence of air–bubbles slowly decaying in a cup of black coffee as a metaphor to explain the perils of reductionist thought: bubbles decay; truth–claims limit. The sequence appears 29 minutes into film.]

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31 JANUARY 2005

Constructed Meaning: Playing The Part

"In the construction of documentary films we are aware that the 'voice of God' technique uses images to reinforce the authoritative voice of the narrator. Cinema verite allows events to be revealed without the guidance of an authoritative voice–over but it could be argued that people when confronted with a film camera do act out the roles expected of them [...] Godard is aware of how argument and evidence can be conflated and makes the viewer aware of the construction process that creates the film and its associated meanings. At the beginning the female protagonist declares that; "My name is Juliette Janson" in a statement to camera, she then announces that she is Marina Vlady. In this manner we are made explicitly aware that the actress Marina Vlady is playing the part of Juliette Janson."
(Nigel Watson)

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