• Julia Sumzina

The female stars of the films by Jean-Luc Godard

Some people call Jean-Luc Godard a feminist, others think that he demonstrates the hatred to women throughout all of his films. In reality the situation is a little more complicated, because women have been the muses for Godard, he saw them from different and absolutely not idealistic points of view, but his leading actresses have always been inspiration for him. As other directors of the French New Wave he showed women as not only “beautiful additions” to the main male-characters, but many of them were only main characters of his films. For example, A Woman Is a Woman (1961) or Made in U.S.A. (1966), in other his very famous films we can see that female characters are the equally important as male ones.

He worked with bright actresses, some of them became famous before, some are famous thanks to his films. Let's talk about few of them.


Jean Seberg during the filming of A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), 1959 by Raymond Cauchetier


Jean Seberg was an American actress who lived half her life in France. She was one of the icons of her epoch and appeared in 34 films in Hollywood and in Europe, including Saint Joan, Bonjour Tristesse, Godard's Breathless (1960) and in one of short films (Marrakech) from The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers (1964), other her well-know films were Lilith, The Mouse That Roared, Moment to Moment, A Fine Madness, Paint Your Wagon, Airport, Macho Callahan, and Gang War in Naples.

Jean Seberg during the filming of A Bout De Souffle (Breathless), 1959 by Raymond Cauchetier


She was also one of the best-known targets of the FBI COINTELPRO project. Her targeting was a well-documented retaliation for her support of the Black Panther Party (anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-imperialistic, Maoist, Leninist and very far-left radical organization) in the 1960s.

Seberg died at the age of 40 in Paris, the police documented her death as a probable suicide. Romain Gary, very famous French writer and Seberg's second husband, called a press conference shortly after her death where he publicly blamed the FBI's campaign against Seberg for her deteriorating mental health.

She worked with Jean-Luc Godard only twice but after the success of the Breathless her character immediately became the symbol of the New Wave. Patricia wasn't a good or bad character. But her image of charming American student with short hair and little accent is still iconic. In the second her work with Godard she talked with a Moroccan false-coiner but not only about his way of life but about the left ideology. As you know Godard's left views affected his films a lot.



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Anna Karina by Willy Rizzo (1965)


The main his female star in 1960s was his first wife Anna Karina (Hanne Karin Bayer) , a Danish-French film actress, director, writer, and singer. She is still an example of the New Wave style for many people and is well known as Jean-Luc Godard's muse in the 1960s. She performed in several of his films, including The Little Soldier (1960), A Woman Is a Woman (1961), Vivre sa vie (1962), Band of Outsiders (1964), Pierrot le Fou and Alphaville (both 1965). For her performance in A Woman Is a Woman, Karina won the Silver Bear Award for Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival.


Anna Karina (with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean-Luc Godard) in A Woman Is a Woman (Une Femme Est Une Femme), 1960 by Raymond Cauchetier


In 1972, Karina set up a production company for her directorial debut, Vivre ensemble (1973), which screened in the Critics’ Week lineup at the 26th Cannes Film Festival. She also directed the French-Canadian film Victoria (2008). In addition to her work in cinema, she has worked as a singer, and has written several novels in French.

In almost all the Godard's films her characters were different from each other but were usual for Godardґs films very feminine, a little capricious and thoughtless, but almost always complicated and even fatal for men.


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Anne Wiazemsky in La Chinoise (1967)


Anne Wiazemsky was a French actress and novelist. She had Russian roots, princes Wiazemsky and through her mother, she was the granddaughter of novelist and dramatist François Mauriac. She made her cinema debut at the age of 18 in Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar (1966), then she appeared in several Jean-Luc Godard's films, among them La Chinoise (1967), Week End (1967), and One Plus One (1968). She also was Godard's wife from 1967 to 1979.


Anne Wiazemsky et Jean-Luc Godard à Venise en 1967, Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche/Getty Images


Her type of very young and a bit dreamy girl was also usual for young Godard, by her appearance she could remind Anna Karina, but she was not a main inspiration for Godard, his main inspiration during their work together was left ideology.


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Juliet Berto in La Chinoise (1967)


The other interesting example is Juliet Berto, who was a French actress, director and screenwriter.

A member of the same group of student radicals as Anne Wiazemsky, she first appeared in Jean-Luc Godard's Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967), and then appeared in many of Godard's subsequent films, including La Chinoise, Week End, Le Gai Savoir (1969), and Vladimir et Rosa (1971). She later became a muse for the French New Wave director Jacques Rivette, starring in Out 1 and Celine and Julie Go Boating.

In the 1980s she also became a screenwriter and film director.

Juliet Berto didn't act main characters but she worked with Godard in as many films as his muses, knowing the difficult personality of Godard it's quite an important fact.


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Jean-Luc Godard also worked with other leaing actresses of French cinema of 1950s-60s, not only New Wave, such as Marina Vladi, Mireille Darc and Brigitte Bardot. We can see them in his Contempt (1963), Two or Three Things I Know About Her, The Week End and Contempt.


Later the audience could see in his films such famous actresses as Jane Fonda, Isabelle Huppert, Nathalie Baye, Jane Birkin, Grace Jones.

We can see Isabelle Huppert and Nathalie Baye in the film Every Man for Himself (1980).


So we can see the iconic ladies of European cinema with their special charisma and style. For example, when we say “Parisian style” , what do we mean nowadays? Long dark a little messy hair with bang, loosely fitted classy or casual clothes, especially (rain) coats and pants and natural make-up (it also may have some bright accents).

If we watch some cult French films from the New Wave (La Nouvelle Vague), we can immediately recognize actual fashion trends in looks of Anna Karina, Anne Wiazemsky, Marina Vladi, Brigitte Bardot and other iconic figures from 60s-70s, especially the films by Jean-Luc Godard and his image of a woman.


Text: Julia Sumzina

Photos: Raymond Cauchetier, Willy Rizzo, IMDB, Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche

Videos: criterioncollection, France Culture, Umbrella Entertainment,

Gaumont, Madman Films

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