Agnès Godard at the Pacific Film Archives

Agnès Godard in San Francisco ©Moira Sullivan
By Moira Sullivan

Agnès Godard has been a cinematographer since the 1970s when she started out as first assistant cameraperson for Wim Wenders in Paris Texas (1984). She worked alongside the assistant director Claire Denis, a woman that Godard would later be working with for more than two decades years. She is the special guest of the Pacific Film Archives program "Dancing with Light: The Cinematography of Agnès Godard"

In the special interview with Godard that follows for Movie Magazine, Godard reveals some of her thoughts that she presented in a special lecture on June 13 about her work as a cinematographer – especially the process in finding the right image. Six of her films as cinematographer were selected for the program and all directed by Denis except one. Beau Travail from 1999 is a homoerotic narrative about French legionnaires. Trouble Every Day from 2001 is about two men who keep their woman captive in the throes of sex addiction; one of them is the controversial Vincent Gallo. You know there is always a film at Cannes that makes someone faint or nauseous, and this was the film screened in 2001 that had that effect.

The Dreamlife of Angels (1998) is a portrait of two women on the edge of society. Compare that with Sister (2012)  about a brother and sister at the bottom of society that is who live at the bottom of a Swiss resort, directed by Ursula Meier and made last year.

Next Wednesday and Friday are the last two films in the program. 

On June 26 Nenette and Boni from 1996 will screen about two young teenagers amidst their sexual debuts and on Friday June 28 Shots of Rum, from 2008 is about a widower who is a conductor for the commuter train in Paris raising his daughter who is on her way out of the nest.  
This year at Cannes, Claire Denis film Bastards was presented in competition and behind the camera was Agnès Godard. It is Denis’ first digital film with the same artistic quality of her previous films. The erotic film noir features a tale of suicide and sexual abuse which Godard calls one of the director’s darker pieces. A loan shark has caused a family to go bankrupt, the father commits suicide and his daughter roams through Paris naked after a sexual assault. Lola’s mother calls her brother Marco to put things in place, and instead he falls in love with the girlfriend of the loan shark. 

Denis' last feature White Material (2009) stars Isabelle Huppert and is set in an undescribed African village, where pretty much the same kinds of intrigues take place on a plantation owned by a French family for centuries that unwittingly becomes the target of young rebel renegades involved a revolution. Godard who said she attended to her ailing mother during the time did not work on this picture.

Godard and Denis work together with a unified vision and after thirteen pictures together have arrived at a complicity that is impossible to separate. All of the films show the inseparable mastery of director and cameraperson.

Here now is Agnès Godard in an exclusive interview with Movie Magazine.

© 2013 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 06/17/13
Movie Magazine International