Godard Showed That Box Office and Awards Don’t Create Cinematic Legacy

Godard Showed That Box Office and Awards Don’t Create Cinematic Legacy
Media coverage of Jean-Luc Godard’s death will fall short of what he merits. He was a game-changing creator on the level of Sergei Eisenstein, Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, and others who changed the grammar of film forever, but his best-known films are from a half-century ago. And there’s this: Under the standards by which successful directors are judged today — box office and awards — Godard was strictly a minor-league player.

His lifelong regard as a master is a tribute to his films above all, but it also speaks to a cinephile culture that elevated and supported him for decades despite the general public’s disinterest.

In the U.S., Godard’s films initially received erratic distribution with short-run showings at a few big-city theaters; even his best-known titles like “Breathless” and “Week-end” received marginal releases. They appeared erratically, out of order, and sometimes not until two or three years after their public debuts.
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