Revisit the moment Jean-Luc Godard met Woody Allen
“To be or not to be. That’s not really a question.” – Jean-Luc Godard
The genius of French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard is still revered by avid fans all over the world to this day. Woody Allen once told famed critic Roger Ebert that he thought of Ingmar Bergman and Orson Welles as geniuses whereas “Godard is supposed to be a genius” and, famously, the two collaborated on Godard’s 1987 interpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear.
Speaking about his experience, Allen said, “He was very elusive about the subject of the film. First, he said it was going to be about a Lear jet that crashes on an island. Then he said he wanted to interview everyone who had done King Lear, from Kurosawa to the Royal Shakespeare.
“Then he said I could say whatever I wanted to say. He plays the French intellectual very well, with the 5 o’clock shadow and a certain vagueness. Meanwhile, when I got there for the shoot, he was wearing pyjamas—tops and bottoms—and a bathrobe and slippers and smoking a big cigar. I had the uncanny feeling that I was being directed by Rufus T. Firefly.”
A year prior to the release of King Lear, Godard made a short film called Meetin’ WA in which he interviewed Allen about the nature of contemporary filmmaking and the influence of popular culture and television on modern cinema. It was made as a substitute for a traditional press conference with the director following the premiere of Hannah and Her Sisters at the Cannes Film Festival.
Shot in fragments and edited with intertitles, Meetin’ WA is an interesting insight into the thought processes of the two filmmakers. In the short film, Allen reflected, “When I grew up, it was a wonderful thing to get out of the sunshine, which I hate, and go into a dark theatre and avoid the heat and avoid the light and just sit down and suddenly be transported any place: a pirate ship or to the desert or some Manhattan penthouse…It was always very disappointing for me when I walked out of the cinema, back onto the street and the light hit me, you were back into reality.”