Godard’s telegram

Scheduled to give a lecture at the BFI in 1968, Jean-Luc Godard never showed up. Instead came a telegram…

Samuel Wigley
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Jean-Luc Godard

Jean-Luc Godard

In 1968, the BFI invited French new wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard to the National Film Theatre (NFT) to give the opening talk in its John Player Lecture series. The offer was accepted and transport arrangements were made, but a few days before the event the NFT received this telegram:

TS 15/113 LN H0073 XF7964

NEUILLYSURSEINEPPAL 4651 60 19 1210

NATIONAL FILM THEATER SOUTH BANK WATERLOO LONDON

IF AM NOT THERE TAKE ANYONE IN THE STREET THE POOREST IF POSSIBLE GIVE HIM MY 100 POUNDS AND TALK WITH HIM OF IMAGES AND SOUDN AND YOU WILL LEARN FROM HIM MUCH MORE THAN FROM ME BECAUSE IT IS THE POOR PEOPLE WHO ARE REALLY INVENTING THE LANGUAGE STOP YOUR ANONYMOUS GODARD

A second telegram arrived on the morning of the planned lecture. It read:

WILL NOT COME TOMORROW MOVIES HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH CIGARETTES AND REALITY WITH SMOKE YOUR UNKNOWN GODARD

After Godard’s no-show was conveyed to the excited house, 100 audience members accepted the offer of a refund, while the remainder stayed in their seats for a screening of Godard’s Vivre sa vie (1962).

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