At the movies the screen would light up and we’d shiver. But more often we’d be disappointed […] The images seemed old and flickery; Marilyn Monroe had aged terribly. We were sad. This wasn’t the film we had imagined; the perfect film each of us carried within; the film we would like to have made or perhaps even to have lived.

– Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud) in Jean-Luc Godard’s Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis (1966)

In 1962, Jean-Luc Godard completed his fourth feature film, Vivre sa vie: Film en douze tableaux, an essayistic, documentary-like account of the day-to-day life of a young prostitute, Nana, starring the director’s then wife, Anna Karina. (1) Approximately 14 minutes into the film, we see Nana seated in a cinema watching a particularly pointed – some might say transcendental – scene from Carl-Theodor Dreyer’s groundbreaking 1928 masterpiece, La passion de Jeanne d’Arc (The Passion of Joan of Arc), starring Maria Falconetti.

I want to use this scene as a key reference point in a broader discussion of the ways in which fiction feature films represent the act of movie-going. I will also examine the ways in which such moments intersect with and interrogate film history, the established or even shifting film canon, and can say pertinent things about the social and critical place and history of the cinema at particular points in time. This essay will explore the representational trope of characters watching films in the cinema – an area – which has been surprisingly under-discussed and under-theorised to this point – through a close reading of this moment from Vivre sa vie, as well as comparative examples drawn from other Godard films and from across cinema history. (2)

Even on a very superficial level this sequence suggests a pointed connection between the film we are watching – Vivre sa vie – and the “framed” film being observed by Nana. I want to think about what this relation or connection might be and how we can read this sequence and film in relation to it, and also examine the particular ways in which Godard connects his film to that of Dreyer. Of course, on a fundamental level, the stark and aesthetic cinema of Dreyer is light years away from the dense cultural and textual web of Godard’s; though, as we shall see, they are in dialogue stylistically.

This sequence is one of numerous moments in Godard’s films where characters go to the movies or talk about doing so. This includes the complex parodic homage to Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, and the whole economy of movie-going, in 1966’s Masculin féminin. It is also part of a vast web of intertextual quotation that marks both this film and the rest of Godard’s work: quotations that range across a wide array of categories, forms and media. It is more common for Godard’s characters to talk about going to the movies – as does Paul (Michel Piccoli) endlessly in Le mépris (Contempt, 1963), for instance – than actually appear in a cinema (3). But when they do finally wander into the cinema, particular and quite revealing patterns of representation occur. For example, when Paul and Camille (Brigitte Bardot) finally visit a cinema in Contempt, the screening of Roberto Rossellini’s Viaggio in Italia (Voyage to Italy, 1954) is endlessly deferred. Ultimately, our only pointer to this key intertextual citation – and Godard’s film is, in many ways, a conscious reworking and restating of Rossellini’s – occurs when the characters leave the cinema, and we see the marquee announcing the film that is screening.

So what can this short example from Vivre sa vie tell us about the broader pattern of representation I am examining? First, I want to discuss the basic form and style of the sequence. Like many such moments across the history of cinema, this scene examines the relation between the audience and the image on screen. Thus it relies upon a series of close-up, almost shot-reverse-shots between Nana and two characters in Dreyer’s film. It promotes the strong identification between character and the framed film. (4) In this case, Nana’s response to Jeanne’s tears is, of course, tears of her own – though Jeanne’s tears are less straightforwardly motivated by her material surroundings than are Nana’s, which are shed at the movies (a response she obviously shares with many spectators). But this sequence also has other curious and sympathetic qualities. The silence of Dreyer’s film – it was made at the very end of the silent era and ‘silence’ becomes a key principle of the film – is equally respected by Godard’s. He also allows La passion de Jeanne d’Arc to run relatively unimpeded for some time, an approach that is generally uncharacteristic of this trope. The off-centre, often literally decapitating framing that characterises passages of Dreyer’s film, is also paralleled by Godard’s. This suggests that we can read this sequence as both homage and an act of identification by the director. Godard loves Dreyer’s work but he also identifies and associates himself with the cinema and sensibility of the earlier director (who was still alive and artistically active when Godard made his film). These are a series of connections and possibilities that deepen if one has an intimate knowledge of Godard’s cinema and Dreyer’s film. So the quotation of this particular mode of framing refers to other moments in Dreyer’s film and, specifically, the points it makes about Jeanne’s existential and spatial – she is separated, out of place, often framed alone – plight.

This scene moves from a long shot that highlights the sparse audience, to the more intimate medium close-ups of Nana that inevitably exclude everyone else (except Jeanne). The initial long shot we see also foregrounds what an appropriate response to Dreyer’s film might be (and perhaps to Godard’s film as well). The guy who is there to “pick up” Nana has definitely chosen the wrong movie; as have the lovers in the later Godard film Une femme mariée: Suite de fragments d’un film tourné en 1964 (A Married Woman, 1964) who attempt to make out during Alain Resnais’ Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog, 1955)! Vivre sa vie’s equally questioning approach to the representation of its female character sides it more closely with Dreyer’s film as well (though this is also a core aspect of other Godard films like A Married Woman and Duex ou trois choses que je sais d’elle (Two or Three Things I Know About Her, 1967)). These two responses parallel the dominant ways in which movie-going is represented in narrative cinema: as distracted, almost destructive or devotional; loud or deathly quiet.

So at some level this scene moves from the somewhat distracted response captured in its initial long shot to the kind of rapt attention commonly associated with cinephilia. This second, “preferred” relation emphasises a more direct, close-up and multiply affective relation to the screen and the image’s materiality. The physicality of such cinephilia is also captured in other films that deploy this trope, such as the two sequences in Bernardo Bertolucci’s heartily revisionist The Dreamers (2003) that feature characters going to the cinema. This is particularly true of its opening scene profiling the front row audience of cinephiles watching a raucous screening of Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor (1963) at the Cinémathèque Française in 1968. In the case of Vivre sa vie, and as I will discuss in more detail later, this heightened cinephilia also has a curious effect on identification, as we seem to be recognising both Nana’s existential and Godard’s cinephilic identification with Dreyer’s film. But also the ways in which Godard attempts to document Nana – particularly her face – from multiple angles and perspectives, provides a potent parallel to Dreyer’s film. Both characters’ relation to space and other, mostly male, characters is equally fragmented. Thus, eyeline matches – of the kind that almost do occur between Nana and Jeanne in this scene – are uncommon in both Godard and Dreyer’s films. As David Bordwell argues, this moment is inherently complex and “functions not simply to compare Jeanne with Nana. Neither homage nor imitation, the sequence cites Dreyer as the locus classicus of how the face and the glance can fragment cinematic space, offering a point of departure for Godard’s own stylistic work.”(5) Although it is difficult to make this argument more generally about Dreyer’s film, and the cinema’s debt to it, such a relation is indeed suggested by Vivre sa vie and much of Godard’s other work.

As is also common in such sequences featuring characters going to the movies, we don’t see Nana and the inset film within the same frame. This is partly for pragmatic reasons as it allows Godard to represent a film screening without actually having to fully stage one. This also allows Godard to create a degree of disorientation in terms of the relation of characters and audiences to where they are and what they are watching. This is part-and-parcel of a wider practice within this trope that often only shows the audience observing the film, a technique that disavows direct access to the film on screen. This is taken to an extreme in Abbas Kiarostami’s Shirin (2008), where all we see are women watching the screen rather than the screen itself, but is equally characteristic of many of the short films contributed to Chacun son cinéma ou Ce petit coup au coeur quand la lumière s’éteint et que le film commence (2007), a self-conscious “celebration” of going to the cinema made to mark the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. (6)

This approach is also characteristic, for example, of equivalent scenes in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and Anthony Asquith’s A Cottage on Dartmoor (1928). Both of these films take time to show us extended sequences of characters going to the movies. A Cottage on Dartmoor, for instance, contains a very elongated section that mostly relies upon crosscutting between various audience members and their responses to the films being shown (and to each other as well). An emphasis on the phenomenological and experiential aspects of movie-going is highlighted here, another key leitmotif of the broad range of sequences and moments I am analysing. Asquith’s film is particularly interesting because of the ways in which it engages with and stages a key shift in film technology and viewing; although it is a silent film, the characters visit a cinema that first shows a Harold Lloyd silent short (with live musical accompaniment), and then an early sound feature. In the process, it reflects upon its own somewhat anachronistic status as a late silent film that utilises many of the aesthetic strategies – including quite delirious editing, at times – associated with the maturation of this form. Its view of this shift is nevertheless relatively ambivalent, despite the ways in which it represents the seemingly less communal nature of audience activity ushered in by the sound feature. But what is most revealing for my analysis, is that it configures this shift in terms of the audience rather than what we see (or indeed don’t) on screen.

In contrast, Sullivan’s Travels, one of the great films about the culture of Classical Hollywood cinema, includes three sequences in which characters watch films. All three are carefully contrasted, so that each of the screening conditions and audience responses can make different claims about the movie-going experience and the relation of the film we are watching to the “inset” film. The initial screening we see starts media res, and never alternates between the film and the privileged audience who are watching it (basically two film executives and a director). The middle sequence comes closest to the specific paradigm or characteristic I am examining here. All we see is a tightly packed audience responding distractedly to the flickering light reflected on their faces and the lachrymose sounds we hear on the soundtrack. Despite their close proximity, this audience never represents a community, and seem to regard the cinema as an “opportunity” to do other things (to make sexual advances, eat noisily, etc). It is only in its third instance that Sullivan’s Travels confers a more transcendental and communal aspect upon the cinema, precisely at the point where the image alternates between the audience and what they and we are seeing on the screen. It is also revealing – and typical – that this “true” connection only occurs at the point where the characters watch an actual film, a 1934 Disney cartoon that predates Sullivan’s Travels. Although there is an irony contained in the fact that this screening occurs in a church to an audience of black parishioners and chain-gang bound convicts (a truly “captive” audience), it nevertheless communicates the power and potentiality contained in the cinematic experience, and the ways in which characters and audiences (and directors too) can attach themselves to particular films, personas and environments. Although Playful Pluto (Burt Gillett), the film that finally galvanises the audience in Sturges’ film, is hardly comparable to La passion de Jeanne d’Arc, both films are shown to channel and even transform and transcend their audiences’ immediate experiences and circumstances.

The “Passion of Joan of Arc” sequence from Vivre sa vie also has two other significant dimensions. First, it insists upon Nana’s identification with Jeanne and forces us to recognise the ultimate fate of her character. Thus, we know she will be sacrificed like Jeanne, and the tragedy of this fact is given weight by the association. Second, although this is a wonderfully moving sequence, it actually doesn’t really ring all that true. It seems very unlikely within the ‘world’ of Vivre sa vie that this character would actually go to see Dreyer’s film. Nana actually expresses little interest in cinema elsewhere in the film other than, somewhat vaguely, as a possible actress. So what we are actually seeing plays on the tension between a filmic and pro-filmic reality. Godard’s sly shift from intertitles to subtitles in this sequence also highlights this aspect, helping to condense Dreyer’s sequence but also making reference to the various versions of the film then in circulation, one of which had notoriously converted many of the stark black-and-white intertitles – an aesthetic feature of Dreyer’s initial vision – into subtitles more familiar to a contemporary audiences. Thus Godard is marking the materiality of the artefacts of film history and the corporeal act of movie-going itself. Nana watches a film but we sense that this intertextual reference is for Karina’s, Godard’s and our benefit (if we follow these canonical tastes) rather than hers. This is despite her obvious identification with the character of Jeanne and her plight.

Nevertheless, Nana’s affective response to the inset film does align her with the less sophisticated and more primary spectatorship often associated with early cinema. In this regard she is closer to, but also miles away from, the character in the next year’s Les carabiniers (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963) who, in imitation of two of the earliest films to use the device of the inset frame – Robert W. Paul’s The Countryman and the Cinematograph (1901) and Edwin S. Porter’s Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show (1902) (7) – responds naively, perhaps even apocryphally to early cinema as if he can’t clearly demarcate between the world on and off screen. Les carabiniers and Masculin féminin are also characteristic of another less dominant trend in the application of this trope: the creation of fake, “new” or fictionalised films that the characters go to see. (8) This approach is utilised in such films as Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952), Matinee (Joe Dante, 1993), Sullivan’s Travels (which combines both), Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941) and Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997), but is far outweighed by the direct ‘quotation’ of existing and often canonical works.

But whereas the characters’ responses in the above films are often ontological, almost physiological, Nana’s reaction to Dreyer’s film demonstrates a much greater awareness of the ‘true’ relation between herself and what she sees on screen. It is indeed a profound leap of comprehension. Such an understanding of self – no matter how tragic – is at the core of the film. It is also positioned as one of a series of carefully selected texts that she is compared and related to. (9) This existential recognition or comprehension at the cinema is also characteristic of a more limited strand of films that link the act of film viewing and filmmaking to the uncanny realms of death, reanimation and the form of the moving image itself. This sequence from Vivre sa vie directly links Nana’s coming death to that envisioned and calmly accepted by Jeanne in the excerpted scene (we see Nana cry in response to Jeanne’s recognition of her fate).

Such a preoccupation is also central to several of the works of Spanish filmmaker Víctor Erice: El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973) and his installation piece, La morte rouge (2006), in particular. In both works Erice links a growing, or indeed startling, understanding of mortality to the act of watching a specific film as a young child. In The Spirit of the Beehive the young protagonist, Ana (Ana Torrent), begins to recognise and become acquainted with mortality through her identification with, and the questions she asks about, the young girl who is killed by the monster in James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), a film she views when a travelling cinema comes to her village. But she and we come to realise that her identification is equally with the monster, who himself finds out about death (the stuff he is made from, at some level) through his murderous actions. In the process, Ana also gains a formative understanding of the uncanny and almost cinematic nature of the monster himself. Part of what Ana experiences in this sequence is a sense – even if she can’t quite comprehend it – of her own mortality (through what she sees on screen and feels in terms of duration), identity, and the uncanny but human quality of the cinema.

What operates on a symbolic level in The Spirit of the Beehive is dealt with more directly, if equally evocatively, in La morte rouge. In this short video work, Erice remembers and re-imagines his first experience of going to the cinema. He reconstitutes and analyses his viewing of a mid-1940s Sherlock Holmes film, The Scarlet Claw (Roy William Neill, 1944), through the prism of a more contemporary understanding of the nature of cinema and its relation to notions of mortality and reanimation. He also sees cinema as a key mechanism through which the young spectator begins to negotiate and understand his place in the world, while examining its relation to other social, cultural and political phenomena (including the fascist government then in power in Spain). Both of these films and sequences also parlay a strong connection between the cinema and a modern, existential understanding of temporality. This focus and revelation is also a key to the affectivity of both Nana’s visit to the cinema and our response to it: she sees the prefiguration of Jeanne’s death but also her own in the flickering animation of still images that constitutes the cinematic illusion. Godard is often discounted as a filmmaker whose work lacks true or sustained emotion, but this sequence, partly due to the qualities just outlined, is amongst the most affecting, raw, revealing and profoundly filmic to be found in his cinema.

Nevertheless, the most common way of discussing such sequences is in relation to two broad theoretical frameworks (which are often interconnected): reflexivity and intertextuality. Such sequences constitute what is regarded, by writers such as Noël Carroll (10) and Robert Stam, as the most basic form of intertextuality, where a fragment of a pre-existing work is directly presented within another. Of course, Godard’s film is actually fairly helpful in allowing us to recognise what it is quoting from. He has chosen one of the great, most identifiable and singular classics of international cinema and even shows us the marquee with the film’s partial title as an introduction to the interior scene (though this is also in keeping with the film’s generally fatalistic and anti-dramatic pattern of telling us what will happen before it does). In relation to core ideas of reflexivity, it is common to discuss the ways in which such sequences can break the illusionist flow of the narrative. This is perhaps a key reason why few of these scenes appear in Classical Hollywood cinema outside of films about the industry itself (so a film like Singin’ in the Rain has numerous examples but you’ll find considerably less of them in straight dramas, comedies, etc). This analytical approach nevertheless over-emphasises the reflexive qualities of such moments as well as the illusionistic nature of conventional filmic narrative itself. In contrast to this, when discussing the comic variations on this trope, largely in relation to Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd. (1950), Robert Eberwein argues that such scenes

“produce a rather extraordinary effect. It is as if the film within a film alters the ontological status of the characters in the main film by foregrounding them in our consciousness […] Next to an illusionary filmed image within the narrative, the characters in the diegesis become, for the moment, more real: it is as if the film within a film thrusts the primary characters out from the screen toward the audience.” (11)

There is something to be said for this approach and its emphasis on the ‘documentarising’ function of such sequences, though the example focused upon from Vivre sa vie also provides numerous other possibilities. In Godard’s film the relation between one film and another is considerably more porous, revealing and critical than is common, creating a dialogue with a broader film criticism as well as blurring the relationship between the actor and the character she plays. This is, of course, equally true of the scene in Sunset Blvd. where Norma Desmond watches images – projected by her butler-director Max (Erich von Stroheim) – from Gloria Swanson’s maligned, incomplete and long thought lost, Queen Kelly (1929, and actually directed by Stroheim). But Vivre sa vie insists on a less direct but more transcendental relation, revealing considerably more about its own view of its place in film history and the shifting allegiances of film criticism in the process.

Ultimately, Vivre sa vie sits at an important juncture in both film history and film culture: as a key example of the French New Wave; as an important model for such post-New Wave directors as Jean Eustache, Chantal Akerman and Philippe Garrel. (12) As a significant pointer towards the more widespread quotational practices of the coming decades, Godard’s choice of Dreyer’s film is not really reliant upon notions of verisimilitude – though of course Dreyer’s film would have played numerous times in Paris at this time, as it continues to do so today – than on displaying a set of allegiances and tastes. As David Sterritt has suggested, this scene “is another sign of the historically minded cinephilia that Godard shares with his New Wave colleagues; he sees nothing odd in the notion that a working-class Parisian would select a religious silent film of 1928 from her local movie listings”. (13) Godard has often claimed Dreyer as a formal inspiration, singling him out with the Lumières and Griffith as one of cinema’s foundational figures – though as equally and radically modern as he is classical and formative, in Godard’s estimation. By using Dreyer’s film in the way he does, Godard insists upon both its contemporary relevance, which is narrativised through Nana’s direct and emotionally devastating response, and canonical status. When characters go to the movies in Godard they mostly only see films that confirm particular canonical tastes, preferences and allegiances that can now be partly periodised in terms of critical fashion. So Paul in Contempt – in 1963 and at the height of the French New Wave and the initial “blush” of auteurism and its preoccupation with 1940s and 1950s Hollywood cinema – discusses going to see Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life (1956) and Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959), ending up in a cinema playing Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy. (14) But the fact that these allegiances now appear as canonical rather than peculiarly personal or even somewhat radical (in terms of taste, anyway) also tells us much about the widespread adoption, and particular refinement, of French auteurist film criticism.

Like many of the examples I have found in post-New Wave, and particularly in such New Hollywood films of the 1970s as Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show (1971) and Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973), these screenings are largely stripped of their more prosaic dimensions. As outlined in some detail by Carroll in his magisterial essay “The Future of Allusion: Hollywood in the Seventies (and Beyond)”, such practices of quotation and allusion become defining aesthetic strategies of the New Hollywood cinema. (15) Thus, the characters in Mean Streets see films that bear some relation to their situations and possible tastes but their viewing practices are predominantly motivated – especially if we have foreknowledge of the director’s likes – by the inherited tastes of the filmmaker. (16) Therefore, although these scenes are often compelling and rewarding, they are also anachronistic in some ways, drawing us out of the world of the film just as the characters enter that of the film they are watching. Similarly, the choices of Red River (1948) and The Father of the Bride (1950) in The Last Picture Show are chronologically apt but also motivated by the heightened auteurist consciousness of the film’s director, a key champion of the two Hollywood filmmakers responsible: Howard Hawks and Vincente Minnelli, respectively. (17) The film is also one in a series of works that fetishise, often in an extremely melancholy fashion, the end of a particular kind of movie-going. (18)

In essence, Godard’s citation of Dreyer’s film is also movingly appropriate as it helps single-out what is most remarkable about Vivre sa vie itself. Both Dreyer and Godard’s films fragment filmic space, and the body, in similar ways and each provides amongst the most singular, painful and even cruel portraits of a character and actor put on film. They both present female actors who show, give and nakedly reveal much more than their director’s should have expected (or indeed should be asked for). Thus the parallels between Karina and Falconetti also relate to their experiences in making the films. In Karina’s case highlighting her vexed relationship with Godard: she had recently suffered a miscarriage and had attempted suicide prior to filming commencing. (19) Godard’s use of La passion de Jeanne d’Arc in this respect is also a kind of confession, a recognition of the indelibility of Karina’s face but also of the ways in which his film and camera strip away at it. Such a confession – of allegiances, tastes, motivations, borrowings, etc – lies at the heart of what often happens when characters go the movies in the cinema. It is in these moments that the history of the medium looms large over its contemporary iteration. Although Norma Desmond claims that she towers over the landscape of late 1940s Hollywood in Sunset Blvd. – immortally proclaiming, “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small” – the opposite mostly seems to be true when the spectre and weight of film history encounters the daily practice of going to the “pictures” in the movies.

This article has been peer reviewed


  1. The name of Anna Karina’s character makes emblematic and pointed reference to Jean Renoir’s 1926 first feature Nana, based on Emile Zola’s novel, starring his own wife and former Auguste Renoir model, Catherine Hessling. This is one of several aspects and moments in the film that find a resonant connection or analogue in another work.
  2. My analysis focuses on the films Godard made prior to 1967. From 1967 onwards such obviously cinephilic moments become less common and many such quotations become directly grafted into the film. This practice appears regularly in such 1990s films as Hélas pour moi (1993) and Allemagne année 90 neuf zéro (Germany Year 90 Nine Zero, 1991) in the guise of the manipulation of refilmed video footage of particular films (such as Roberto Rossellini’s Germania anno zero (Germany, Year Zero, 1947) in Allemagne). It finds its most profound articulation in the director’s magnum opus, Histoire(s) du cinema (1988-98).
  3. This is also characteristic of such other cinephilia-afflicted films as Terence Davies’ The Long Day Closes (1992).
  4. This tendency is also characteristic of such films as Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988) and The Long Day Closes and, somewhat more ironically and reflexively, Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder, 1950) and Tony Manero (Pablo Larrain, 2008). Although such viewing practices are often regarded as unworldly and transportative, an overwhelming love of the cinema is usually viewed as a positive characteristic. But in a film such as Tony Manero, the main character’s practice of repetitively and ritualistically watching Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977) is disturbingly pathological. This character even beats the projectionist to a pulp when he replaces his favoured film with the more anodyne John Travolta vehicle, Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978).
  5. David Bordwell, The Films of Carl-Theodor Dreyer, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1981, p. 199.
  6. Atom Egoyan’s entry reflexively shows us a character watching the “Jeanne” sequence from Vivre sa vie and sending an image of it on their mobile phone.
  7. See Robert Stam, Reflexivity in Film and Literature: From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard, Columbia University Press, New York, 1992, p. 32.
  8. These “films” often appear only as titles and are most common in films about filmmaking.
  9. These include intertexts such as Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oval Portrait – the tale of an artist who saps the life from his lover through the act of painting her – that is referenced late in the film.
  10. Noël Carroll, Interpreting the Moving Image, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 1998.
  11. Robert Eberwein, “Comedy and the Film Within a Film”, Wide Angle vol. 3, no. 2, 1979, p. 17.
  12. As Richard Brody sets out in his recent Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, Faber and Faber, London, 2008, p. 139.
  13. David Sterritt, The Films of Jean-Luc Godard: Seeing the Invisible, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1999, pp. 71-2.
  14. Even though, as indicated earlier, it is left ambiguous as to whether they actually see the film despite its intertextual importance in terms of Godard’s construction of Paul and Camille’s relationship in his film.
  15. Carroll, pp. 215-31.
  16. Two of the inserted scenes, the brawl from John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) and the aftermath of the car bombing in Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat (1953), are not so far removed from Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro) and Charlie (Harvey Keitel)’s milieu and tastes in Mean Streets, but their appearance is more obviously motivated by Scorsese’s auteurist predilections.
  17. It is revealing to note that Larry McMurtry, the writer of the 1966 novel upon which The Last Picture Show was based, had a more anonymous and deflating Audie Murphy “oater” (Kurt Neumann’s The Kid from Texas, 1950) in mind, rather than Hawks’ uber-Western, as his eponymous “last picture show”. See McMurtry, The Last Picture Show, Pan Books, London, 1988, p. 208.
  18. This tendency is of course taken to an extreme in Tsai Ming-liang’s final night at the cinema paean, Bu san (Goodbye, Dragon Inn, 2003).
  19. Colin MacCabe, Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70, Bloomsbury, London, 2003, pp. 141-2.

About The Author

Adrian Danks is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies and Media in the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University. He is also co-curator of the Melbourne Cinémathèque and was an editor of Senses of Cinema from 2000 to 2014. He has published hundreds of articles on various aspects of cinema and is the editor of A Companion to Robert Altman (Wiley-Blackwell) and American-Australian Cinema: Transnational Connections (Palgrave).

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