When I went to see Contempt at the Castro (which I'd love to make a film about called Contempt at the Castro) recently, I was struck by how much Godard's films are about typography. I've revisiting a number of his films ever since, and this theory has proven true as he advance through the '60s, perhaps no more pointedly than in Weekend which must be 30% typography even before subtitles. They are often purposely arbitrary, abstractly concrete, concretely abstract. They demand us to look at them typographic entities, imparting mostly pointless information such as what time of day it is and how fast the car is going.
Godard figured heavily in my early film education even in junior high school when I made my sister take me to Janus films on her college campus while she went boutiquing. I started with Cocteau but was soon drawn more to Truffaut (who tending for fairly fancy but sparsely used script) and Malle. During spring break of my sophomore year, I went to see Truffaut's The Story of Adele H. during my spring break when other kids were going to South Padre Island. Sitting in a packed theater in Austin, Texas, I was agile enough in French at the time to haughtily ignore the subtitles. But it felt like an entirely new language to me, so decidedly not North American though much of it was set in Canada. I thought it even had its own smell. I've not seen it in 30 plus years, and my copy of it arrived this week, making me wonder how it will touch me all these years later. Will it have the same smell.
Around the same time I heard screenwriter Joan Tewkesbury, who was being held up as the hottest new screenwriter in Hollywood with Thieves Like Us and Nashville under her belt. Here was a writer with verve and integrity. When asked what she would write about if she had no restrictions, she said that it would be a film about nothing but a green beam of light, and the entire audience went "Ah..." with the synchronization and blast of a Godard inter-title. Tewksbury went on to direct and write Doogie Howser, M.D. and Felicity.
In Godard's Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis there is a Ford sedan that pulls up with the license plate "SHAPE 9435". When I saw that in college, I was sure that name and those numbers would hold great meaning. Perhaps they do because I remember them all these years later but don't know their meaning. I think the most important word in that film's title is précis, best understood if in stark Helvetica.