February 21, 2017

Watch: Jean-Luc Godard's Long Lost Short, One of the World's Rarest Films, Has Just Surfaced

une femme coquette jean luc godard short film no film school new wave av club
Une Femme Coquette, Godard's first short film, was previously rumored to exist as a single print in the hands of a private collector.

Five years before he stormed the gates of cinema history with his debut feature Breathless (À bout de souffle), a 25-year-old Jean-Luc Godard made his first foray into narrative filmmaking with the 9-minute short Une Femme Coquette. According to the AV Club, the never-distributed film had only a half-dozen screenings, and "has often been listed as lost by biographies and film history books."


An adaptation of The Signal, a short story by 19th-century French writer Guy de Maupassant, the film was shot in Geneva, Switzerland, with Godard as the sole crew member, using equipment borrowed from Actua-Films, the company that distributed Godard's first short, Opération BétonCoquette stars Roland Tolmatchoff, a long-time associate of associate of Godard's, as well as a woman who has been credited over the years as either Marie or Maria Lysandre, though almost nothing is known of her aside from this film. Godard himself makes a cameo about two minutes in. He would later reuse the Maupassant story for the parodic film-within-a-film in his 1966 feature Masculin Féminin (which, fittingly, played with Coquette on a double bill at one of the short's few screenings).

Opération Béton was an industrial documentary short about the Grande Dixence dam in Switzerland, where Godard had been employed—first as a laborer, then as a telephone switch operator. But while the documentary has long been available, the discovery of Une Femme Coquette, previously rumored to exist as a single print in the hands of a private collector, is a real coup for film fans, and especially devotees of Godard. It's an invaluable glimpse at the start of an iconoclastic career that's still going, seven decades later: in his time behind the camera, the now 86-year-old Godard has directed 43 feature films, as well as countless shorts and other projects. His last feature, Goodbye to Language, won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2014.       

Your Comment


There's not a lot going on here for me but then I don't speak French and so can't follow the story. The visuals don't say much in terms of story. It's mostly just a beautiful woman walking around a city. Then someone takes a key off her. She's writing a letter but that doesn't give much away either. It is interesting though to see the paralles of what he was doing here and a modern DSLR enthusiast shooter today. He's a single crew shooter with a single actor making the most of a great location. You can see that it's totally on the fly as bypassers on the street are stopping to wonder what the hells going on. It remnds me of me when i've done exactly the same with my Canon 550D shooting out in public and hoping to just get what I need without attracting so much attention that the footage is renderd usless by people stopping and looking straight into the lens like inquisitive cows. It's encouraging to note that even great directors (some) start in the same place we do. Borrowed or very cheap equipment, a single talent in front of the camera and a great location. Sometimes that's all you need.

February 21, 2017 at 11:33AM

John Stockton
Film maker, Editor, Photographer.

Hit the CC switch to turn on the English subtitles

February 21, 2017 at 5:35PM

Sathya Vijayendran

Well who am I to say anything about the great Godard, But still with all due respect I would say, personally I would have preferred a conventional approach over the narrative one taken in the film. The story is just fabulous.

February 25, 2017 at 2:51AM

Ayan Banerjee
Film Maker