“Films Should Have a Beginning, a Middle, and an End” “Yes, But Not Necessarily in That Order”

Jean-Luc Godard? Aristotle? Peter Dickinson? George W. Feinstein? Eugenia Thornton? Chris Haws? David Mamet?

Dear Quote Investigator: An iconoclastic French film director once commented on the narrative structure of a story. The auteur believed that it was not necessary for a tale to be recounted using the conventional ordering for the beginning, the middle, and the end. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1966 English critic Kenneth Tynan attended the Cannes film festival for “The Observer” newspaper, and he described a discussion between cinema artists. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

A public debate between writers and directors was held last week to discuss whether plot was essential to motion pictures. Godard was the main heretic, and Clouzot, Delbert Mann and Paddy Chayefsky were among those who cross-examined him. This confrontation produced the best remark of the Festival :—

Clouzot: But surely you agree, M. Godard, that films should have a beginning, a middle part and an end?

Godard: Yes, but not necessarily in that order.

Jean-Luc Godard is a well-known French director who was part of La Nouvelle Vague (The New Wave). His films include “À bout de souffle” (“Breathless”), “Alphaville”, and “Vivre sa vie” (“My Life to Live”). Godard’s remark was not completely novel. Similar comments about re-ordering narrative elements appeared earlier. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading “Films Should Have a Beginning, a Middle, and an End” “Yes, But Not Necessarily in That Order”

Notes:

  1. 1966 May 22, The Observer, Section: Weekend Review, Films: Verdict on Cannes by Kenneth Tynan, Quote Page 24, Column 8, London, England. (Newspapers_com)