If we keep in mind this affinity between the two directors, Godard's repeated criticisms of Spielberg come to resemble a type of defense mechanism. For instance, take the 1998 interview conducted by the magazine Les Inrockuptibles. From the very outset, Godard tossed around remarks such as "I can't say that I'm envious of Spielberg" and "There's no need for me to get on my knees for him." And, aside from the opening scene depicting the invasion of Normandy, he leveled a negative evaluation toward the then just-released Saving Private Ryan in the name of Anthony Mann's Men in War (1957). Psychoanalytically speaking, it is not difficult to note a sort of denial on Godard's part when he abruptly mentions a famous commercial director's name without being asked about it, and avoids the confrontation with the recent film by taking refuge in the cinephilic past.
We focus here on the fact that this kind of rash and even envious renouncement of Spielberg by Godard was rather pronounced in the 1990s, when his critical rhetoric against the United States was also prominent. For example, the question of why people would prefer to go watch a bad American movie rather than a bad Bulgarian movie - a clever quip that only Godard would make regarding the overwhelming supremacy that Hollywood enjoys in the global market - frequently came up during interviews at the time. In fact, Godard's criticisms of Spielberg were singled out by Godard as the representative of insincere filmmakers who naively cling to the circumstances surrounding the hegemony of Hollywood (recall that Godard has always been interested in the economic, cultural, and political situation of film production). This connection reached its peak in Godard's Éloge de l'amour (2001) in which Godard attacks Spielberg almost farcically as a representative of a Hollywood/America that appropriates other people's memories - memories of the Resistance in particular. However, viewed from a different perspective, Godard's complacency here in simply providing sarcastic banter prevents him from directly facing Spielberg's films.
It does not require psychoanalysis to recognize that Godard denies Spielberg because, for him, the latter's films are objects of desire. For Godard, the most haunting object of desire is almost certainly Schindler's List. In 1995, when the New York Film Critics Circle attempted to bestow a special award upon him, he rejected it. The foremost reason for doing so was that "JLG was never able through his whole movie maker/goer career to prevent M. Spielberg from rebuilding Auschwitz." Why in the world would Godard express such heated animosity - an animosity close to an infantile aggression - towards Schindler's List?" Perhaps it is because, in a manner of speaking, Schindler's List was a film that usurped some of Godard's ideas as to how to represent concentration camps."
An extract of Junji Hori's Godard, Spielberg, the Muselmann, and the Concentration Camps from The Legacies of Jean-Luc Godard (WLU Press).