Friday, March 17, 2006

I finally managed to get hold of a copy of Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinema. This was a DVD transfer from VHS- average picture quality and barely readable sub-titles. Though I hear there is a Japanese version now available at four times the price. The main advantage, other than picture and subtitled quality, of the latter, so I understand, is that one can, by a mere flick of the remote control, call up information regarding the various films cited by Godard through his text or images. I first saw Histoire(s)... when it was broadcast on Channel Four in the UK a number of years ago, and have wanted to view it again ever since. I once proposed writing an article on the films cited by Godard in Histoire(s) and how they relate to the director's view of cinema and his politics. The Japanese DVD would have made the writing of such an article a lot easier. Nevertheless, it would have still been a daunting task. Of course, copyright laws prevented Godard from including more than a handful of clips. Instead, he uses stills which he carefully edits into the text. Meanwhile the copyright laws partially constitute the film's subtext. Fortunately, the film magazine my article was intended for ceased publication, saving me the embarrassment of having to produce such an article, which could easily have comprised an entire book. To help write this never-to-be article, I managed to get hold of the ECM audio version of Histoire(s). It’s a remarkable set, beautifully put together, which is, amazingly, the soundtrack of the film(s). The logic behind the ECM CD set can only be guessed at. Suffice it to say that Histoire(s) without the images and their relationship to the soundtrack is hardly what Godard is about, and leaves much to be desired. Though less than half of the end product, it's an interesting idea, particularly if one suffers from some kind of visual disorder. As I suspected when I first saw the films, Histoire(s) may well be Godard’s most important work, and most interesting. The ideas and thoughts fly past one, so the audio version, accompanied by the text, is welcome. One can easily quote from the text, but that would only be half the story, or, in this case, half the picture. Here are just a handful of quotes:

“the cinema like Christianity/is not founded on a historical truth/it gives us a narrative.”

“Images and sounds like people/ who have met while travelling/ and can’t bring themselves to part”

“at bottom the cinema isn’t part of the communications industry/or of show business/but of the cosmetics industry/the mask industry/....which is itself merely a minor branch of the lies industry”

cinema is a “nineteenth century matter resolved in the twentieth century.”

As I watched Histoire(s) I kept thinking of what Godard said about Michael Moore- that Moore makes political films, but he doesn’t make them politically.

More to come...

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