Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian

Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian

Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian

Jean-Luc Godard, Cinema Historian

Synopsis

Originally released as a videographic experiment in film history, Jean-Luc Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma has pioneered how we think about and narrate cinema history, and in how history is taught through cinema. In this stunningly illustrated volume, Michael Witt explores Godard's landmark work as both a specimen of an artist's vision and a philosophical statement on the history of film. Witt contextualizes Godard's theories and approaches to historiography and provides a guide to the wide-ranging cinematic, aesthetic, and cultural forces that shaped Godard's groundbreaking ideas on the history of cinema.

Excerpt

For the past four decades, Jean-Luc Godard has pursued a sustained investigation of the theory and practice of audiovisual history. At the heart of his project lies one of his most ambitious and significant achievements to date: the monumental, labyrinthine cinema history series Histoire(s) du cinéma. This is simultaneously a set of essays on the history of cinema and television; on Godard’s life, and his place within that history; on the history of cinema in the context of the other arts; on the history of film thinking; on the history of the twentieth century; on the interpenetration of cinema and that century; and on the impact of films on subjectivity. It is also a critique of the longstanding neglect by historians of the value of films as historical documents, and a reflection on the narrow scope and limited ambition of the type of history often produced by professional film historians. “All I want to say,” as he summed up this aspect of the series, “is that history is badly told.” in addition, it offers an exploration of the possibilities of audiovisual historiography generally, and of what Godard has described as a “theorem” regarding cinema and history in particular. This theorem is premised on two main ideas: first, that the cinema, a product of the inventions and discoveries of the nineteenth century, assumed the role of historian of the twentieth, documenting it from beginning to end; and second, that every moment of the past remains potentially available to history. “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” he says at one point in the series, citing William Faulkner’s celebrated dictum.3 If the fundamental challenge facing all historians is that of bringing the past to life, Godard’s response to that challenge–the central tenet of his theorem–is the proposal and demonstration of a cinematically inspired . . .

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