Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema

Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema

Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema

Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema

Synopsis

With Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema, Daniel Morgan makes a significant contribution to scholarship on Jean-Luc Godard, especially his films and videos since the late 1980s, some of the most notoriously difficult works in contemporary cinema. Through detailed analyses of extended sequences, technical innovations, and formal experiments, Morgan provides an original interpretation of a series of several internally related films-- Soigne ta droite (Keep Your Right Up, 1987), Nouvelle vague (New Wave, 1990), and Allemagne 90 neuf zéro (Germany 90 Nine Zero, 1991)--and the monumental late video work, Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988-1998). Taking up a range of topics, including the role of nature and natural beauty, the relation between history and cinema, and the interactions between film and video, the book provides a distinctive account of the cinematic and intellectual ambitions of Godard's late work. At the same time, Late Godard and the Possibilities of Cinema provides a new direction for the fields of film and philosophy by drawing on the idealist and romantic tradition of philosophical aesthetics, which rarely finds an articulation within film studies. In using the tradition of aesthetics to illuminate Godard's late films and videos, Morgan shows that these works transform the basic terms and categories of aesthetics in and for the cinema.

Excerpt

One of the exciting and maddening features of Jean-Luc Godard’s work is that everything he touches invariably seems to lead to a disquisition on the nature and possibilities of cinema. A striking example of this tendency comes in an interview with the American filmmaker Hal Hartley. Their extended conversation focuses mainly on making independent films and on the difficulties (and opportunities) afforded by shooting on a low bud get. At a certain point, however, they turn to the relation between film and television. Hartley notes that he enjoys seeing certain of his own movies on television, but Godard disagrees, saying that this is impossible: what television lacks, preventing it from being able to genuinely show films, is light. Godard means something particular here. Light is generally taken as mattering to cinema because of the role it plays in the physical creation of the film, the reaction of the emulsion; it contributes to the specific qualities of the celluloid image. Light is also the basis for the mode of viewing central to the history of cinema, the projection of the film on a screen in a darkened theater. Godard has both in mind, but he does not stop there. Light, he claims, has a third, less obvious function as a sort of goal or orienting point: “You go to where the light is coming from.” And in the kind of leap he is so fond of making, he connects this principle to the history of Western culture: our orientation toward light in the cinema mirrors the path of the “three shepherds” as they followed the star to reach the infant Christ (somewhat typically, he also misremembers the tale). As a result of all this, Godard claims that the success of cinema requires a filmmaker to exhibit “a feeling of light.”

In truth, it shouldn’t be surprising that Godard turns to the figure of light to think about cinema; it’s a connection he’s made since the beginning of his career.

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