Saturday, 14 January 2023

Histoire(s) du Cinéma [1988-1998]

 To say that Godard’s magnum opus Histoire(s) du Cinéma – the 8-part video essay conceived while he was on lecture tours during the 80s, 10 years in the making, and clocking at a massive 266 minutes – is a monumental treatise on cinema is stating the obvious. It’s a dense, daunting, discursive, digressive, deeply self-reflexive, incredibly metatextual, unabashedly polemical, and radical reimagining of what cinema is and can be. And in turn this freeform, kaleidoscopic and demanding work – filled with hyperlinks, reflections, juxtapositions, dizzying montage, and intricate interplay of images, sounds and words – manifested everything that Godard was and remains – viz. a pioneer, a pathbreaker, a prophet, a subversive pun artist, a romantic, a rebel, a staggering intellectual, a profoundly progressive critical thinker and someone for whom history (and story) of cinema – as the wordplay in the title alluded to – and its form and dialectics, were inseparable from the history, story, interpretation and politics of the 20th century. His complex and sprawling meditation on the medium, therefore, encompassed everything from the American studio system to Soviet montage, from Italian neorealism to French avant-garde, and from wide-ranging impressions of other artforms (literature, painting, music) to auto-portraiture. These in turn were overlayed with his wry and weary commentary on fascism, imperialism, capitalism, consumerism, tyranny, exploitation and devastating wars that the century was besieged with, along with stirring espousal of revolutionary ideas and melancholic elegy on cinema. While it was impossible to make note of the slew of films that he referenced – which led to inevitable copyright issues, though, ironically, Godard exempted his own work from copyright restrictions – I managed to count 65-odd films that I’ve watched, though I’m sure I missed a few.

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Genre: Documentary/Essay Film

Language: French

Country: France

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