From the Chicago Reader (July 16, 1993). For a more detailed commentary on the Histoire(s), including Godard’s own input, go here. — J.R.
HISTOIRE(S) DU CINÉMA **** (Masterpiece)
Directed and written by Jean-Luc Godard
With Jean-Luc Godard.
MONTPARNASSE 19 ** (Worth seeing)
Directed and written by Jacques Becker
With Gerard Philipe, Lilli Palmer, Anouk Aimee, Gerard Sety, Lila Kedrova, Lea Padovani, Denise Vernac, and Lino Ventura.
If you want to be “up to the minute” about cinema, there’s no reason to be concerned that it’s taken four years for Jean-Luc Godard’s ambitious video series to reach Chicago. After all, James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, the artwork to which Histoire(s) du cinéma seems most comparable, written between 1922 and 1939, was first published in 1939, but if you started to read it for the first time this week, you’d still be way ahead of most people in keeping up with literature. For just as Finnegans Wake figuratively situates itself at some theoretical stage after the end of the English language as we know it — from a vantage point where, inside Joyce’s richly multilingual, pun-filled babble, one can look back at the 20th century and ask oneself, “What was the English language?” — Godard’s babbling video similarly projects itself into the future in order to ask, “What was cinema?” Indeed, the fact that it’s a video and not a film already tells you a great deal about its point of view.… Read more »