These two articles focusing on Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma are the openers of the recent screening the past issue, as in the issue before an international poll has selected Godard’s Histoire(s) (along with Gilberto Perez’s The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium) as the most significant publications in our field in the past decade:
The entries set out in this essay belong to a book I am preparing related to Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma. The film-video has no clear beginning nor end, nor apparent linearity. Every shot, indeed every frame, moves in multiple directions suggesting multiple associations. Part of the book will address the configurations that the film creates and dissolves often in the same gesture; part of it will address the forms and structure of the film; the following entries (others will be written) are contexts for the film. Each of these emphases (they are not distinct nor easily set apart) – contexts, configurations, forms – will be interwoven in the book, whose tentative title is Intersections. .. >> continue
I would like to begin (as a good Australian citizen), with an anecdote I heard when I was at the Queensland Art Gallery for the Asia Pacific Triennale in early 2007. Julie Ewington, the curator of Australian art, recalled a tutorial in the Department of Fine Arts at University of Sydney in the early 1970s, where the discussion turned to what they would like to do after university. One student had said that he would like to make films. Ah, a sentimental bloke! The class had laughed because it was, at the time, an unthinkable thought that there could be an Australian film industry. That student’s name was Phil Noyce; he went on to make Newsfront (1978), and many other films beside, which included directing unknown young actors such as Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill.
I begin with this anecdote to highlight the at times robust links that have existed between institutions such as the university, the museum/archive, and the cinematic public sphere in Australia, and also to emphasise the need to nurture and strengthen these links to maximise the development of what Meaghan Morris calls “aesthetic skills”. Perhaps “developing” could be understood in a filmic sense as in developing exposed film in a chemical bath, which need not be an instrumental process but one where organic and non-organic processes are entwined. Remember celluloid? Remember to remember celluloid! Cellulose, the material stuff out of which celluloid is manufactured, is derived from cotton. So cloth and celluloid may be thought of as civilisational material, which has clothed our bodies and senses for a long, long time. The Australian Cinematheque of the Queensland Art Gallery’s GOMA helps (by its very existence), sustain, enhance and indeed “develop” memory by being embedded in an aesthetic milieu which collects and exhibits art.
Jean-Luc Godard’s epic project, Histoire(s) du cinéma also shows an exemplary linkage between these key institutions. It began as a lecture series delivered at the University of Montreal, Canada. The original invitation to deliver a series of lectures on the history of cinema was extended to Henri Langlois, the legendary founder of the Cinematheque Francaise, in 1978. Because he died before being able to deliver it, Godard, for whom Langlois was a mentor, was invited to take his place. Having delivered the lectures but dissatisfied with the limitations of the lecture format, he began the video essay version in 1988, which was completed in 1998. So it is a project which spanned twenty years: his poetic tribute to the art form of the 20th century. I think of it as Godard’s contribution to the “Memory of the World”, to borrow UNESCO’s platform for the preservation of the fragile audio-visual heritage of mankind. Since its completion it has been broadcast on European television, screened at the tenth Documenta, released on VHS and adapted into a book accompanied by a collection of multilingual audio CDs. But it is the release of Gaumont’s fully subtitled video restoration, transferred on to DVD that has made its Australian Cinematheque screening possible at last in 2007. Structured into four chapters, each divided into two parts, it is four and a half hours long.
Where to begin? … >>> read on