Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Godard and Other Reading

Big news: the long-awaited collection of Jean-Luc Godard's 1978 Montreal lectures and discussions is now available from caboose. Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television collects fourteen one-hour talks given by Godard at Concordia University. The talks were originally published in French in 1980, fell out of print, and have now been corrected, revised and translated for the first time into English by Timothy Barnard, who writes:

In the book, Godard sets out a philosophy of the image—in the process disproving his own thesis that words are prison, for there is nothing more liberating than this book—and outlines a theory and practice of ‘making’ film history through the act of viewing films. The Montreal talks were the forerunner to his video series Histoire(s) du cinéma. While some critics have described the latter as his Finnegans Wake, the True History of Cinema is his Arabian Nights: page-turning true stories of the movies whose idiosyncratic views, leavened with Godard’s famous caustic wit, will delight all readers. Never has Godard been as loquacious, lucid and disarmingly frank as he is here, holding forth, in an experience he describes as a form of ‘public self-psychoanalysis’, on his personal and professional relationships, working methods, aesthetic preferences, political beliefs and, on the cusp of 50, his philosophy of life.

The announcement coincides with strong reviews from Cannes of Godard's latest film, Goodbye to Language.

* * *

Recent reading:

-- Cannes 2014: David Hudson's invaluable collection of reviews for each film; and Blake Williams' fine-grained, rank-ordered ratings, which I find enormously useful when I'm scheduling for TIFF. Also: two critic ratings aggregator pages, at Todas Las Criticas; and at Critic.de.

-- The first half of the book Découpage, by Barnard, is available to read at the caboose website. Also: Catherine Grant has put together a post of links around Barnard's text.

-- Tom Paulus on cinephilia: part one; and part two.

-- Robert Bresson interview with Ronald Hayman first published in Transatlantic Review in 1973. Via Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.

-- Cinema Guild has put online all of the essays that accompany its DVDs.

-- I've just sent away for this Jean Epstein box set from France that includes 14 of his films.

-- Alain Bergala's "The 208 Films That You Must Have Seen", via Adrian Martin.

-- Jean Eustache's great Mes petites amoureuses (1974) is now on YouTube with English subtitles. Via Vahid Mortazavi.

-- A fascinating piece on film criticism by Serge Daney from 1991. At Diagonal Thoughts, via Adrian.

-- A translation, by Adrian, of a Raymond Bellour masterclass on Daney and Trafic. Also: an interview at Transit with Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, directors of Leviathan, by Cloe Masotta and Miguel Gil, translated by Adrian into English.

-- A video of Laura Mulvey's lecture, "Becoming History: Spectatorship, Technology and Feminist Film Theory," part of the Kracauer Lectures in Film and Media Theory in Frankfurt.

-- A conversation between Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore on early Kubrick.

-- An interview/conversation between Nicholas Elliott and Stéphane Delorme, editor of Cahiers du Cinéma.

-- At MUBI Notebook: "Discovering Cinema in the Digital Age: A Roundtable with Dudley Andrew".

-- J. Hoberman on the films of artist Sigmar Polke, at Artforum.

-- Pasquale Iannone: "The 10 Greatest Films Set in Glasgow".

-- The next international Deleuze Studies conference will be held in Stockholm, with the theme "Daughters of Chaos," and will be preceded by a "Deleuze Camp".

-- A new book on Hou Hsiao-hsien, edited by Richard I. Suchenski, has been published by the Austrian Film Museum, and is being distributed in the US by Columbia University Press.

-- Joe McElhaney's essay "Terrence Malick: Moving Beyond the Threshold" is now available online.

-- Michael Sicinski has put up a page of his reviews of the films that played at Cannes last year.

-- David Bordwell on Kenji Mizoguchi; and "The Rhapsodes: Afterlives," the final post in his series on American film critics of the 1940s.

-- Rachel Kushner on Alberto Grifi and Massimo Sarchielli's Anna (1975) at Artforum.

-- At Jacobin: "The Rise of the Voluntariat".

-- Richard Porton interviews Sergei Loznitsa on his new documentary about the Ukrainian uprising and about Putin's regime.

-- Tim Deschaumes on Miklós Janscó at Photogénie.

-- "Academic citation practices need to be modernized." Via Steven Shaviro.

-- An interview in the Washington Post with documentary filmmaker Astra Taylor on "how digital culture is hurting art". I've been reading Taylor's new book, The People's Platform, a fascinating critique of the techno-utopian fantasies engendered by the Internet. It sets out to show how the Internet extends and exacerbates real-world inequalities rather than reducing or doing away with them. A very timely analysis of the economic and social justice issues (including gender issues) surrounding the Internet.

photograph by Michael Witt.


Blogger Remy Renault said...

Dear Girish:

I've recently come across your blog, and there are several posts I've wanted to comment on, but I figured they'd all be too old to get any attention at this point, so would you mind if the comments section here was used to ask some general questions regarding your thoughts on cinephilia and cinema?


June 03, 2014 2:29 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi Remy, thank you for reading. I'm in the middle of several projects at the moment, both at work (I teach at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY) and cinema-related, and so I'm not sure if I'll be able to respond to your questions. But it's always possible that other readers might be interested in doing so.

June 03, 2014 6:00 AM  
Blogger Remy Renault said...

Well one thing that concerns me is what appears to be a schism between the "cinephiles" and the "auteurists", the latter of whom are accused of vulgar auteurism by the "cinephiles". The cinephiles tend to see 'foreign art cinema' of the fifties, sixties, and seventies as the apotheosis of filmmaking and are skeptical of what they perceive as mere entertainment products revered only for their technical merits, the films of Hawks and Ford. I used to be in this camp but now genuinely believe Ford to be among the three or four most important filmmakers of all time. The others are Godard, Renoir, and Vigo perhaps. The auteurists scoff at the cinephiles and then inevitably and perhaps unfairly begin judging Antonioni and Tarkovsky "by their respective audiences". So should this gap be bridged?. And for rhetorical purposes, what makes the "cinephile" attitude reactionary as well as the symptom of a less "advanced" stage of cinephilia? Why does one "grow out of" Tarkovsky but not Ford or Renoir for that matter?

June 03, 2014 6:26 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi Remy, just a few quick responses here.

My take is very different from yours.

-- I see no built-in opposition between cinephiles and auteurists (or between cinephilia and auteurism) at all. Cinephilia is the larger category—of all film-lovers who are also (see Antoine de Baecque on this) interested not just in watching films but also reading, writing, talking about them seriously. Auteurists are a subset of cinephiles, and are those who like to view films through the lens of an ‘author’—most often the director. All auteurists are cinephiles but the reverse is not true. There is no hard-and-fast equation of cinephiles with (exclusively) art cinema. See the history of French New Wave cinephilia—Godard, Truffaut, et al. were BOTH cinephiles and auteurists. Some of the most respected cinephiles today (like Jonathan Rosenbaum in the elder generation or Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in the younger) are also 'selective auteurists'--meaning, they often like to focus on the marks of authorship of the director but this is not exclusively the only lens they bring to analyzing films.

-- “Vulgar auteurism” is a very narrow, specific phenomenon (see this post and discussion from last summer)—much smaller than auteurism at large.

-- There are several large conversations (and posts) at this blog about auteurism and cinephilia. You may want to do “searches” on these two terms on this blog; there’s a search box at the bottom of the sidebar. I think you’ll enjoy all the reading you’ll turn up.

June 03, 2014 6:54 AM  
Blogger Remy Renault said...

Thank you for responding Girish:

Perhaps the terms I employed were problematic, but you do raise the issue I'm referring to, that there are cinephiles who judge filmmakers solely based on what they regard to be their 'medium specific' contributions whereas others tend to judge films based on how they stack up as 'works of art' in a more 'cosmic' sense and on how they contribute to what's perceived as 'high culture'. So is taking a traditional 'high culture' approach to film appreciation reactionary? Also, is it limiting to dwell with an evangelical fervor on 'medium specific' elements at the expense of all else, since it often leads to the devaluing of guys like Bergman and Fellini who contributed to art and culture in more of a cosmic sense?

June 03, 2014 7:32 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Remy, I believe this is a false opposition.

'Medium specificity' has to do with making use of the unique powers of cinema--i.e. doing something in cinema that is not translatable to other forms (like literature or theatre) without great loss.

The good practitioners of what you refer to as 'high culture' or 'art cinema' are VERY much aware of the specific, unique powers of cinema--and they are venturesome in making use of them.

Ford's films contribute as much to the larger world ('in a cosmic sense', as you say) as Bergman or Fellini. Think of someone like Jean-Marie Straub (among the most exalted of 'art cinema' filmmakers) for whom Ford is one of the supreme filmmakers.

All of the above mentioned filmmakers are deeply aware of--and make great, imaginative use of--medium specificity.

June 03, 2014 7:57 AM  

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